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Iranian Alert - May 8, 2005 - Iran: A Close Shave Connects American to Iranians
Regime Change Iran ^ | 5.8.2005 | DoctorZin

Posted on 05/08/2005 5:00:31 PM PDT by DoctorZIn

Top News Story

Iran: A Close Shave Connected Traveler to People Eager for Answers about US


Matt Mossman, Sun-Sentinel:

I was at the bus station in Shiraz, slumped in an orange plastic chair. I'd been in Iran for a week and was getting frustrated. Few locals wanted to talk to me, let alone offer the hospitality that I'd heard about from other travelers -- whisked off to family dinners, thrust into wedding ceremonies, or even offered someone's daughter to marry. None of that for me.

I had four hours before my bus left, so I trudged over to the barber to get a haircut. I decided to lose my scruffy beard, too, and that's all it took for things to change.

Just steps from the barber shop a man came over, smiled, and pumped my hand like he was at a job interview. He had me autograph his day planner to memorialize his encounter with an American, and by then a few people had crowded around.

A student practiced conjugating English verbs, and a janitor nodded and smiled because he spoke only Farsi. Mohammed, an engineer, wanted to exchange pens "to remember our friendship." The one he gave me had the address of a burrito shop in Longmont, Colo. Three hours later, the departure lounge at the Shiraz bus station seemed like a farewell party just for me.

Iran may be part of the Axis of Evil, but you'd never know it talking to a typical Iranian. The Average Jelal wants to be friends and hang out with you at his favorite teahouse. But firsthe needs to make sure you understand that he and practically everyone else he knows hate the country's religious leaders more than you could ever imagine.
Beards are a sign of piety in Islam. Once I ditched mine, Iranians felt free to show me around, invite me to dinner, vent about politics and ask about life in a free country. I chatted into the night at the teahouses, exchanged e-mail addresses and snapped pictures of strangers who just wanted to be in an American photo album.

I knew before going that Iranians like us more than we think. Now, it's hard to exaggerate the point. Iranians pine after American freedoms and mimic our culture. They're like a self-conscious teenager hero-worshipping an older friend.

In the capital city, Tehran, "The Ultimate Fried Chicken Joint" is a popular restaurant. In Yazd, a southern desert town, a street advertisement for an optometrist shows the cartoon Charlie Brown holding an eye chart and his sister Sally in an eye patch. People wear stars-and-stripes shoes and stars-and-stripes shirts. There are achingly bad Iranian versions of American pop music.

Iran's government can't be happy about all this. Its anti-U.S. propaganda is easy to spot in public spaces: "Down with the U.S.A." painted on parking blocks, slogans on billboards, speeches and rallies. In Tehran, murals cover one side of the brick perimeter walls of the former American Embassy, where Iranians scaled the gates and kept American hostages for 444 days beginning in November 1979.

"We will make America face a severe defeat," the wall predicts. "On the day the U.S. praises us we should mourn."

The Statue of Liberty is a few murals over, with a skull and blacked-out eyes replacing Lady Liberty's face. Elsewhere on the wall a hand reaches out from a satellite dish and holds a lit match to a Persian floral design. The message seems to be that American television is ruining Iranian culture. Graffiti artists have disputed the point by adding the logo of the rock band Metallica, a peace sign, and the word "rap."

A tour guide named Ali told me the government hopes the anti-American propaganda will shift the focus away from domestic problems, but Iranians won't fall for that. So if the leaders demonize the United States, the people will do the opposite. As the saying goes here, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

This doesn't mean all Iranians agree with all U.S. policies. They just don't think Americans must answer for their government's actions. People assume that if Iranian leaders ignore popular sentiment, then the same must happen in other countries.

The truly anti-American types are a minority. In Esfahan, a city of stunning mosques and a massive public square, I saw a rally of the local religious police -- volunteers of all ages who scold people for doing un-Islamic things. They approach women and order them to dress more conservatively, or break up conversations among people who might be flirting.

I stood with Babak, a 23-year-old carpet salesman friend, as a screeching leader rambled over a loudspeaker and the volunteers with their banners and slogans filled the square. A merchant from the surrounding bazaar peered out of his shop, made a disapproving "tsk, tsk, tsk" sound with his tongue (Shame on them!), then retreated. People passing by sped up. Babak was there only because I was curious. The voice got louder and more excited, so I asked for a translation.

"It's better that you don't know," Babak said. "It's that bad."

The volunteers have plenty of un-Islamic behavior to guard against. Alcohol and western music are banned, and men and women are segregated when possible, including on buses and at beaches. Dress codes prohibit exposed flesh. The bare minimum for females is a headscarf and a form-obscuring overcoat. Brave ones push their headscarves back to the top of their heads to expose some hair. They compensate for their limited fashion options with overdone makeup and carefully manicured fingernails. Devout women wear the chador, a black drape that covers everything but the face.

They looked to me like a homogenous mass of overcoats and headscarves and chadors, but Babak was constantly spotting women he thought had nice figures. Iranian men have either developed a keen eye or are accustomed to guessing.

Contact with women seemed off-limits to me.

Could I talk to them? Shake hands? Make eye contact? I wasn't sure how to handle this. I wondered how they felt about the costume, but wasn't going approach strangers and risk an encounter with the religious police. I hoped someone would approach me instead.

One evening, a pair of dark female eyes scrutinized me as I was boarding an overnight bus. After most of the passengers had nodded off, the bus attendant tapped me on the shoulder and led me to the back. The girl wanted to talk. I asked her about the dress code and got an hour-long rant.

Negin was 19 and in university. She was afraid to hug her boyfriend in public. She HATED the dress code. Her thick black eyebrows shot upward every time she said the word.

