Tehran Travel

Issues of concern at the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics
and Mathematics (IPM), Iran's main Internet provider.

By Vahid Rahbari
Chico, California

Our Iranian media abroad has been and still is like a fish out of water. A few have been successful in delivering consistent, valuable content but for the most part, Iranian media, in the United States at least, have been less than desirable.

Iranian television stations in particular have been very slow in responding to their viewers' cultural needs. The fact is that commercialism has pushed our handful of writers, producers, and publishers to mindless abyss.

There are no funds to speak of. Rarely do we see a magazine, book, or movie that is successful both financially and intellectually. Day in and day out we witness emptiness in our media. A vacuum. An intellectual desert.

I only hope to God this emptiness is not reflection of what has become of us: An immigrant community rapidly melting in the melting pot. I am all for assimilation, but not for a meltdown.

The Internet may be our savior. Not everyone has a computer or is connected to the Net. This will change, however. The Internet will be so much more practical than other ways of communication that even Khan Joon, my grandmother, would want to use it.

The Internet is interactive. It enables you to give and receive immediate feedback. Every Iranian can find his or her own favorite food for thought and exchange ideas. The assortment of views will enable us to see each other in a better light. We will recognize our similarities, and not just our differences. With more exposure, we will learn to respect a wider spectrum of opinions.

Who knows, one day we may even become tolerant individuals. Even in Iran. Or in Los Angeles. What an exhilarating concept. Or we might conduct elections on the Net one day. For fun of course, but it will carry a potent message.

There are more of us "normal" Iranians out there than you think. Because of Iran's political circumstances, past and present, and because of severe punishments for forming "undesirable" opinions, many of us have given up expressing ideas altogether.

In the late '70s, nearly every Iranian was politically active one way or another. Even 12-year-olds would engage in heated political arguments. But today even our scholars and intellectuals are quiet.
They are running chelokababis and gas stations. They just want to raise their families and live peacefully.

The Internet just may be what is needed for our culture to blossom again. A new avenue to communicate without Big Brother watching over our shoulders.

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Last Updated: 11-May-96
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