Sunday, January 20, 2008

banished from iran

"After nearly three years, I am leaving Iran. Having arrived fortified only with superficial snippets of knowledge gleaned from books, I depart with a kaleidoscope of memories and images, a limited but (I like to think) rapidly expanding grasp of Farsi and an Iranian wife. So I cannot say the experience has not been beneficial.

The austere image fostered by the Islamic authorities is very different from the Iran I know. Far from being the religious monolith projected by the regime, it will be forever associated in my mind with glorious food, dancing, dramatic landscapes, dazzling mosques and stunningly beautiful women. My departure is involuntary. The authorities have refused to renew my residence permit and have resisted all entreaties to reconsider."
There was an extremely interesting article in the Guardian recently. Small events in Ahmadinejad’s Iran continue to disappoint, frustrating those of us who are optimistic that Iran is not in need of intervention from the West and is just following it’s own slow course towards freedom and democracy. In the latest instance, the aggressive, defensive president’s regime has expelled the Guardian Tehran correspondent, Robert Tait, from the country, without explanation.

In this article, Tait reminisces over his time in the troubled Iranian nation, drawing a complex set of conclusions over a fascinating, exciting and often horrifying society. More and more I get the impression that Iran is a palimpsest, a piece of parchment that is marked with competing stories, surface-level and hidden. Which Iran is real?

"Drawing the curtains to keep their illicit activities hidden from onlookers, women discarded their obligatory overcoats and hijabs before letting their hair down for an uninhibited knees-up.

The tumultuous scenes were a graphic and defiant demonstration of the national passion for dancing, which - contrary to common stereotypes - Iranians perform with a grace and subtle eroticism beyond most westerners.
But the unlikely setting was also deeply symbolic of modern Iran, where much of real life takes place behind closed curtains and where what you see on the surface is often not what you get.

To the outside world, Iran is a religiously devout Islamic republic in the grip of a rigidly ascetic revolutionary ideology. But that image conceals a multitude of surprises and wells of pent-up energy."
The division is often described, inaccurately, as one between Western-style freedom and Islam. Tait is more perceptive, pointing out that it is traditionalism, not religion, which continues to hold back Iran's inevitable march towards modernity.

I wish I could say that things are better than they seem. In some ways they are – in others, Iran remains a country desperately in need of change. I hope I don’t need to point out that an invasion is emphatically not the answer.

No comments: