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Visiting Iran: Part 6
Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

Iran Tripper
August 31,2004

Yesterday I went to Azadi Sports Complex. It was built in 1973 for the Asian Olympics. It still is a marvel, and it has not changed very much except that it is in dire need of repairs all over the place. Some of the facilities are in good shape, for the most part it is coming alive once again after years of neglect.

I always wanted to see the villages inside Alborz mountains. So I have started visiting the more accessible ones and eventually, weather permitting, I will visit some of the more inaccessible ones as well. I am told that villages exist all over the mountains. Some of the villages are hostile to outsiders and some others are just how Shemiranis used to be a hundred years ago: simple and welcoming. I went from Ziba-Shahr to Shahran, then left Tehran towards Imamzadeh David. Five minutes outside of Tehran there was snow all over in the mountains.

The road to Imamzadeh David is pretty nice where Islamic Republic would not have a bad road to any of its thousands of Imamzadehs, especially not to Imamzadeh David. We went to Kann, then Sulughun village, then to Sangan village where we talked to an Afghani laborer who was working on the side of the road. We asked about the village and prices of the properties and he helped a lot and he invited us to have tea with him but we refused politely and went on our way.

We then went further and reached a beautiful serene village covered in snow. Bahram called a local and asked a few questions.Then a crowd of villagers gathered and a discussion about properties broke out. They claimed that Tehranis are buying gardens in that village and talked about how earthquake fault lines do not cross their village (they are wrong!) and how cheap their land is and that we should buy a piece of property from them as soon as possible presumably before other city folks wake to the fact.

Bahram and I really liked their village. Land is between 50 and 200 thousand Tomans, depending on its location. For example, depending on which side of the road a land is located determines when snow will be melted (because of the angle the Sun shines), and therefore it can be cultivated sooner in the season for agriculture. That’s why prices on the melting sides are higher.

We then went to Kika village where its residents are known for betrayal of Imamzadeh David and reporting his hiding place to the authorities. This happened probably some five hundred years ago. It is said that people in this village all have crossed eyes. I thought possibly inbreeding is the cause, but apparently God has caused it to punish Kika people for their betrayal of the beloved Imamzadeh David.

We visited the Kika village and encountered pleasant friendly villagers; even the kids were polite and nice; very poor but nice. We didn't see any "cross-eyed people" either. We talked to two adults about properties there and after 15 minutes they invited us to their house for tea. They insisted. One of them said the real village was down below where it wasn't visible from the road. We thanked them and went our way to the next village. There are so many villages to see around here.

Coming Soon! Imamzadeh David village.

Villages cont'd...

We finally got to visit Imamzadeh David!

We were stopped by an armed guard, paid 400 Tomans to the guard for the parking fee and got a receipt. We then went ahead and were stopped by two other armed guards. They said cars were not allowed in the village and that we had to walk the rest of the way. Bahram, complained and asked them why they charged us 400 Tomans 50 yards back and now they don't let the cars through? We could have parked outside if we were going to walk this way.

Here again Bahram brought me (the dude from America) into the picture. He said: "This man is visiting from America, he is not used to hardships of walking. I must drive him all the way into the village" One of the soldiers turned to me and while smiling said: "say something in American" I said in English "What do you want me to say?"

The soldier thought I was American and not an Iranian who spoke English. He turned to his friend and said in Turkish: "I bet he doesn't know Turkish"; and they laughed. Then one of the soldiers turned to me and mockingly said in Turkish: "Turki bilirsan”? (do you speak Turkish?) As they burst into laughter and while turning away to leave us I turned to him and spoke in Turkish. They were suddenly silenced in shock where they did not expect to hear this "American" speak Turkish with a genuine Turkish accent. They weren't laughing anymore.

I asked them in Turkish where they were from, one of them replied from Khoam-Darreh village, and I told them I was an Iranian Turk from Zanjan. I even knew where his village was; it was near Zanjan. One of the soldiers waved at a guard further ahead and told him to let us through. He told us to drive as far into the village as we wished. We thanked them and left.

Bahram drove onto a snowy one way road inside the rocky mountains. One side of the road was lined with stores, bazaar style and bizarre too! We went to the gate of Imamzadeh David and parked our car in front of the gate.

First things first: So we went to a Kabobi to eat, and to use their restroom. For the next two hours, across from Imamzade David's tomb, we sat to eat lunch, had tea, and spoke with one of the locals about merits of atheism. I was told that the real David's tomb was washed away in a storm, about a hundred years ago and decades later a local mullah dreamed of Imamzadeh David.

And apparently David told the mullah in his dream that he was buried where he is supposedly buried today. Then a tomb was erected and locals were happy to be back in business. Opening a grave to find a holy man, for verification, in Shea Islam is strictly forbidden and it is said people who have attempted to do so have turned to stone. So no one has tried to verify whether there is a body beneath the tomb, and if so if it is even David's body.

I talked about Christianity, that it has no less jumbo mumbo than Sheas Imamzadehs had; that Catholics have saints, that superstition and desire to dabble with supernatural, real or otherwise, knows no bounds. That even GW Bush has had enlightening dreams of his own, and that Iranian mullahs were not alone and need not to be blamed.

"If people want these things then they must have it" I said" and they do like these things! I saw several well to do girls who had travelled from Tehran to pay their dues for the "Nazri." As long as there are believers like these modern girls, Imamzadeh Davids of Iran need not worry for their welfare.

We went inside the yard where the tomb was located, then inside the building and finally to the tomb. So much money had been dropped as "Nazree". There were all kinds of requests by the people who were hanging from the "Zareeh" crying and begging from a dead man whose body may or may not be there; and his only miracle may be that he was the great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandson of Imam Hasan.

