Judging a Country by its Cover

When I see news and programmes on Iran, I experience different emotions. Not long ago I was of the exiled generation who dreamt of a far away land and saw it only through rose-tinted glasses. Having lived there, I found it difficult sometimes to comply with the strict regulations in the country – having never experienced such restrictions in Britain. However, I never came across any trouble while I was out there. Although my time living in Iran was before the recent elections and unrest, ultimately beneath the shouts and slogans, Iran is the same. It is a beautiful country with an even more beautiful history.

I became annoyed last night to hear a fellow Iranian describe how ‘humiliating’ it is to be examined before attending university, be told to clean their make-up clad faces, pull their scarfs forward, dress according to the custom/uniform. The same thing happened while I was at secondary school in the UK. Some (albeit not all) teachers would line us up outside the classroom, as we trooped in students would be set aside and asked to lengthen their skirts (which were rolled at the waist), take off their jewellery, clean their make-up – all in accordance with the school uniform.

Filming outside a mosque or within a religious city in Iran, you will be surrounded by women in head to toe black chador. However, walking along the streets of Tehran you will see a mixture of women wearing the ‘veil’ to different degrees.  I work for an international organisation that should on paper know more about the Middle East than most. Last week my boss asked me whether my father-in-law was ‘comfortable’ with me working. I resent the depiction of Iranian women as invisible members of society. We are allowed to vote, to work, to drive a car, even to hold posts in government – quite different to some of Iran’s neighbours. Yet for some reason, people I speak to are unaware of this.

Please believe me when I say, Iran is a beautiful country and I regard myself as lucky to know Iran enough to see beyond the veil. I may be naïve and although I do not know what it was like to be in the streets of Tehran during demonstrations, I regard myself as lucky enough not to have lost sight of the ‘real’ Iran. In this case I would rather be called naïve than to lose this beauty.

The next time you hear news of Iran, I hope you remember some reasons why Iran for me is special:

1- beautiful mountains

2- beautiful parks

3- the Caspian

4- Isfahan

5- Shiraz

6- kebab

7- backgammon (takhte nard)

8- romantic poetry (Shahnameh)


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. grandmac
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 21:46:45

    I suppose its different being at school and wearing uniform , to being an adult and someone ordering you to dress in a certain way. But most of us comply to the rules and regulations of the societies we live in and dress according to the ‘norm’.

    Another reason Iran is special is the beautiful people.


  2. alphabetgames
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 08:06:08

    I agree with you but in my opinion freedom does not excist anywhere in the world. As with all rules, you only experience trouble when you rebel against them, then again you do not want to become passive members of society. I appreciate the difficult position some people find themselves in and each day I am grateful that I do not find myself in that position and enjoy the beauty of a country and a culture, albeit from a distance.


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