Behind the Veil
Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
39Trip End Dec 31, 2015
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With that said, I feel like Iran is a ticking clock, winding down, or perhaps up, to something significant. The people in Iran seem eager for change. No, not just eager, but desperate. A perfect example: On my departing flight from Tehran yesterday, I flew from Iran to Rome. The plane was capable of carrying 195 passengers, and it was a completely full flight. I would guess that the gender ration was fairly equal, half men and half women. Of course, in Iran, the headscarf is required by law to be worn by all women in public. When we boarded the plane, all women were wearing their headscarves, the hijab. In an almost comical display, the very instant that the door was closed on the plane, a wave of flying headscarves swept the plane. I got up from my seat shortly before our descent into Rome and made a quick headcount. When we disembarked, there were 3 women still wearing the headscarf. Three!!! out of almost 100 women, only three were still wearing the hijab. For me, this was perfectly symbolic of the state of things in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Who has the power? For now, not the people. The power rests in the hands of two groups: the clerics, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini (Not the old scary looking one, but the new less scary looking one with glasses
In my last blog, I included some headlines from the Iranian newspapers. As an American, it was pretty discouraging stuff. The paper seems full of propaganda designed to provide the people of Iran with a clear, distinct enemy. They need to provide an enemy in order to create fear. They need to create fear because that is the simplest way to control people. Make them afraid enough, they’ll believe anything and will do anything. In this regard, Iran is not alone.
So, when considering larger geopolitics, what should be done about it? Honestly, I think at this point, nothing. Why? It’s only a matter of time before the Iranian people themselves will rise up and demand change, or the power structure will shift naturally as the older generation dies off. I’ve never met people more eager for change and more disgruntled. Iranian society is bursting at the seams, rebelling in every way that they can. Rap music: banned. But played everywhere underground. Alcohol: banned. But still drunk underground. As I mentioned in previous blogs, women push the limits where they can. Even though it made me a little uncomfortable at times, people wanted to vent. They wanted to be able to talk about their disdain for the government and it’s policies. On the last day in Tehran, while at the Archaeological Museum, some Iranians came up to me and one told me that more than 70% of all Iranians were strongly opposed to their government and had a favorable opinion of America. The Iranian people love America. They watch our movies and TV, they listen to our music, wear our clothes
We should be allies, not enemies. We have so much to learn from one another, so much potential profit in so many ways. I’ve traveled to over 60 countries across the world and I’ve never met a people so hospitable, so friendly and welcoming, and so sincere and honest in the way they interact
So, when I set out on this journey, I said that I was doing it because I can. I said that I was doing it not to challenge or change anyone, but simply to observe and understand. IN the end, this trip has challenged me in ways I couldn’t imagine. Teetering between the beauty of the moments I shared with people young and old across the country and the moments of confusing aggression that I faced at places like the former American Embassy in Iran (the building is standing now as a monument to the ‘victory’ of the I.R. of Iran over the ‘Great Satan’ when they held the embassy hostage for 444 days in 1979-80 and ended any hope of diplomacy. No photos are allowed of the artwork surrounding the embassy, depicting a skull faced Statue of Liberty, a cracked US Capitol Building, and accusing remarks of America as a terrorist nation). I these moments all challenged me to think about what I know, and what I think
This trip was magical in the history I learned, the architecture I walked through and around, the stories I heard from friends I made along the way. From my new New Zealand friends Saskia, Janet, Jim and Marcia, who exposed me to the varieties of kiwi life and language, made me laugh, held me up when I was down, and taught me so much about how to be good friends and good people. To Graham, my erstwhile roommate whose calm grace and demeanor in any situation was often the source of awe. To Lou, whose melodic, Italian voice brought a smile to my face so often
1. Go to Uzbekistan whenever you get a chance. It is an undiscovered treasure trove. Don’t be afraid. It’s a great place.
2. Don’t believe everything you hear or see on the news about this part of the world. Don’t let a few bad but powerful people overshadow the millions of good people. Even if you don’t ever go to Iran, have solidarity with the people and have hope for their future.
3. The world is out there, life is happening everywhere. There are incredible differences among us. There are strange foods, bizarre customs, uncomfortable environments, confusing beliefs. But, beneath (or above) it all, we are all the same. In whatever way that you can, get out there and be a part of it.
I’m not done yet. I still have a few adventures left in me this summer. My posts will be less regular, I’m probably going to slow down a little bit before I head back home. But please, keep the comments coming, ask questions, let me know if there are things you’d like me to talk about. I know I’ve gotten a little serious in my last few blogs, but I really have been having a lot of fun as well. As you can imagine, this last little bit has elicited more contemplation on my part. But anyway, I’m writing this blog as much for you as for me, so let me know what you want to hear. As for me, for now, I’m just happy to be in Europe again, where things are a little more comfortable, a little more familiar, and I feel a little closer to home. Until next time…