Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Response to email

I am responding to this email in the blog, because it is filled with questions that I often receive in emails. It’s from Samantha:


I came accrossed your blog "A view from Iran." Firstly, I would like to say that it is quite well written and would like to thank you all for writing your opinions and perspectives when such might not be the best option in a highly regulated society.

Me: Thanks. Anybody who says that the blog is well-written must be smart, charming, and most wonderful.

Anyway, am I right in thinking that one of the writers is an American woman?

Me: That would be me. T.

Someday, probably within the next three years I would like to visit Tehran perhaps for only a week or two, but if possible working with a social work/development initiative.

I am curious as to the challenges big and small an American woman living in Tehran might face beyond the obvious regulations regarding wearing hijab/chador and gender segregations. For instance how do women seek public transport, accommodations etc?

Me: Public transport is no problem. The buses and metros are sex-segregated – Thank God. If you are a woman getting on to a crowded subway car, wouldn’t you rather be in a car crowded with women than one crowded with men? Women smell better. Plus they are nicer when packed in like sardines. The metros also have family cars that both men and women can ride in.

Women ride in the back of city buses. You often see buses half-filled with men practically standing on one another for space while the women are leisurely sitting. It’s not fair, but it works to our advantage.

Intercity buses are not nearly as sex-segregated. Families and couples can sit together, but a single man cannot sit next to a strange single woman.

Minibuses are just crowded. Shared taxis are also crowded. It’s a great place for Iranians on dates because physical proximity (think: sitting on one another’s laps) is permissible.

Accommodations are different for foreigners than for Iranians. Only on rare occasions would a foreign woman be hassled over accommodations.

How does one deal with nationalist contempt (or indeed not deal at all.) Is Iran "safe?" I am not really sure where to start with my questions, so any advice you give is welcomed.

Me: I have NEVER experienced any nationalist contempt. Iranians love foreigners (oh, that is if you are not Afghani or Arab.) On top of that, they adore Americans. I mean, we could not be more loved in Texas itself. It’s such a pleasure being loved. I have often used this space to encourage my fellow citizens to treat Iranians like princes and princesses when you meet them. That’s the way they treat me.

I always tell people that there is no one with more access in Iran than a western woman. We get access to both men and women. The dangers that exist in Iran are no different (for us) than the dangers we face in our own countries. I am not saying that Iran is the safest place on earth. All I am saying is that if you are not coming here to organize a revolution, then you should be okay by keeping up the normal defenses that you would anywhere else.

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