Iran News ...


9/14/05

Tehran, City of Anxiety

By Fariba Amini


It used to be that when you looked to the north of the city you would only see the beautiful Alborz mountains.  Now as far as the eye can see, tall apartment buildings stretch to the middle of the mountain range.  This is Tehran with its unstructured buildings, finished and unfinished, spreading in every direction.

It's a huge metropolis; a capital city that is so polluted that you can only breathe gasoline. In the summer, the heat almost numbs you.

A family friend described Tehran as a city of fear and insecurity, a city where mishaps occur and one never knows if they will reach home in one piece.  Traffic jams are horrendous, black-veiled woman are everywhere, and unshaven men rule the town.

In this city of more than 13 million, there are also young women who show off their highlighted hair, the new style of fashionable tunics, and colorful scarves.  There are young men in jeans and tattoos with the latest hairstyles who walk and talk and live their lives as best as they can in this Islamic Republic. 

Motorcycles are constantly hit by cars, and terrible accidents are an hourly occurrence.

Everyone says Tehran has the highest accident rate of any capital.  I was a witness to several such incidents.

Now there is a law where motorists are penalized if they don't wear their seat belts, yet a man and a woman and a little child or even two sit on a small motorcycle and roam around the city without a helmet or any such protection.   The laws of this city are in the hands of those who do not have any respect for human life; where in fact human life has been taken away for wanting more freedoms - any kind of freedom.

In some streets and even at the traffic corners of the parkway,  you see men in cars stopping for young women who are not necessarily prostitutes but will go with them for pleasure or excitement and money as well.   

Life is hectic in Tehran; it is full of daily experiences which one would normally not want nor desire.  Respect for others is rarely seen or only shown in words when the agance or the taxi drivers always and politely makes the gesture of not wanting any money for the service they provide.  Yet, after the initial Taarof if they know you are a visitor they ask for more and they know who is a newcomer and who is not.   Even the store owners don't really care how they react to the customers, polite or not, they are under the same pressure as everyone else.

They must make a living and many people work three shifts or two jobs in order to survive.  Many whom I spoke with did not vote in these last elections.  They told me their vote would not make a difference, because whoever that comes to power in this country would do nothing for them.  Their lot gets worse every year and at every election.  An agence asked me "Why did you come to this hell from that heaven?"  My reply was that I still love my homeland, for better or worse. 

For him it's bizarre and being here for almost 45 days I have come to realize that Tehran is no longer the old Tehran and Iran is not the same land that I visited 12 years ago.   People are in a rush to get ahead of everyone else, in the streets, in the roads, at the airport, at the jewelry shop, everywhere. 

This is Tehran in the summer of the year 1384.  I was glad to have visited it, even with all of its flaws, with the huge posters and murals of martyrs everywhere, with the sayings of Khomeini and Khamenei at every corner, with the unbearable heat of the summer under a scarf around my neck and a long robe to cover me, and the intolerable pollution which slowly can make you sick or give you breathing problems.

People are not happy; they fear the guards, the Bassij or the militia.  There is a deceitful reality here.  The reality is that in this Islamic Republic, men rule and women are still looked at in strange ways if they do not behave in a manner befitting the Islamic code.  The deceit manifests itself in the ways people live inside their homes, drinking, smoking   and behaving like there is no tomorrow.

There is a dual life here and deception is the way of life; it is inherent in what the government teaches the people.

I have left Tehran now, I hope not for good, because it's a city that I still reach for.

I hope it can find peace, less traffic, less loss of life, more smiles on the faces of its citizens and that it becomes a city of hope instead of the city of anxiety and fear.

 

... Payvand News - 9/14/05 ... --



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