Book Title: Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran
Author: Sima Goel
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir
Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Decarie Square Wellness Centre, Sima Goel
Release date: March 2015
Content Rating: PG-13 + M
A true account of Sima Goel, the Iranian teenager who crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s. Her quest for freedom is a thrilling, timely inspiration for people longing to create a life of meaning. It was the last straw!
The Ayatollah Khomeini had decreed that all women in Iran must wear the hijab, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Baha’i. Thirteen-year-old Sima had gone out into the streets of Shiraz to demonstrate for freedom under the Shah’s oppressive rule, and now that he had fled the country, this was the result: a new regime, and a much more repressive rule. The changes Khomeini’s regime forced on the population were totally incompatible with Sima’s ambitions and sense of personal freedom. Blacklisted by her school, unable to continue her studies, mourning the murders of innocent family members and friends, and forced to wear the hijab, she realized she had to leave her beloved birthplace and find a country where she could be free to follow her dreams.
Fleeing the Hijab is a vivid portrait of a dangerous journey made by two teenaged girls through the Iranian desert to Pakistan, where, as homeless refugees, they struggled desperately to find some way to escape to the West. It is a story that needs to be heard and remembered.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
~ I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“The freedom to read about other lifestyles and schools of thought amazes me, and I appreciate it with a new-found gratitude. This is exactly what the religious fundamentalists in Iran will not allow us to do. Dictators all around the world prefer to keep citizens uneducated, uninformed, and under restrictive laws. They fear the knowledge of the general public; they know that readers will learn that other points of view exist. To the people who want to control the minds of others, ignorance is a blessing. The more they keep people uninformed and ignorant, the more control they have over them”
This book is the personal memoir of Sima Goel. Sima is a Canadian citizen who was born in the late 1960s in Iran. Sima is also Jewish.
During Sima’s youth, Iran was ruled by the Shah. Jewish Iranians and members of other minority religious groups (such as Baha’i and Zoroastrians) were initially thrilled with the changes and freedoms the Shah implemented. However, by the time Sima became a young lady the Shah had decided to set himself up as a dictator. New laws, rules and even a nightly curfew were established and strictly enforced. This did not sit well with anyone, least of all the Muslim population, which was the vast majority of Iran’s citizens. The situation became untenable and change was inevitable.
At the age of thirteen Sima and two of her four siblings took part in a freedom demonstration. They had gone there just to watch, but became caught up in the action. The Shah’s army fired at the crowd to put an end to the gathering. Sima was scared, but she was also strong-willed. Here is what Sima has to say about that fateful day: “There was more honour in dying at a young age for a cause I believed in than to die of old age like a bird that had never left its cage and never flown.”
After that day the laws became even more restrictive and the punishments more and more severe. “The Shah’s army deployed more tanks on the streets. More restrictive martial law was declared.
The Muslims of Iran made up the majority of the population and they were unhappy with the Shah and sought to remove him from power. Under increasing pressure the Shah left the country.
I was young when the events in this book took place, but I do vaguely remember some of the names associated with what was happening in Iran at that time. For example, “Ayatollah Khomeini”.
Reading this book, I cannot help but compare my childhood to that of the author, especially since she is only a few years older than myself. Wow! What a difference! My biggest concern during the late 1970s was that I was required to be home when the streetlights came on. I was safe. My family was safe. I could leave my house during the day and stay out for hours and my parents never worried about my safety.
In contrast, Sima’s world was falling apart. In the fall of 1978 the Muslims of Iran said that they saw the face of Ayatollah Khomeini in the moon. They believed that this was a sign that Khomeini was sent from God. “I had never heard such a bizarre thing.”
“People thought this was a sign from God that he should be the leader. The thought was frightening. The air was charged with dangerous excitement. If all went well, this promised freedom, but if it went wrong, it would go very, very wrong.”
And wrong it went!
This book is a true story which (in my opinion) makes it disturbingly riveting for the reader. I was fascinated with the details of Sima’s life growing up and her happy childhood. I am actually glad that she included the details of her life before the Islamic government took over. These details really highlight just how different life was for Jewish (and other minority religions) lives were before and after the Islamic invasion.
Sima’s mother had always encouraged her children to be free thinkers, but there was no place for thinking people in Iran. Sima’s outspoken ways soon landed her on a government watch list and she was forced into hiding.
This book gives details of her experience as a wanted fugitive in her own homeland and her eventual escape to the best country on Earth: CANADA.
The release of this book is quite timely with Canada’s current policy on immigration from war-torn Syria. Canada has pledged to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees as new Canadian citizens.
Syria is a country at war with itself and once again, religion is the core of all its problems. This is eerily similar to the events taking place in “Fleeing The Hijab”.
Sima’s harrowing existence in hiding and her flight to escape Iran is not so different from the experience of those who are currently fleeing religious persecution in Syria.
I have to admit that I admire Sima Goel. To have the strength and the dedication to stand up for what is right and to take a stand against tyranny and oppression and to do so at such a young age takes guts.
This book should be required reading for all Canadians. I rate it as 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’ve always known that I was lucky to live in a country that values and guarantees individual freedom, but reading “Fleeing the Hijab” made me realize that maybe I should be even more grateful and that I should acknowledge that gratefulness more often.
To watch a video interview of author and chiropractor Sima Goel click here:
Meet the author:
Iranian-born Sima Goel has always had compassion for those who suffer. Her instinctive need to speak out against oppression ultimately resulted in unwanted attention from the authorities, which led her to flee her beloved Shiraz and eventually to Montreal.
Sima Goel is a self-made woman. Her journey to freedom, recounted in her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, reflects her belief that, without freedom of choice, life is worthless. She is a strong advocate for the disenfranchised and the rights of all, specifically the rights of women. With the publication of her book, Sima has fulfilled the promise she once made to herself: to speak out and share her truth that freedom is the most precious commodity of all.
Wellness chiropractor, health advocate, inspiring author and an in-demand speaker, Dr. Goel considers her most important role to be that of mother to her two teenage boys, and wife to her beloved husband.
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