Tuesday, July 15, 2003

K and I are going camping, so it will be a few days before we post again. (K might post early tomorrow.)


The last couple of nights we went to the mountain at the edge of Tehran for dinner. It was a bit like a combination of driving from San Jose to Santa Cruz to spend a day at the beach and visiting Epcot Center. (Only with trash.) There were thousands of people there, almost all of them Iranian. (I did attract many stares and comments as one of the few non-Iranians – maybe the only one.)

The first night, the traffic was terrible. We parked at the bottom of the mountain and walked up to the attraction. When we got to the “entrance,” we saw that there was a police checkpoint. “These guys are terrible,” Fereshte, a woman we were meeting for the first time that night, said in a determined and loud voice. “All they want to do is ruin our fun.” Later we saw the police stop a car just because the music was too loud. (Where are the Iranian police at 4 am when a car is blaring its music outside my window?) “Those guys are stupid,” our friend said. “They know there is a checkpoint, but they are still blaring their music. Now the police can take away their car for a month.”

We walk up past the busiest part of Darband, past families, mullahs, college students, government supporters, government opposition, women with their scarves down below their ears, women in full chadors, large groups of men, large groups of women, the young, the old, babies, two donkeys, barbecued corn, mulberries in syrup, dried fruit, fresh walnuts floating in giant jars of water, grills filled with kebabs tended by men with large straw fans keeping the flames going, cigarettes, gum, toys, masks, and posters of Iranian teen-idols. It’s fun. The air is fresh. A stream runs down the mountain. People sit on carpet-covered wooden beds eating kebab and smoking water pipes. It’s fun. It’s Iranland.

When we go out with our friend Reza, we are in an Iran filled with gorgeous, energetic women who speak English, wear tight, fashionable manteaus, barely-there scarves, and attend lectures by famous philosophers. In Reza’s Iran, people disdain Islam, and the government is about to fall.

At other times, the Iran we are visiting has a government that is still strong even though no one thinks that the mullahs will be running it for much longer. Women dress conservatively even when they are rebelling; there is a tight-knit group of men who are politically savvy, Islamic, and poised to take the reigns from the mullahs when the time comes. Secularization is a long way off and tradition is extremely strong.

Sometimes I feel like I am inside a four-dimensional house. (Who wrote that sci-fi story? Heinlein? I can’t remember.) Each time I walk through a door or look out the window, I am in a completely different place.

Men, again

After my little rant yesterday, I wanted to say something nice. One thing that is nice about being in Iran is that men are free to show their affection for one another (even though homosexuality is illegal). There is something so wonderful about good male friends who are permitted to show each other the kind of physical affection that is common for women friends all over the world. That part of male bonding feels safe and warm.

Another thing that I absolutely adore about being here is that there are no “wild pissers” (as they are called in Amsterdam). It is nice to walk on clean streets, free of human urine, spittle, and dog shit. I like it.

And one more thing about men… as much as they complain about military service, that service gives them a freedom rarely afforded to women here. It takes them out of the house, gives them a bit of independence, introduces them to other men their age who live all over Iran, and provides them with lifelong friends and business associates.

Satellite TV
All over the country, the Iranian stations satellite-casting (is there a word for this) mainly out of Los Angeles were blocked. The government did not want resident-Iranians to hear about the demonstrations planned for July 9th so they blocked the stations. Yesterday we heard, that the satellite-casting was blocked from Cuba. “Fuck Cuba,” K said when he heard.


W is not very popular in Iran. Despite what we heard from the Judge (read the “Here Comes the Judge” post for more information about that), I have yet to meet a resident Iranian who thinks he is anything but a “very bad man and crazy.”

Non-resident Iranians living in America seem to have a different opinion. Here is what a friend’s brother told us, “I may not agree with him on everything, but one thing is for sure, the pressure he is putting on the mullahs is going to have them out of power within a year.”

“Do you mean that troops are coming in,” I asked?

“Not a single troop. Political pressure will be enough. Americans know that Iranians are different from Arabs.”

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