During the 1970’s three Russian scientists came to Iran for a few weeks, to visit our universities and research institutions. One of them came to our section. Everyday she would come and watch what we were doing, and asked questions. But, a middle-aged short guy with dark glasses accompanied her, sat and watched us without a word. He was never introduced to us, so I thought he must be a KGB agent!
After a week or so, I asked my Russian colleague if she could come to my house for a dinner on Thursday night. When she accepted, I asked her if she could bring her two Russian friends with her. She accepted, and since I did not invite the guy with dark glasses, I was not sure if he would come with them.
On Thursday evening, I went to bring them to my house from Hotel Miami where they stayed. Fortunately, the suspicious guy did not come with them. Once we got home, we served them some tea and sweets, and then invited them to the dinner table to eat. To my surprise, while they were having dinner, they started to ask the following questions:
Q. Is this a rented house or you own it? And how many bedrooms do you have?
A. We have bought this house with a bank loan, and it has three bedrooms.
Q. Why do you need a 3-bedroom house, does the government let you have it?
A. Because we have two children, and since we both work, we can afford to pay our home loan. Government has no role in this.
Q. We saw two cars in the yard. Does it belong to you, and why do you need two cars?
A. These are 2 locally made cars (Paykan). We both work in different locations, and in the morning we take our children to school and each of us have to go in different direction to work.
Q. Do you have TV, and washing machine? Does your government let you buy them?
A. Yes we do have them, and we only had to cut some expenses, and save to buy them. Beside, we bought them by credit from the store, and pay gradually.
Q. When your children go to university, can you or they choose what they want to study? or government chooses for them?
A. It is up to the family or child to choose the subject of study.
Q. Do you have to get permission from government if you want to travel within the country or abroad?
A. We do not need government permission to travel within Iran or abroad, except a few countries that need Visa.
After we answered these questions and a couple more, I asked the same questions from them. The following was their response:
They did not have a choice in buying house, car, TV, travel, and selection of education. The government had created rules and regulations that they have to follow according to their age, education, and years of service. The youngest scientist lived with her son, who was a collage student, and her mother, in a two bedroom Apt. She shared a bedroom with her son, and her mother lived in the second bedroom. They could not have TV or car.
The second scientist who was a middle aged physician and specialist, had a 3 bedroom apt. She had a TV, but she had no car. The third scientist, who was a professor in his seventies, had a house, car, and TV. They had to get government permission to travel inside or outside of their country. The government tests the children when they want to enter the collage, and chooses their specialty based on their test result.
I could not have believed this, had I not heard it directly from them. No wonder why their country had to open its door to the free world, in early 1990’s!
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