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Visiting Iran: Part 5
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Iran Tripper
August 19, 2004


Salam bar doostan,

I went to one of Tehran's "Daad-Saraa." During Shah's days, instead of one central courthouse there were many more smaller courthouses throughout Tehran and they were called Daad-Saraa. After the revolution they did away with Daad-Saraas, and now Daad-Saraas are back again.

I went to one close to Intercontinental Hotel next to Park Farah. Actually I was accompanying a friend of mine who had sued and won a case, but the defendant was not obeying the court order. My friend was there to take the next legal action to recover his losses. He had sold a piece of molding machinery to a fellow two years ago and was now trying to collect money from him. He was semi-successful in his ordeal.

Meanwhile I sat in the hallway, went from office to office, and did a little eaves-dropping and people watching. There were all kinds of cases. Two items seemed interesting to me. One was the number of young attorneys running back and forth with their clients. Second was how often people asked me and others for directions to this office and to that office, where to make copies of their documents, where the fax machine was, etc.

During the one hour that I spent in Dadsara I learned where the elevators were (by the way, no more than 4 people could fit in them at one time), where the copy center was, etc. I kept giving directions to people left and right.

This attitude, talking to people and strangers on a whim, asking for help, giving help, is one of those characters that is so different in Iran than in the West. In taxi cabs people talk to each other like they have known each other all their lives. I was in a cab the other day:

Passenger: "Mostagheem." (straight ahead)

Driver: "Bia balla." (get in)

The passenger got in and immediately turned to the driver: "what kind of a world do we live in? I'm taking my son-in-law to court" He then talked a little about how his son-in-law has borrowed money from him and he is not paying him back.

He asked me if I had kids.

"No", I replied.

"Why?", he asked.

"I am not married."


"I lived in America and 'ghesmat' had not been with me." (It wasn’t my fate to be married).

"What do you do?", "How much do you make per month?". I answered all his questions.
By this time the cab arrived at the man’s destination and as he was getting out of the cab he advised me to get married soon and to have kids.

"It is already too late", he said. "Fathers and kids should not have a big age gap," he continued. He then paid the cab driver, looked inside the cab as we were moving away and yelled: "Don't get married if you don't want to; sometime it's more trouble than its worth."

As we pulled away, the driver said: "what a talkative man, he was so nosey. So what is that you did in America?" I answered again. "Why didn't you get married to an American? Why have you come back to this miserable Iran where everything is so much easier and more beautiful in America?"

He asked and asked and asked, and I answered and answered and answered.

Sometimes when I get into taxi cabs I keep to myself. I know if I start talking it might not end with a quick Q&A. The other day I had a discussion about religion with a cab driver who was a follower of a new Sufi-cult in Tehran. After we arrived at my destination we casually sat in the car and talked for another ten minutes to wrap up our discussion.

I was trying to explain to him that our problem is not with this religion or with that religion. The problem is religion itself and that we should keep our minds aways from the shadow of any kind of brain washing if we are to flourish and that's probably how God intended it to be for free thinkers. Religions have a tendency to stifle the brain. Religions doesn't mean God and God was a separate issue altogether. He agreed and disagreed. Then I had to pay my fare and leave.

"How much for the fare?" I asked.


"Ghorbooneh shoma."

"2500 Toman." ($3)

"Chera 2500? 2000 nerkhesheh."

"Ghabeli nadareh."

I paid 2500. "It was nice talking to you," I said.

"Same here," he said.


Hello everyone,

I have been sick for the past 3 days and have stayed home. However, I finally got to watch a little Iranian TV so I'll do a TV report.,

I watched several well made Iranian mini series, soccer matches from Italian and British clubs, and also from Iranian clubs. Ali Daie now plays for Piroozi, I thought he played in Germany. T.V. also has shows from Discovery channel, newer American western TV shows, Woody Allen movies, Truman Show with Jim Carey is to be aired this Friday, etc.

It is interesting to see Kevin Costner, Jody Foster and others speak Persian. There are seven channels with relatively good programming. People with satellite televisions are finding themselves watching more and more internal Iranian channels. Shows from LA based stations simply seem silly here. They are so off-base.

Besides sports, news, and mini series there are very interesting roundtable discussions. Last night I watched a roundtable discussion, two scholar Mullahs and two regular scholars. One of the Mullahs was discussing Nitche's idea, "What if God was dead!" The young Mullah was well versed in the literature of atheist world. I enjoyed the discussion which was pretty open and philosophical, even though it was coming from a Mullah.

There is a show that is produced in Tehran's metro. The tv crew take up a wagon in Metro and interview experts who have suggestions for improving Iran's education, economy, etc. They do this as the train is moving from station to station. Very interesting.

There is a man called Elahi Ghomsheie. He lives in Europe but comes to Iran often. This man's show is very popular. He basically does motivational speeches with a philosophical twist, and blends it with poetry from Hafez and Saadi to Shakespeare, Balzak, and others. He does this from memory. He knows lots of poems. He looks a little like Yoda in Star Wars. He is bald, short, old, not very attractive, but is extremely charming and popular with young girls. Power of BRAIN!

