As mother requested; there was my vote.

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"So I put the name of the candidate in this box and then either a number one, two, three or four in the other box", I asked the polling station staff who nodded and agreed. I asked again, in another way, just to be sure. "So what if I can't write in Farsi?", I further asked, "then your friend can write for you". I could have written the name of my candidate of choice myself, but I wasn't wishing to leave anything to chance, worried at the possibility that my vote would be void with the slightest spelling error. It had been discussed before hand by many that one should try to vote in polling stations other than a mosques, and to also take one's own pen. To check this rumour, I used the mosque-supplied pen to write a note saying, 'I didn't vote with this pen', and with the second supplied pen, 'I also didn't vote with this one'. That note still reads the same to this day.

"Why were you taking pictures just then?" came a voice from behind me as I was preparing to leave, "for my dear mother; you know what parents are like", I said warmly before continuing in a mock-mother voice, "dear son, make sure you vote, I want to know you voted OK". We all laughed and and slid away while I could. I'd not only photographed my completed ballot but had also photographed the instructions on how to vote as we stood in line at the door of the mosque.

The procedures for voting were as I remember; hand them my birth certificate, ink my finger up, stamp it, fill out the ballots then fold and post in the plastic containers. On this occasion, not only were we able to vote in the presidential elections but also the Expediency Council elections, so to be absolutely sure I'd covered everything, I filled out my presidential candidate of choice on both ballots. "So the green one goes here and the blue one here?", I asked the observer as I pointed to the two plastic containers. He agreed, but I asked one more time in a different way; I'd regret it if I didn't.

With so much post-election activity you'd be right in wondering why I'm returning back to the vote day itself and even to a moment just before the previous blog entry below. But I'm stuck here and still seeking answers. Fraud has been suggested by three of the four candidates regarding the vote (one of which later withdrew his complaint) and although I am still quite suspicious of the election results and feel fraud might have taken place. I don't necessarily feel that any major fraud had taken place throughout the polling stations, but am rather concerned that the potential for fraud was systemically introduced. I regularly bring this up and still make inquiries regarding my concerns but still I've no answers. Yet to my surprise, people seem confused as to why I'm stuck at this point. It's like they've no faith that the vote and the result have anything to do with one another, by which I mean, suspicion of stuffed ballot boxes or other forms of manipulation still wouldn't relate to the final result.

So back to vote-day.

"So David, who'd you vote for?", asked a friend over the phone jokingly, knowing that I'd continue with my British sensibilities and not reveal this information. "I voted for Iran", I joked in response, "so how about yourself, did you do your democratic duty?", I asked. "Yes, I put 77; Mousavi", responded my friend, "wait a minute, what's the number 77 got to do with anything?", I quickly shot back. I explained how I put only a single digit and how I checked with officials – "you made a mistake", my friend told me. After a short silent pause between us I inquired, "what makes you think that you yourself didn't make a mistake ... so, might one of our votes be considered void; is the number part essential?". Still to this day I've not had an answer to question.

"but Ahmadinejad's code being 44 and Mousavi's – where I was at least – being 4 is weird"

Two years ago I voted in the parliamentary elections whereby I also had the opportunity to vote in the Expediency Council elections. This form did not require names to be written, just simply an 'X' was required within one of twelve boxes. This form had all the markings that would indicate a computer would validate it: barcode and black blocks, no doubt for alignment purposes within a feed-machine of sorts. I've mentioned this curious difference to many I've discussed the vote-day with, confused as to why in a relatively illiterate state, a system needing hand writing would be used, especially where this previously wasn't the case. But more confusing is why a number code box existed; there were only four candidate, none of which shared similarities in names? And why the numbers 44, 55, 66 and 77? Maybe hand written names are less likely to lead to stuffed ballot boxes and the number would simply be back-up should the handwriting be illegible, "but Ahmadinejad's code being 44 and Mousavi's – where I was at least – being 4 is weird, especially as they are the two favoured contenders", I've continued to repeat.

As I say, I don't necessarily feel that critical fraud has taken place at the polling stations, although I feel the potential for it was there. Upon hearing the code overlap between the favoured contenders my worry was that any mention of a number four would be considered a vote for Ahmadinejad, regardless of the name sitting beside it. But this would involve large numbers to be implicated and could never be kept quiet. It was Stalin that said, "It's not the people who vote that count; it's the people who count the votes". I'd be tempted to revise it to: "...it's the person who announces the vote that counts".

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The Green Army take Vanak

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"Ahmadi, bye-bye, Ahmadi bye-bye", come the chants from the Green Army, shooting out peace signs with their fingers to any fellow green-clad passers-by. They may also use, "death to the dictator", or simply, "don't lie", in reference to the debut occurrence of televised debates; oh how those debates still resonate. And among the seas of green, which at one point managed to connect by hands throughout the capital, you'll see the face of Mir Hossein Mousavi, you'll hear his name and you can feel the wind of change or at least the desperate desire for it.

