Iran’s female ninjas: Fighting for sexual equality

For those times when Betty Friedan just isn’t enough … ninjutsu is here to help.

Photographer Caren Firouz has been taking pictures of some of Iran’s estimated 3,500 female ninja-warriors-in-training. It turns out that when you’re denied basic human rights, restricted in your ability to dress how you want and mix with the people you choose, and when your legal testimony is officially recognised as being worth exactly half that of a man’s, you develop — if these images are anything to go by — a lot of rage.

Mishmash of moves
For Iranian women, martial arts are an increasingly popular way of channelling it and ninjutsu one of the most popular choices within that. Purists argue that modern ninjutsu (which came to prominence in the 1970s) is not a martial art at all but a meaningless mishmash of moves and practices that have no connection with the covert arts of war practised by the true ninjas of ancient Japan. Of course, it’s a miracle that any of said purists made it through the Teenage Mutant You-Know-What years, so they should probably be left to mutter to themselves in peace.

For those of us less concerned with Japanese feudal history than with systematic depredations against the rights of women, the pictures seem to offer a more uplifting view of the situation in various parts of the Middle East than is offered in the traditional media narrative. Let’s hope they represent only the tip of an iceberg of resistance and refusal to be cowed by a regime that surely seeks to render women so subservient that even the possibility of hurling a throwing star at someone’s jugular ought to be unthinkable. More power to your shuriken-chucking elbows, ladies. More power to them.–

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