This is a repost from an Instagram story I published in spring 2018 after a visit to Iran. With Iran being headline news across the world at the minute I was thinking about what I’m seeing in the news coverage (of threats and counter threats) and what I experienced while exploring what I still consider one of my favourite countries. So this is for all my friends in Iran…
“Tell your friends we are not terrorists.” I heard this more than once. I also read it on a mobile (thank you Google Translate) when a friendly group approached me in Qazvin on a cool and overcast day, but our grasp of each other’s language soon ran dry. We chatted for 10 minutes using the mobile, swapped Instagram accounts, shook hands and went our separate ways.
This was towards the end of my trip through a large, incredible complex and diverse country with a fabulously rich history, and an incredibly young and well educated population. Iranians are not terrorists. I cannot speak for their government but the Iranian people I met were:
- Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Lors, Turkmen, and many other threads of humanity
- they love their food, they love to picnic, they enjoy a barbecue, and love their country
- many like to smoke, many would like a drink, some do
- while some love a good cup of tea, others prefer strong coffee
- they live in a mobile connected world: What’sApp, Telegram, and Instagram – selfie sticks are sold on the metro
- Iranians are street: quite a few I met use VPNs to access global news, banks, sites banned by the government
- they are hotel, hostel and cafe owners, restaurant managers, guides, engineers, students, taxi drivers, farmers, shoe shiners
- they love to walk, they enjoy hiking and are prolific campers, but they as a nation they all drive like lunatics
- they queue for museums and palaces, galleries and shrines, anything cultural or historical – they love a good queue
- they love football & volleyball, play badminton and table tennis (public parks are full of these), and they’re World champions at wrestling and weightlifting. And then there’s Zurkhaneh!
- they cherish time with family, especially at their New Year (Nowruz), they laugh easily and will share food with strangers
- their music is rich – Persian rap, rock and pop sit comfortably beside traditional tunes – and they do like to sing (and dance)
- they are proud of their country and its history (warts and all) and warmly welcome travellers who make the effort to visit their country
- they revere their poets – Ferdowsi, Hafez, Saadi, Rumi, Khayyam as if they were prophets
Iranians (at least the ones I met over an entire month from Shiraz to Tehran) were not terrorists. They were possibly the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Not all Americans voted for Trump. Not all Britons voted for Brexit. Not all Iranians support their government. How different are ordinary Iranians from the rest of us, really?