There is a candid camera show. They have cameras in taxis and they record taxi discussions. This show was a little biased, I thought. People unanimously expressed views that could not be unanimous in reality.

Most of the other shows are clearly not biased. News is much much better than what I remembered from the last time I was in Iran. Once in a while it shifts to biased positions and comes back to reality again. I'm told reformists have penetrated the programming portions of the television stations and not all the programs can be monitored all the time. Whenever a good program goes off the air people know they must have gone too far.

There is a show where the producers go to neighborhoods, film the pot-holes in the streets, then talk to people about how their cars have been damaged by the holes. Afterwards they track down the government representatives for that district, for example someone from shahrdari, and ask them why things haven't been fixed. If they dodge the questions or if they blame it on another organization they do a follow up and go to that organization until they get a clear answer.

Election news: Much of the candidates for the next parliament have been rejected as ineligible. Eighty of the current parliament members are not eligible to run for the election. Bahram was a candidate and he was informed yesterday that he cannot run for the parliament. This is not good news because people may listen to the L.A. based media and not vote at all. This means conservatives will win the parliament as they did in Tehran's election.

And finally, this from Confucious:

Lead them by means of government policies and regulate them through punishments, and the people will be evasive and have no sense of shame.

A sage governs this way:
He empties people's minds and fills their bellies.
He weakens their wills and strengthens their bones.
Keep the people always without knowledge and without desires
For then the clever will not dare act.
Engage in no action and order will prevail.


Today I went to a soccer match in Ekbatan. Paas and RahAhan clubs both have their sports facilities in Ekbatan. There are pools, indoor and outdoor, tennis courts, soccer fields, etc. Basically after the revolution Ekbatan lost those two spots to the government. I don't know if they bought it from Ekbatan or just took it. Those two pieces of property were located at the heart of Ekbatan and the builders had grand designs/plans for the Ekbatanis.

The fields were to be used for our soccer and sport facilities. Now they belong to others. Anyway, these two clubs have sport programs, soccer classes, pools that can be used with 20,000 Tomans (about $25) of initiation fee and 1000 Tomans ($1.25) for each use of the indoor swimming pool. There are weight lifting facilities all over the place.

There were 4 soccer matches today in Tehran. Paas and Saipa played in Paas's field in Ekbatan. it was a short 5 minute walk from my apartment. Ticket cost was 300 toman (35 cents). It was a pleasant day, the Sun was shining and people were in good mood. Khodad Azzizi plays for Paas and most of the 1000 people who had come to the stadium had come to see him. 1000 is a very low turnout for Iranian matches where Azadi stadium, 8 miles to the north, has seats for 100,000 sports fans and easily gets filled for good matches e.g. for matches between Piroozi (Ali Daie's team) and Esteghlal (which used to be Taj).

Paas stadium, in my estimation, has seats for about 4000 people. The game ended with Paas winning 1-0. Saipa's coach is Italian. The poor guy screamed all day long in Italian. Every now and then he would grab the lazy Iranian translator who kept disappearing on him and would take the translator to the sidelines and scream in Italian and the Iranian translator would scream and translate. I saw some hand gestures from the Italian coach that translated well to the Iranian gestures. No need for translations there.

Foreign coaches are all over, from basketball to wrestling, to ping pong. Actually professional wrestling in Iran is pretty big and there are lots of foreign wrestlers wrestling for Iranian clubs. There are several black basketball players, possibly Americans (one of them is Williams so he may be American). They play for Iranian basketball clubs. Basketball in Iran is still in poor shape even though younger Iranians are much taller than my generation. Almost all the players can easily slam dunk where in my days only a few could go where no short man has gone before.

Unlike the early days of the revolution music and music stores are everywhere. Even the types of music that Iran's melancholy radio plays are changing. Sometimes even soft rock music leaning towards hard with electric guitar can be heard with no vocals, at least not yet. Before I went to the soccer match I heard an accordion player from outside the window. I went to the window and noticed an accordion player across my window who was playing and looking up to the building windows. Some of the neighbors were dropping money on them. His assistant was busy collecting the money that was being dropped on them.

My mom said that that's pretty customary now. They play music like this and neighbors drop money from their windows. Also in bazaars suddenly musicians appear from nowhere and start playing for people. They range all the way from solo violin players, to Tonbak players, to a full fledged 5 piece band from Azerbaijan who sing and play Turkish songs. I also saw an Afghani band the other day who were singing a song about "Vatan", about their vatan. These musicians generally play as they walk the streets.

There is an old man, probably he is in his late 80s who plays daryeh (drum) and sings melancholy songs in Turkish. I have seen him play at 10 a.m. and again at 9 p.m.. He must be continuously singing and playing. But his energy level shows that he is old and that he plays a lot. You can hardly understand what he sings. It's more like mumbling than singing. And his fingers which are indicative that he used to be a peasant farmer somewhere, hardly hit the drum. Yet people pay him for his music. He is probably playing excellent in his head and that's what counts >>> Part 6
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