Emails from home
Visiting Iran: Part 4
Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
We live in Phase1, Block B1 of Ekbatan. Ekbatan is pretty nice
for the middle class Iranians.
Today we went to my
aunt's house for lunch. My aunt's family are pretty religious and
in the beginning of the revolution they
were enthusiastically following the path of the revolution and
directly participated in it.
But after the death of my first cousin
due to leukemia, and the third cousin's death who was out and
about with Dr. Chamran during Iran-Iraq war and was blown to pieces
the Iraqis, and the death of my fourth cousin due to depression,
my aunt's family are still religious but are dissatisfied and
saddened by the way the revolution has turned out.
They live on a street
named after their "shaheed" (Martyr) son, and are sorry
for their losses for nothing. My second and only male cousin from
that family is a professor of physics and is an active reformist.
He is also influential in his inner circles where he was one of
the original revolutionaries and still has the respect of the regime.
But he is outspoken and critical of the conservatives. His wife
is a doctor in theology and she too is critical of the regime.
My take is this: if people like my cousin have switched sides
then no one is left on the other side except a bunch of thugs who
are in it for nothing but power and money. My aunt lives near Shahpoor
in southern Tehran. They have always lived there. She is one of
the most loving people I know. Unfortunately she has lost three
sons and that's not easy. But she keeps an optimistic view on life
and goes on. Today she invited me and a whole bunch of her children
and grand children for lunch.
Most of our conversation circled
around fragility of the regime and estimations on how and when
the regime will be gone. Most of the guests agreed that reforms
will continue and Iran will achieve its goal without bloodshed.
Two people whose words counted the most claimed that conservatives
have no choice but to fight; and fight they will. They forecasted
a bloody revolution at some point that will shift the country to
chaos, then democracy.
I hope they are wrong but the two people
who were saying this were ex-Hezbollahis. They said the ruling
mullahs have tied their fate to several million people, just in
case. These several million are the same people who are willing
to do the beatings for the regime. They appear in various gatherings
for Hezbollahis all over Iran. They are bussed everywhere, and
they know if it wasn't for this regime they would have ended up
with a lot less share of Iran than what they currently enjoy.
know if the regime changes they are in deep trouble. This system
was intentionally created by the mullahs i.e. they have created
a class from the poorest of the poor, hired them in government
agencies regardless of their skills, and kept them around for safety
reasons, and they are asked to show up with their families in various
demonstrations as "representatives of the people."
I have been wandering around Tehran, seeing things, talking to
people for sometime now. I have been conversing with people in
taxis, on the streets, in stores, restaurants, and in police stations.
They all talk openly
about how the Mullahs have stolen the revolution and how they are
now stealing the money and are preparing to migrate to Canada and
other countries. There are some ridiculously funny rumors, such
as Rafsanjani building an island in the Pacific Ocean for his
The only supporters of the regime we see are on TV.
see them on the streets. Tehrani boys and girls are busy with
their hair styles, clothing, etc. The middle aged are busy bringing
the bread, and the elderly are still wondering why an egg which
used to be 5 rials is so expensive now.
Those who will effectively
change Iran are busy. They are working hard. Ironically most
of them used to be supporters of the Islamic Republic who have
turned their backs on the regime. They are actually pretty
pissed off at how they've been played and spent.
I am not sure if you know about Asgarowladi. Asgarowladi runs
Tehran's Bazaar and has close ties to the regime. Yet the most
fact about him is that he was born to Jewish Bazaari parents.
Later in his life he converted to Islam and is now one of the richest
men in Iran. He is one of the people who has criticized Khameneie
for not being conservative enough. He wanted the government to
crack down harder on "bad-hejabs" (dress codes).
Iran is a land of wonders. Its supreme judge is from Iraq and
its supreme leader wears a Palestinian shawl, and its richest
businessman who runs the Islamic bazaar is a Hezbollahi who used
to be a Jew.
I attended a round table political gathering in Tehran. The "International
Relations Committee for Political Parties", had a meeting
and Bahram was invited. I went with him as his guest. It was a
round table official meeting.
In my mind I had preconceptions that
I would see a bunch of bearded men around a table, but what I
saw were young educated men, mostly doctors (Ph.D.) and one elderly
physician who was representing Anjoman-e
Pezeshkan-e Eslami (Association of Islamic Physicians). Almost
all the organizations in Iran have an "Islamic" suffix, but its
are anything but.
The discussion was pretty open. The meeting was in a government
building. We had tea and
shirini (cookies), and were discussing how to word a request
document so the government would not object and would respond
favorably to the committee's requests. Among the attendees there
who used to organize and bus anti reformist demonstrations,
beatings, etc. He was there participating in the discussion calmly
I also said a few words as a guest, but Bahram talked the most.
a respected figure in inner political circles. Ironically he
is the most Western looking political figure, yet the conservatives
do not dislike him. They let him be.
I went to the Tehran Stock Exchange. It is a relatively modern
establishment. TSE started in 1966 but in recent years has become
very active. Government is building five new modern exchange centers
in Iran. I noticed many of the people there were clean shaven men,
and some women too.
We asked for information and were directed
to go to the library on the 16th floor and read about TSE. We
did. The library had magazines from Fortune to the Economist, etc.
were all kinds of books about investment and finance; both in
English and in Persian.
I went to Ferdosi elementary school. It is now a
center for Islamic education, designed to figure out a
way to bring in the glorious teachings of the Qoran to schools,
to the world, and to somehow show the world how the Qoran and
its teachings are good for you. It's a daunting task but someone
to do it.
I went inside the yard, through the hallways, to what used to
be classrooms. Echoes of my childhood years were still there.
Most of the yard is filled with new buildings and what remains
is used as a parking lot. Across from the main gate of the school
where Mamad Agha sold "Futeina". Mr. Khoram's stationary
store is now a different store.
In Meydaneh Khakh Bahram and I went to a Kabobi which used to
be a Ghahveh-Khaneh during my childhood years. The same owner has
for 45 years. Bahram asked him to bring in his best Kabob. He
said: "my friend comes from America and has a sensitive stomach.
You'd better not feed us junk".
The Ghahveh-chi took a good
look at me from where he was sitting, and in heavy Turkish accent
replied: "him? He can not be from America! Americans are
skinny, they eat fish and other sea creatures. Your friend is
fat and looks like he eats lots of chelokabob."
I smiled at the
Ghahveh-chi's candidness and at the same time I realized that
his world "fat" means health and vigor. So I was not offended
but I had to tell him that America has fatties that don't even
in his dreams. I told him that what he sees on TV are skinney
actors and models, the real Americans are much fatter than Iranians.
We had a great lunch: 4 sikhs of Kabob Koobideh with one serving
of rice, one sangak bread, two cups of yogurt, 10 barbecued tomatoes,
all for 2800 tomans (less than $4). We gave a 100 toman tip to
The fabric of the harsh right-wing attitude is coming apart in
front of my eyes. Places that used to be filled with Hezbollahis
are quickly shrinking. I saw a Pasdar with a machine gun and a
whole bunch of police force the other day. I wondered what they
were doing. It turned out they crack down on street vendors every
now and then.
I went closer to listen to a conversation
between one of these Pasdars with a vendor. He was telling
the street vendor that if he doesn't leave the area he will have
to arrest him and confiscate his merchandise! And the vendor was
tenaciously sticking around. The Pasdar then pushed him: "Go!" he
said. The forces when on the streets, generally do police
work.>>> Part 5
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