Iran overview

Posted: September 8, 2015 in Cycling, Iran
Tags: ,

‘What do people in the west think about us?’
‘Do they think we are all terrorists?’
The Iranian people are the most loving, caring, welcoming people I have met, and they really want to open their hearts and show us their lives and their welcoming nature. They don’t need to, but we have been invited numerous times to stay with people that we don’t even know (yet). We are stopped on the street, or, people ring their friends in upcoming towns to welcome us. The hospitality has taken some unusual turns and sometimes I felt sudden blocks that I didn’t understand. Slowly, over time, I have learned more about the rules, which shed light on events that I, at first, did not understand.

There are different rules for men, women, singles and married people. Travelling as two (or at times more) single men, we are not allowed to stay in houses with married women. We have often been invited to stay with people, and the women and children left to stay with friends or family for the night. Other times we have been taken to other family member’s houses to sleep where there are no women or children. Some families with married women would like to host us, and see the rules more loosely, but can’t. We can’t stay because of ‘security reasons’. ‘Sorry,’ people say, shrugging their shoulders in sympathy.

The ‘information police’ enforce these laws – in some towns strictly, and in other towns they are less vigourous in their policing. The police are very polite, and strive, like the other Iranian people, to give us a good impression of Iran. We were suggested to read the open letter to young Europeans and Americans from the great leader Khameneei. Khomeni tells of how the Iranian people are a kind people, looking only for peace.
More vigourous information police search for signs that we have seen behind the veil – at family life, where people can be themselves, and show their true loving caring nature without external eyes watching. The information police checked (and then deleted) our photos and videos from Iran, and questioned us. If they see people with us in the street, these people are questioned.

At the border leaving Iran we were searched and questioned thoroughly – at the border and 200km away at the police station in Mashhad. No explanation, no telephone calls allowed, no contact with our embassy. I don’t know what they were looking for, but I was scared.

I do not want to break any rules. I just want to understand, and get to know the Iranian people.

Travelling through countries and regions that were previously unknown to me, I learn more about the history and about the people. Iran has undergone massive upheaval – the removal of a dictator, followed by turmoil and a war with Iraq. The new government brought more strict, conservative laws – the introduction of mandatory dress codes and other social rules. Women must wear hijabs, but also men have dress codes – long pants and shirts – even in the sizzling heat. One thing I didn’t know is that it is forbidden to wear a tie. They should introduce that law in the west! ☺ Also music is forbidden (and therefore also dancing – no discos and the like).

After the revolution, and the introduction of these new laws, Iran was a very strict country. It has, however, recently been undergoing a massive transformation, and it is a very different place from 10 years ago, thanks to the internet, and the connection of Iranian people directly with people from outside. Connecting with real people, you see that everyone wants the same – love, family, a good job – people go shopping, cook, go on picnics. People want to make their own choices. Now some women wear bright coloured hijabs with much hair showing at the front. Some men wear short sleeve shirts – some tight. People play music.

The west should open their doors to the Iranian people. They are curious and want to see the world too, and such an exchange can only make both sides richer!

Comments
  1. Klaas says:

    Alwart,
    Als je ooit weer tijd hebt na het fietsen is dit een geweldige prijswinnende serie. http://www.vpro.nl/programmas/onze-man-in-teheran.html Daarin kregen we in Nederland afgelopen winter een prachtig overzicht hoe het in Iran toe gaat. Het is maar goed dat Amerika geen inval gedaan heeft zoals ze een paar jaar geleden nog van plan waren.
    Prachtig land met uitermate vriendelijke inwoners die langzaam maar zeker hun vrijheid terug krijgen.

  2. What a great share. Happy to hear a real story about Iran !!

  3. Barbara van der Vaart says:

    Lovely to read your story about Iran!

  4. valerievolk says:

    What an interesting thoughtful, and thought-provoking, comment. Like you, Matthew, we’re coming to terms with Cambodia, and all the impact of the last few decades here.

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