If you ask me, the change has come already, the TV debates set a precedence, the little moment of blocking Facebook, only to reverse the decision two days later, and the SMS mass-organising efforts stand as evidence. It's quite a different environment this time around, both online and off; street dancing, up-beat music pumped out from cars and houses and the girls and guys side-by-side, chanting together in unison; all officially outlawed. But don't let me paint you a picture of an oppressed struggling youth, circumventing these laws are very much part of daily life. The difference here is in its volume and its confidence; within the last few weeks the behavior has been observed by the authorities and not just tolerated.

It is just the two "reformer" candidates that have made statements to rid the streets of both tolerance or observance, by which they refer to the so called moral police, who indiscriminately pack you in a van for a lecture or maybe worse. It was only Mahdi Karoubi, the former head of the parliament; the other of the "reformer" candidates, that to my knowledge went further; publicly placing additional promises beside his candidacy, proposing at one point to have an income for mothers so they need not feel the pressure to work while fulfilling their desires, should they desire.

I put a call out on Facebook to learn more about the favoured "reformer", Mousavi. I'd asked if anyone had a translated English version of his campaign promises, but only had replies from others – Mousavi supports no less – that were also interested in seeing such a document. After the second call, this time asking for it in any language, I was presented with a link to a 103-page PDF. With my reading speed in Farsi, it'd be the subsequent election by the time I'd be done. But it struck me, among the Green Army that increases in numbers before my eyes, I never hear of campaign promises being used to convince me to "go green".

like the American elections before us, it is all about colour

Going green was smart, and since this development it always amused me that like the American elections before us, it is all about colour. Mousavi is a Sayed, meaning via his male lineage, he's related to the prophet Mohammad. To symbolise this, Sayeds use a certain shade of green, also shown in the national flag. Establishing this within his identity was great strategy, but also total luck, for each candidate was assigned a colour by which the state broadcasting group selected at random. For his main rival – the current President, Mr. Ahmadinejad – to identify with his selected colour, red, would be suicide. True, red is the only other colour on the flag but it is also the colour used to represent the enemy of Shi'a Muslims, Shem; the killer of Imam Hossein. So yellow became Karoubi's colour and the remaining candidate, the former leader of the still powerful militia group; Sepah, got blue. Neither of those colours hold any great association within Iran and even if they would, Mousavi struck out first and to follow would be a loser's game. But the current President's troops found their identity to confront the Green Army with; they wrapped themselves in the national flag. If you pass though Tehran's Valiasr, a corridor through the capital from north to south, you can see them 3-up on motorbikes weaving between the increasing numbers of green-clad cars, relentlessly sounding their horns and caped with the flag flapping in the wind behind them.

"Mr. Mousavi, I like you...", squinted the President, leaning in and preparing for yet another inappropriate statement during the second of the televised debates. To call these hugely popular events a debate would be misrepresentation; they were simply an opportunity to discredit the integrity of the opponents. It was "Dr. Ahmadinejad" that excelled in this practice, going as far defaming the character of his opponent's wife, and not content with that, finding senior players in the government to take down. "Shameless", shrieked the party crowd I sat with, who'd put a hold on boogying to see the leader of their Green Army get a opportunity to shoot down the man who they felt assumed an emperor like position in their republic. Shots were traded and cheers and gasps echoed around the living room, but this terrain is familiar for the President and as much as neither supporter would say the other won the battle, I'd say the President had them dancing. With such overwhelming fanaticism a shift in opinion was hard to find, and of those undecided voters, they were surely not won over by a great display of merits.

There's too much to be said about the debates and there's still so much being said about them. That single debate with Mousavi and the President sparked catchphrases and jokes that I doubt will be forgotten about anytime soon. That debate was to be my first exposure to Mousavi, for which I was hoping he would gain my support, but he failed. I looked to Karoubi to perform well against the President and for 5-minutes he did, but his ranting made the wheezing of this 72-year old man notice more. He hinged his opinions on religion as a good Mullah does but the foaming at the mouth, general bad on-screen behavior and uncontrolled anger made it an easy battle for his opponent. Karoubi failed too. He was so disappointing that a friend who'd been campaigning with the Karoubi Camp, whom I sat and watched with, went green.

As I write, it is the last day before vote day. As is the case, campaigning during this day is forbidden and may result in your right to vote being revoked. I've just revisited the place at which I exited my taxi upon coming home last night, a journey that took three hours due to the volume of supporters on the street, I got out of the taxi to what appeared to be a riot, with police struggling to keep the supporters from blocking traffic; revving their motorbikes before coming at the crowd with swinging batons. The supporters came back at them! Then the supporters came rushing in my direction and away from the police coming back at them. I'd survived a stampede. Today, in the light of day, I'd be forgiven in thinking I made it all up. The streets are clear and clean and pretty much no signs of an imminent election can be seen.

