The Globalist Takeaway: The Glass House Screening

by Margaret Zhang:

As part of its ongoing film series, the Council on Middle Eastern Studies screened the Iranian documentary The Glass House and afterward hosted a discussion panel featuring director Hamid Rahamanian.

The movie takes a raw look at the lives of four marginalized Iranian girls. The teenagers’ lives are all deeply affected by drug use, rocky maternal figures, abusive relationships, and poverty. Yet amongst the ashes of a terrible home life, the Omid e Mehr foundation works to empower the most disadvantaged of young women. The foundation provides creative opportunities, therapy, and vocational training for the women, launching them into lives with better outcomes.

Each girl featured in the documentary comes from a different background: Samira, 14, has been attending drug-fueled ragers with her mothers; Nazila, 19, raps about her broken family in a country where females are not allowed to record music; Mitra, 16, is often bullied by her father and brother; and Sussan, 20, comes from years of sexual abuse and neglect by her family, only to depend on men via her temporary marriages. The documentary portrays a year in each girl’s life, chronicling their advances both at Omid e Mehr and at home.

The Glass House exposes the harsh realities that young women face in Iran (

Following the screening, the documentary’s director Hamid Rahmanian hosted a panel, and was joined by Farhad Hakimzadeh (husband of Omid e Mehr founder, Marjena Halati), Gohar Farahani (also of Omid e Mehr), and Professor Kaveh Khoshnood (of Yale School of Public Health). The panel members discussed the implications of the film and current conditions for marginalized teen girls in Iran.

According to Farahani, the voices of impoverished Iranian women are stifled—they suffer from a lack of freedom of expression, caused by problems stemming from family dynamics in a patriarchal society. Sixty percent of Iranian women say that they have suffered some sort of physical violence in their lifetimes, and girls worry that non-abusive boyfriends are synonymous with non-caring boyfriends. Some girls try to numb their feelings with crystal meth and opium, drugs that are widely available in Iran. Without proper education, job training, and support, these types of society-instilled norms only help to produce a cycle of broken girls mothering more broken girls. Which is where Omid e Mehr hopes to step in.

Marjena Halati founded Omid e Mehr when she realized that she wanted to do something to help the impoverished girls of Iran. When she approached the Iranian authorities about it, they told her she could do whatever she liked, but that it would be of no use, as “these girls were only interested in sex and food.” Sensing that she could make a difference Halati worked together with a yoga instructor to provide free yoga lessons to marginalized Iranian girls, hoping to improve their lives the slightest.

This operation soon turned into a large-scale foundation, with 82 percent of Omid e Mehr attendees graduating to become accountants, secretaries, beauticians, or university students.

Encouraged by their current success, Omid e Mehr still hopes to keep growing—due to limited resources, they currently have to turn away three out of four girls hoping for a new future. The night ended on a note of hopeful future expansion of the project to other countries around the world.

Margaret Zhang is a freshman in Berkeley College. Contact her at