Her parents were sympathetic, so she felt a tiny bit lucky -- she can at least whisper at the back of an overnight bus with a foreign man. Many men don't allow their daughters, wives or sisters to travel without a male escort.

Negin's eyes were always on patrol. At one point she pushed me into a seat across the aisle as the bus slowed for a military checkpoint. She looked out the window as a soldier boarded for an inspection of people's parcels, and called me back over when he left and we moved on.

Young people all over Iran are pushing against the rules. Negin and her friends have a hidden spot in the foothills at the north edge of Tehran's suburbs where they slip off their headscarves, shed the overcoats and party. A bottle of Johnny Walker Red costs $50 if you know the right people in Shiraz. The city was the namesake of the wine, and used to be called the "city of wine and roses." Now, Iranians sneak liquor bottles into restaurants and mix it into their Cokes under the table.

About two-thirds of Iranians are 30 or younger, according to government statistics. This huge batch of restless malcontents is the result of a government attempt at population engineering. Leaders called for a baby boom in the 1980s, when young men were dying in the eight-year war with Iraq and new blood was needed. Now that the majority of the population wants to party like the American kids they see on TV, the government has switched to pushing birth control and vasectomies.

The kids want to play, but they also want to work. And there's another problem. Iran's unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, according to the most recent figures, and hordes of twentysomethings are coming up to working age. Young men say they can't find a wife if they don't have a job. No wife often means no sex, because many families insist on virgin brides. There are a lot of anxious young students in Iran.

You'd never know that when it's time to pull out the wallet, though.

I constantly struggled to pay for cab rides, dinners, snacks and anything else. It's insulting if you try too hard. There are always long and loud battles for the right to pay for something in Iran. Let's say, for example, that Hamid and Jelal and Mohammed go for lunch. If Hamid takes the check, Jelal and Mohammed will hand him money. Hamid will push their hands back across the table several times. A yes-no competition builds. They'll try to shove the bills in Hamid's pocket, but Hamid will twist his hips away. Sometimes they toss the bills back and forth across the table until someone relents. I lost in every battle, so I'll just bring gifts next time. ...

A Daily Briefing of Major News Stories on Iran:

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
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"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin

1 posted on 05/08/2005 5:00:33 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

2 posted on 05/08/2005 5:01:58 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Ping thanks.

Shave and a haircut bump!

3 posted on 05/08/2005 5:25:16 PM PDT by G.Mason ( Because Free Republic obviously needed another opinionated big mouth ... Proud NRA member)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran may be part of the Axis of Evil, but you'd never know it talking to a typical Iranian.

It should not be misunderstood that Axis of Evil is only directed to the regime and not the citizens.
4 posted on 05/08/2005 5:42:04 PM PDT by Wiz
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To: DoctorZIn

Check it out:

FOXNEWS 9pm Eastern (NOW!)

5 posted on 05/08/2005 5:48:30 PM PDT by FreeKeys (NO nukes for nutcases)
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To: FreeKeys


6 posted on 05/08/2005 6:00:30 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

ive been to shiraz and the girls pretty much just came right over to me and said 'hello' even if that was the only english they had. in iran blonde=sexy.

7 posted on 05/08/2005 6:05:50 PM PDT by joemoe
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To: All
I knew before going that Iranians like us more than we think
8 posted on 05/08/2005 6:14:48 PM PDT by F14 Pilot (Democracy is a process not a product)
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To: DrZin

NICOSIA [MENL] -- The Iranian opposition asserted that the Teheran regime has used Hizbullah to quell Arab unrest near the Iraqi border.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization reported that Iranian authorities brought scores of Hizbullah operatives to southeastern Iran to quell Arab riots that began on April 15. The organization said Arabic-speaking Hizbullah fighters attacked protesters in the Khuzestan province in late April.

"The Lebanese Hizbullah -- which is trained in Khuzestan -- appears to have been conscripted into the crackdown," the British-based group said in a statement. "Among those attacking demonstrators were Arabic speakers with distinctly Lebanese accents, according to reports on the ground."

This was the first time that the Iranian opposition reported the use of Hizbullah in quelling unrest in Khuzestan. Hizbullah was said to have been used to combat student demonstrators in 1999 and 2002.

9 posted on 05/09/2005 9:00:55 AM PDT by persiandissident (Free The People, Please)
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To: DrZin


Tehran, 9 May (AKI) - After the recent violent clashes Kurdistan and Khuzestan, the Iranian government now fears that riots will break out in southeast region of Baluchistan, where many of the country's Sunni Muslim religious minority live. The Kurdish riots and those involving the country's Arab minority in Khuzestan, have prompted groups representing different ethnic and religious minorities in Iran to sign a pact for united action in London.

In the past few days, the political climate in Baluchistan has also been very tense. Iranian security forces in the region have noticed unusual activity along the province's border with Pakistan. Mulawi Abdolrahman Moradzehi, the religious leader of the people of Baluchistan, who are majority Sunni, is gravely ill and has been recovering in hospital for some time. His death, acccording to security sources, could trigger a revolt in the entire region.

Authorities in Tehran, say that the ethnic and religious groups, especially the Sunnis, receive financing from "Wahabbi and Salafite environments with the aim of destabilising the country."

The Tehran-based Baztab website, which is close to the hardline Revolutionary Guards, accuses Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan of "financing movements that are hostile to Iran, on the precise instructions of the White House."

10 posted on 05/09/2005 9:07:55 AM PDT by persiandissident (Free The People, Please)
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To: DoctorZIn


11 posted on 05/09/2005 10:19:50 AM PDT by Yardstick
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To: persiandissident

Please post links to news posts.

12 posted on 05/09/2005 1:01:41 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
To read today’s thread click here.

Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

13 posted on 05/09/2005 1:07:57 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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