Outside there was a vending machine with three options: For 50 Tomans you could choose to have an electric light bulb resembling a candle light up. For 100 Tomans you could light up two light bulbs (pseudo candles) and for 250 Tomans you could have two candles lid and you could have electronic recitations from Quran; straight from the vending machine!

I enjoyed visiting Imamzadeh David and I will be back next Spring for another visit.

Thursday night I went to a relative's house for dinner.

Among the guests were an older couple. I remembered them from my childhood years when they were young and active. I decided to pick the old man's brain for some first hand historical anecdotes. He witnessed the dissolution of Shah's reign from an interesting angle: from his post as a regional governor (Bakhshdar) in far away towns and villages.

Friday we went to lunch with the religious side of the family. In short, opinions have shifted drastically in regards to the regime. However, people warned me not to confuse their dissatisfaction with the government with dissatisfaction with Islam and Sheaism. I believed them where I have met lots of born-again-Moslems who are modern, educated, and very much Islamic. Just as there are born-again Christians in America.

I also went to a gathering on Wednesday and something happened there that might be of interest to you. While chit-chatting there, I mentioned that I now know Khomeini as an interesting character who did not know very much about the world, but by accident he was positioned in a place to change Iran's history. That Rafsanjani and Khamenei and other more famous figures used him.

Then to my surprise several people who were anything but religious exclaimed that I was wrong and Khomeini was extremely bright with a clear vision for Islamic Iran. I looked to see if, perhaps these guys were pulling my leg, and I was expecting for someone to come out and say: “don't kid with him, don't confuse vahid; he might believe you”; No such luck.

I asked, "Are you saying Khomeini was a smart man? really?" The unanimous answer from this secular educated bunch was that not only he was smart, Khomeini was also a moderate. A moderate? Yes a moderate! He pulled Iran out of the hands of hardliners like Montazeri and other clerics who preferred an "Adleh Ali" type of government; a government similar to Saudi Arabia or Taliban.

Khomeini put people like Bazargan and Bani-Sadr in government, forbade clerics from participating directly in government, and stood behind non-cleric pro religion figures, and stated that Iran will be an Islamic republic with a parliament, and that part of government's power will be decided by the people, through their votes via their representatives, and that government and the system can be dissolved if people put it to popular vote and decide to change it. And each generation should decide their own fate, etc, etc. My jaw was dropped. I was still waiting for someone to burst into laughter and say, gotch ya! But they were serious.

"What about this and that and this..." I kept going through a list of Khomeini's mistakes, his statements indicating his dictatorial visions, etc. They told me that Khomeini changed when Mojahhedin, Chereeks, Tudeh Party and others insisted on their share of the power pie.

And when these groups subscribed to violence, and after the war with Iraq broke out, Khomeini changed. He became angry with secular people and clerics pulled a fast one on him. They entered the government "temporarily". Khomeini's Velayateh Faghih meant to act as an equalizer but during the turbulent years that Mojahedin and others subscribed to violence, Velayateh Faghih came in handy.

"Alrighty then! Now we are talking about the merits of Velayateh Faghih. Is there anything else?" I asked.

They said Khomeini was by no means a secular person nor was he flexible, he did want an Islamic country but not like this. May be people like us will never be happy with any kind of Islamic government but in contrast to most of the clerics whom always had wanted absolute power for God and their representatives on earth, Khomeini in comparison to them was a moderate. He wanted for the people to want what he wanted and he thought people did want what he he wanted. So he envisioned a democratic Islamic Iran that people freely elected to be ruled by Islamic laws. He legalized chess, music, Caviar and Sturgeon fish. He did this in light opposition from more conservative clerics.

Khomeini was a typical Shea cleric, meaning he believed in a flexible Islam. Khomeini has poetry books that are not published in Iran anymore, They are Erfanni and Sufi style. They actually have literary value, I was told. Khomeini wrote the Velayateh Faghih book nearly 40 years ago. He envisioned an Iran that was similar to the current Iran, except the system in his mind was much more socialistic and not capitalistic, not the way Iran is today. And he did not want for the clerics to filter out candidates nor to create leech organizations that sucks the life out of Iran's economy. What happened to Iran then?

Clerics close to Khomeini were gradually sifted and shifted around and they landed on friends and foe sides of the regime. The foe side happened to still respect Khomeini but have no power anymore. Most of the reformists fall in this category. The "friend" side uses Khomeini's name and statements selectively and has allowed a religious mafia to grow from its side. Khamenei is the only figure in this mix who is still idealistic. The others are hanging on from power because "power is goooood. "If Khomeini was alive today, and if he was young, he would have raised hell..." they said.

Okay" first some corrections are in order. I had a hard time swallowing Khomeini's smartness so I had to discuss the matter at another gathering last night. I was told that Montazeri has written Velayateh Faghih and not Khomeini. Khomeini has written a book called "About Velayateh Faghih". Also, I was told that Khomeini was not stupid but neither was he an exceptionally bright cleric. He was normal, more or less and that his his turbulent past had made him who he was.

Khomeini in his memoir says that he had to go to Tehran with his mother, when he was little, and wait for a month for his father's murderer to be hanged. His father was murdered and that had made a lifetime impression on him. In short, go back to believing what you used to believe about Khomeini, he was an average Joe. And his literary account is as follows: he read about "Erfan" but he was no "Aref"! His poetry is allright but not exceptional. Enough about Khomeini.>>> Part 7
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