Saturday, June 17, 2006
Tagged as Iran daily life
I spent more time as a passenger than actually hiking this past Friday because traffic was so bad. First we got behind a long line of diesel spewing trucks going through winding mountain roads. Then there was a series of minor fender benders. Then there were the small towns where people were driving in and out of stores and kebabis and turning our 3 lane “highway” into a 6-lane highway: 5 lanes in the direction of Tehran, 1 lane in the direction north.
At one point we were stopped at a military checkpoint: on the lookout for bad hijab, alcohol, and unmarried men and women traveling together. Our driver gave the military guys some lip: just enough to let them know how unhappy she was being stopped. She refused to fix her hijab which wasn’t so bad anyway. They eventually waved us through without checking our trunk.
It probably helped that I am so foreign looking.
“Do you think I was too mouthy?”
“No, just mouthy enough,” I answered.
There were a lot of patrols at the mountain, but for the most part they seemed in good spirits. One sergeant (I recognized the stripes from the Beetle Bailey cartoon sergeant) was even joking with passing hikers about using his baton on them. It may sound like a macabre joke, but it was sweet.
Just after we saw this sergeant we did see soldiers leading three men and one woman down the mountain. One had his gun half-raised towards the back of the woman. In Iran it’s hard to tell when people are being arrested because they are actually breaking a real law or when they are being arrested arbitrarily. Who knows in this case?
I have seen the Iranian police control violent men with a degree of gentleness unimaginable in America. For instance, a man who went into a violent tantrum after learning that his seat on the bus had been sold to someone else was gently led away by the police when they showed up. This man had broken several windows, attacked bystanders and employees of the bus service, and was still squirming and twisting when the police led him away: without hand cuffs, without shooting him, without beating him.
There are a lot of different kinds of police in Iran.
Speaking of which, since last week’s game with Iran, we had heard about Iran’s new motorcycle cops: a band of tough-looking, clean shaven guys riding serious motorcycles. Powerful motorcycles are forbidden in Iran, so the site of 20 guys on brand new motorcycles is surprising. We saw them on our way home from the mountains. One group was riding south from the north of Iran, one riding north from Tehran. These guys were wearing form-fitting motorcycle gear that may be bullet proof for all I know. One even had a leather Red Bull jacket on. Do you think this was official dress? They have black helmets that hide their faces and look like they walked out of some Hollywood Commando movie. They look very, very unIranian.