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Fundamentalist Iran

A discussion about the blog by Nick Kembel
12 years ago, December 5th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #95438  
Fundamentalist Iran by nickkembel

I love your blog about Fundamentalist Iran, Nick. What you said about it is exactly the experience I had with Iranian people both inside and outside Iran. I spent some time chatting with Iranians on the internet and off it to find out what people there are like both before and after I went there, because of the limitations on such discussions once inside the country. While I was there, I did more listening than talking, to try to pick up the general feelings and opinions of people. It is truely a fascinating country. I will go back, but not just yet because of the visa complications, and I also want to wait for the current poliical situation to calm down even more. I know it is not a big threat, but I still prefer to go there when things are a bit quieter politically, such as they were when I was there.
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12 years ago, December 6th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #95456  
I agree mostly with what you said, but to be completely honest, I did not witness a single event or indication that anything unstable was happening politically. Unless you somehow managed to be in the wrong (or right) place at the wrong/right time, you wouldn't even know anything was happening. I found that people were quite willing to talk about politics or gender issues (it was usually them who brought it up), and like you, i did more listening than talking, though they usually wanted to know my opinion too, and the opinion of the people in my country. And I was always a little embarassed to tell them that most people in my country know next to nothing about Iran and Iranian politics. Just to cite a (somewhat unrelated but relevant) example, my younger sister was talking a political sciencses uni course, and a student in her class raised her hand to ask if Palestine and Pakistan were the same place because they sounds kind of the same. And if you compare that to the political and international awareness of some of the young people I encountered in Iran (or Pakistan for that matter), it is truly embarassing. But anyways, I hope you make it back to Iran!! Reply to this

12 years ago, December 6th 2009 No: 3 Msg: #95466  

I did not witness a single event or indication that anything unstable was happening politically.

I still dont like the feeling, that things are just bubbling under the surface. I was in E. Europe just before the 1989 revolutions and I didnt notice any lack of peace there either. What I am still often surprised about is just how peaceful places feel, even with all kinds going on politically. As well as that, whenever the world casts a more critical eye than usual in Irans direction, the authorities often respond picking on women more about clothes and other stuff. It is like women are used to show the world that 'we can make people do what we want here, in Iran' It just does not feel good, even if I am in no real danger.

....if Palestine and Pakistan were the same place because they sounds kind of the same.

HaHa! That is quite a lack of knowledge. But, I have to admit that I would not be able to point to where many of the states are and name them on a map of the US. I willl learn them soon though. Want to improve my geography in general. 😊 I once heard somebody ask where Israel and Palastine are and if they are the same place and how she would get to them. It p*ssed off a Jewish guy listening, but I think she asked in innocence considering things she said in previous discussions. He thought she was trying to start somethin. :D
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12 years ago, December 6th 2009 No: 4 Msg: #95532  

I also sensed that women in Iran, if I may be permitted a generalization of my own, are the more intellectually advanced gender. I was approached for conversation practice more-so by women than men, and it was women only who asked me questions about my opinions on politics and gender issues, while men tended to prefer menial conversation.

Not so sure this part was completely my expericence. If I was to generalise, I would say it was the more modern/progessively minded type Iranians who wanted to discuss issues with me, while I was in Iran. They were of both genders. The Iranians who never approached me were the more conservative/religious types. I didnt have a single discussion with any of those. Even the women of this type seemed to purposely avoid contact with me.

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12 years ago, December 8th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #95785  

I witnessed men going out of their way to assist women, to offer them seats, to give them extra space, and to treat them with respect.

Umm! Yeah, I sure hope womens freedom is not a price Iranian women will always have to pay for this respect. If it is, then it can hardly be called respect.

Likely Iranian women will like many western women decide it is too high a price, if they ever get to actually make that decision. A bit like the 80s in Europe, when many men(and some women supported this too) were guarding their territory and women wanted more rights: A common threat from men was that women will be deprived of romantic gestures from them, in the name of equality. Now the more frequent complaint is that western women have become manlike. Will we ever have true equality? That being that we are allowed to be women/feminine, while being respected at the same time politically, socially, economically..? Reply to this

12 years ago, December 8th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #95787  

Of course most women in the west would prefer equal over preferential or special treatment, but the point I am making is that people on both sides need to consider perspective when making judgment calls.

And many Iranian women would too. Women are women. Many of us are confused about what gender equality is and what is possible and what is reasonable.

