White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Couple of notes from Tehran

1. This trip, I avoid driving in Tehran as much as possible. Using the public transportation is a very good way to learn more about people, their dilemmas and concerns. It's always great to hear from a cab driver about his daily economic and social dilemmas, about the past election, the education and job opportunities for his kids and the future of the country.

2. The middle class in Iran are literally being crushed. While walking around shopping malls in the upper Tehran, I clearly see a new trend of extreme luxury life for the wealthy Iranians. It's amazing how these people spend their money on super expensive western brands from Heinz ketchup to Espirit bed sheets and CK's clothings. It was quite a surprise (and disappointment) for me to hear from young rich highschool kids who were talking about buying a new cell phone every 6 months! This is very different from the way I and majority of my generation grew 10-15 years ago. It's not surprsing to see Mr. Ahmadinejad holding the presidential seat today.

3. I hear contradictory comments about the past election. For me, it was always a big surprise to see the victory of Ahmadinejad in the 2nd round of the election. Some people believe the the voting fraud was not limited to the first round, and even in the 2nd round millions of votes were injected for Ahmadinejad. At the same time I keep hearing about the fact that many non-conservative and religious people have been talking in support of Ahmadi and in general it seems that Ahmadi has been pushed into the 2nd round of election with a little bit of vote fraud, but has won the second round by public vote.

4. In upper Tehran, Hejab is literally a joke. In the evenings I see many women driving cars with no scarf. Mantos (the coats that women have to wear) are in their shortest state ever and short pants (called bermuda here) are quite common. Yes, this state might not last very long as conservatives are starting to push their agenda.

5. Unlike what I was expecting, people are not that much pessimist about Ahmadinejad's government. Maybe that's because there is not that much to lose after this election. Whatever happens is better their expectation. Ahmadinejad has been quite careful to avoid any contraversial speech about social and political issues. Majority of people here believe that he first DOES NOT LIKE and second CAN NOT enforce so much of change in the social issues like the dress code and cultural issues like cinema, theater and books. One reason is probably the heavy internationl pressure that is coming to the regime with respect to the nuclear technology.

6. Despite all the disappointments that I felt in recent years about the state of my people and country in general, still I feel optimistic about returning and working here in Iran. There is whole a lot of cultural and social and personal reasons that makes me happy about living in Iran. I had a meeting with one of grad students who works in research areas close to my interests. There is much work to do here and there are a lot of smart people who are thirsty to learn and work, if there is right direction and adminstration. Of course I can write pages about the problems of living in Iran.

7. Checking the newspapers and magazine desks is quite depressing. The media spring of 1997-2000 is clearly gone and what's left is a bunch of average magazines and newspapers quite controlled and censored. Books are still in a better state, but clearly far from those days that the front line of every bookstore was filled with titles about democracy, civil society and human rights. maybe that spring was too early and far from realities of our nation.
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