White Balloon

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Safarnameh (Trip Report) 1: Iran

The Iran trip was one of the best. Half of it was outside Tehran. We visited Shahrekord for a few days for family reasons and later went to the gorgeous province of Kurdistan. Kurds are the most hospitable people that I have seen in Iran. Their rich culture and history and the tendency to have their own state, historically have put them at odds with the non-kurd governments of the region. In all countries their independence movement have been brutally silenced. The worst has happened in Iraq (under Saddam) and Turkey where their whole existence as a race has been attacked. In Iran the Kurdistan region is clearly poor and has been left alone by the government. There is minimal investment in the region and it is clear that there is a high unemployment and tendency for illegal jobs. Gas is extremely cheaper in Iran compared with any country in the world. There is a huge petrol smuggling network in the border region. Local residents can get only 20 liters of gas every 2 days only if they wait in the station line before noon time. Despite such a restriction, most of the cars who wait in the gas line end up selling their gas to the smuggling network 50 meters from the gas station.

We visited Sanandaj and Marivan. Marivan with the beautiful Zairvar Lake is a magnificent tourist site that like most other spots in Iran is far from its tourist potentials. It was one of the few spots that it was quite green under the heat of summer. We went to the Iraqi border which is under the full control of the revolutionary guards (Think about the scale of profits from the trade and smuggling exchanges). There is a huge trade exchange between the two sides after the fall of Saddam. Every day about 2000 Iranian trucks are sent into Iraq with Iranian goods. I heard from some people that nowadays many of the Iranian factories prefer to sell to the Iraqi side rather than the local Iranians because they receive their cash easier and faster and that has caused some sort of inflation in the Iranian market. Kurds seem to be happy about the political climate in Iraq. Apparently they were visiting their loved ones on the Iraqi side quite easily (I heard you can get to Iraq side with a payment of $4).

In Tehran I got some time to see some old friends. There is little talk on politics. Only my own family were still quite involved with the details of the developments. It was so nice to see how much my cousins have grown and become independent and mature characters. It is falttering to call a friend after 3-4 years and tell him that I only have 1 hour to see you and then he drives crazily from northern Tehran to the center in 25 minutes to catch the chance of seeing each other and catching up with all the beautiful memories. It is such a pleasant feeling to see that there is still a strong base for me there that I can go back and use at some point.

Of course there is a lot of frustration and uncertainty in Iran today. The whole future of the country is unclear thanks to the stupidity of I talked with a friend who runs one of the largest Internet service company in Tehran. It was clear that the whole existence of their business can be shattered overnight, but apparently that’s the rule of the game in Iran to walk on a tiny narrow string all the time.

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