Women in the west often too lement the loss of the romance, chivilary..., they felt they had to give up, for their equal social, political and enconomic rights. Or the progress that has been made, rather than the equal rights. Progress still needs to be made in all western countries before equality is achieved really achieved.
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12 years ago, December 8th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #95790  
Well, my main point here is that everybody is suffering because of sexism. I dont think most men really want to withold romance and chivilary and I dont think most women want to be manlike. And does anyone really want the lack of peace that all types of discrimination causes in our societies and in the world?
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12 years ago, December 9th 2009 No: 8 Msg: #95895  
Thanks for all your comments Mell.
I essentially agree with everything you said. In reference to men being respectful to women, well I was not trying to claim that it justifies the sacrifices that women are forced to make. I was basically just pointing out that the dudes did not come across as creeps. Of course the women would like same rights as western women, and more, but the average men in Iran did not chose these prohibitions and rules either.

everybody is suffering because of sexism

I am glad you mentioned this. I felt that the polices in Iran made everybody feel at least a little bit awkward. Back at home I would feel completely comfortable whether i am dealing with a man or a woman, or even a 7 foot transvestite for that matter, but in Iran I felt so much more awkward and conscious of what I was doing when dealing with women, to make sure I didn't do anything wrong or get too close to them or anything. They have effectively created this very imaginary but socially harmful division between people based on gender. And even guys have to live up to the standards set for men too. I always felt I couldn't completely be myself in the Middle East and Iran, I always had to pretend to be a little more 'manly' and not wear any clothing that would set me apart as 'girly' or something. And for gays, both local and foreigners!? I don't even want to get into that... Reply to this

12 years ago, December 10th 2009 No: 9 Msg: #96019  

The Iranians that I spoke with seemed to universally believe that Ahmadinejad is, as they put it, crazy, and were basically apologetic on the matter (in the same way that many Americans might have reacted on
the topic of George Bush a few years ago), though I did also meet a few supporters. The general belief among them was that while he does like to make controversial (crazy) statements to the world press, he at least has the balls to stand up to America, something that few world leaders do.

What I cant understand is, despite how liberally minded some Iranians are, I have never heard even one of them say that Islam and its clerics need to be removed from the political arena, in order for any real reforms to come about.
It is kinda useless to get rid of Ahmadinejad and replace him with yet another weak link. Because he is a weak leader, despite what his supporters say about how ''courageously'' he tells off the big western powers. As long as religion and politics are still the same thing in Iran, even a more liberal leader will bring about no real reforms, because the clerics would never allow a strong and influential leader to get into power.
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12 years ago, December 16th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #96472  

12 years ago, February 18th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #104124  
hi mell, thanks for the recent comments on my blog, i appreciate your feedback. thanks for the link to the "lipstick revolution" article, it was very interesting i heard pretty much the same opinions from girls i met - both for and against the dress code and etc (though i cant claim to have met an iranian female race car driver!).

i thought i might just clarify a few things from my blog and comments - i know its not really important, but iran is such a misunderstood country already that i want to try ensure that my opinions on iran are not misunderstood too! 😊

but in reply to your second comment, yes i totally agree that there are many ppl who still support the govt. if you read my previous blog youd getter a better idea of what i witnessed there, that second blog was pretty much only for photos.

however, that anti-govt sentiment reigns at the moment is just my personal opinion. i spent almost 6 weeks in iran, which is a pretty long time to just "pass through". as such i interacted face-to-face with many iranians, with all sorts of values and opinions and levels of education... and still in that entire time i only met 2 who liked the govt, and agreed with their policies and handling of the country. just 2.

and thats not only limited to those who spoke english,. because yeah, you know that those who learn english are stereotypically more liberal and western-orientated and hence disagree with the conservative and anti-western stance of the current govt. but all types of ppl voiced to me their dissatisfaction with iran today: taxi drivers, shop assistants, cafe staff, randoms on the street; men and women; young and middle-aged and even some old - even if they couldnt speak english they would always say "Government" and then say "bad" or indicate "no" somehow. and many even indicated that they hated the chador ("chador. bad!"), and other things. as always there is a majority and minority... and from what i saw, the vast majority of ppl want at least some type of change.

as for the "backwards" part, thats not directed at iranians but at us in the west. before i left home a few ppl i knew thought the ME (and iran) was less sophisticated (with civilian unrest, women in headscarves, etc) and also that their culture is inferior to ours (being "Islamic"). my uncle in particular. by just mentioning all their empires, and also the ridiculous former wealth of the shah (much greater than that of the english monarchy!) i just wanted to highlight (very quickly) that their heritage and history is as diverse and interesting as ours. that their current situation (regarding human rights and etc) doesnt correspond to that from eras bygone was not what i was focusing on.

and i totally agree with the last point you said on your last post on this forum regarding the coexistence of religion and politics... it certainly causes many problems! Reply to this

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