Friday, April 01, 2005

Tehran Visited

My former job at UC Santa Cruz as the assistant director of student media gave me a great opportunity to meet some fine, creative students: the ones who wrote, edited, and produced the student newspapers and magazines. I was very lucky to know and advise the most engaged, thoughtful, and politically aware students on campus. I left Santa Cruz almost a year ago, but I still hear from some students, and I just received this email. I wrote Mandana back and asked her if I could share it, and she said yes. We don't often get a first-hand view of Tehran, but here is one from someone just recently returned:

As many of you know, I recently took flight across the world to my homeland Iran. Having been there about a year and a half ago, I thought I would come across the same romanticized experience of sizzling spices filling the persian night sky, hookahs, rolling deserts, jewel-like mosques, the lukewarm Caspian Sea and scarves. Well, at least I got to wear a scarf. I went there during the Persian New Year and was able to celebrate with my mom's family. That was interesting beyond measure. If any of you have ever seen your parents interact with their parents, you begin to understand perhaps why they are the way they are. In my case, I understood completely why my mom left Iran and more importantly, made the crucial choice of leaving behind her family and taking the chance of making it or breaking it in a country 20 years ago she barely spoke the language of.

I once read that a while ago, a great warrior was faced with a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy's country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, "You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice-we win-or we perish!"
They won.
Sometimes the only way to ensure one's success is to make those crucial decisions. When we're faced with adversities it helps to remember that story or simply think of 50 cent and his album title "Get Rich or Die Trying". (Ha, that was a little plug for my pop culture heads).

I think like all youths, the youth of Iran are confused. Confused beyond measure however because they are living in an Islamic Regime that prohibits alcohol, sex before marriage, homosexuality, drugs, dating, PDA, and overall has incorporated religion and government. However, standing on the rooftop of my cousin's apartment in Tehran (the capital city of Iran), I could see for miles and miles rooftops that all had Satellite dishes. My cousin alone had over 2,000 stations. I was able to watch unreleased 50 cent music videos, Snoop Dogg, Britney, Cher, Maria Carey, and yes even Justin Timberlake. Music videos are the epitome of creating culture because they have only a few minutes to make it seem like they are having a whole lot of fun by incorporating sex, music, alcohol, laughter, brand names, cars, money, and ah yes...the American Dream.

So from my own observation, I saw my cousins watching barely clothed women shaking bare ass while they had to wear a scarf and cover up. It was a trip because you have images from an outside world looking and dressing one way, but then having a government telling you to dress another way. When I asked how my grandmother felt about Americans thinking the women of Iran were opressed she laughed really hard and said, "If women in America are being told to look and dress one way and the women in Iran another...well then there is no freedom for women anywhere. I don't want to come to America just so I can discard my scarf and show off my goods like in a meat market and on the contrary, I don't want to be told to cover up...but then again...we are women...show me a place where women are free and I will show you a lie."

We went to a ritzy mall in Tehran where all the youth hang out. Literally, every other youth had bandages on their nose (nose job), piled on make up, revealed bleached blonde hair, stiletto heels, cell phones, capris and tight clothing. Of course these women still had to wear scarves but they incorporated color and dared to let their scarf hang well past the middle of the head...to say the least, I felt overdressed. For those of you thinking of going there, the mall is called Jam-be-Jam and its located in what I call the Manhattan of Tehran. It has a plethora of foriegn fast food joints inside of it. I almost laughed when I saw that they had a Tex-Mexican fast food joint there.

Also, although things like drugs and alcohol are prohibited, my cousin Ali said he had the hook ups. For example, in about three hours he was able to get some Vodka...the idea of that just made me think of what people do for a rush and how although its taboo and one could face definite punishment that he still risked it for a rush. It tasted watered-down, but I don't think that really matters because part of the high is simply having the alcohol in your posession. I think its that feeling people get drunk off of, not the actual substance.

Anyways, I could go on and on, but it is clear to see that there is definitely a time bomb in Iran and it is ticking in the hearts and minds of the youth who are demanding there be a balance between the images from the outside world and their Islamic Regime.

1 comment:

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