I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection between

So up until today, I've seen a face, I've seen the green and I see the desperate connection between. I guess that Mir Hossein Mousavi is the most credible of the faces, for many, to bridge between the current reality and the future desires. As a dispassionate observer it's frustrating to see this shown in fanaticism. But the fanaticism is the change and going green, itself, is what's paving the way to the future desires. But on the other hand, the fanaticism surrounding Ahmadinejad's support is very much about his personality, thus we see a personality and it's antitype put before us on our voting slips.

So with a day to go, I'm still unsure of who to vote for and with complete ignorance to my British sensitivities, I'm being asked this with every greeting. The Green Army that surrounds me assures me that there is only one choice and any hint that I'd question that is seen as me playing silly, or even making a mockery of them and the nation. So I ask them why I should vote for Mousavi, and in nearly every case I'm presented with why I should vote against Ahmadinejad. This isn't my question though. On one occasion I was told of Mousavi's previous standing in government and how he help lead the country through it's most difficult times during the Iran, Iraq war. Commendable, but I'm still looking for campaign promises, and never hear them spoken about. As a friend put it to me, his campaign promises are very simple; they are to be the next president and to not be like the last.

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One of the many white canvases put out for marking in Tehran

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A quick response to Al Jazeera regarding the upcoming Iranian presidential elections

I'm not sure I'd be a good person to ask regarding the elections. My information on this is generally funneled through western minds. My only outstanding thought is that the fielded candidates are a very disappointing bunch. My concern, as with most elections around the world, is that people are not so much voting for what they want as oppose to voting for a person who is against what they don't want. Mousavi seems an odd choice for Iranians and yet he seems likely to win - at least if you stand this side of Vanak. Mousavi doesn't appear to be a uniter by nature and displays little leadership qualities - features that Iranians historically seem to need in my mind. Ahmadinejad in my mind shows these to a better degree. The people are united in a shade of green; of change, and the face is Mousavi's. I'm hoping that this will turn out to be a "yes we can" matter, in that people will understand their own role in shaping the future having invested themselves so much. For the first time, I think people are seeing aspects of a democratic nation develop, by this I mean the televised debates and the use of the internet what with the reversal of a decision to block Facebook. These are important steps towards the desires of the people.

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Yes we can, yes they did.

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"U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.", came the chants from the audience on big screen as the so called Ayatollah swung an Iranian flag. The weary, washed-up wrestler, seemingly on his last legs and on his last match, stumbled around. "Randy, you OK?", asked the Ayatollah mid-grapple, having noticed that his opponent was reaching at his chest, no doubt in pain and close to another heart attacked. Randy, regardless, fought on, leaping over the ropes and catching the Ayatollah's head between his thighs and spinning him down to the canvas, "come on Randy, pin me, let's finish this", the Ayatollah then quietly shouts.

Randy's doctor told him that another match would be his last, but as his life crumbled away around him, he chose to continue doing what he does best; to continue fighting and go on with the show. The show was a rematch with his rival from twenty-years ago (the peak of his career), the Ayatollah; a plump African-American looking man sporting a handle-bar mustache and an Iranian spandex-flag hugging him tightly. Of all the nations; of all the flags I thought. In shock at how explicit the film makers had presented the demon, I leaned across to my friend, "you said... but... Oh my god, that's the 'Allah' symbol on his belly!".

I was informed before the film that, "Iran was officially offended by it", yet I thought nothing of it; figuring that it was just another matter by which the powers-that-be were being oversensitive. But of all the nations; of all the flags I thought. In some way of relief I was later told that character was based upon 'The Iron Sheik': known "for being the man Hulk Hogan defeated for his first WWF Championship, setting off the "Golden Age" of professional wrestling. He was also a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran and his family for several years while they still lived in Iran". Not a fabrication I suppose.

Lifting the Iranian flag, Randy finds his last wind, snaps the pole in two, arousing cheers from the crowd. The referee approaches Randy who is stumbling with his hand on his chest, "you OK? you good to go on?", he asks with genuine, un-staged concern. Randy edges the referee to the side as he climbs the corner-ropes ready for his signature finish; the elbow-drop-to-grip. Silhouetted in a crucifix stance the cheers from the crowd fade to a muffled tone as Randy leaps over the camera leading us into to the credits. Finished.

do you expect me to believe that both America and Iran are collaborating in a staged show?

As we left the theatre I aired my suspicions to my fellow viewing friends; yet it seemed as if I was looking too deeply into it. Were we simply having a nice day out, watching an emotive film for leisure; a tool by which to reflect upon our place in the world and the meaning of it all? "Of all the nations. Of all the flags!", I stated, wide-eyed as we exited the cinema. "Ah, come on!", responded my friends, between their vocal concern for Mickey Rourke's physical condition. I continued; venting my suspicions with my tongue somehow lodged in my cheek "Ah come on, do you expect me to believe that both America and Iran are collaborating in a staged show; playing off one another to convince the masses of bi-national tensions. Also that Iran – although down for the count – will ultimately endure as America fades away?". No, I wasn't buying it.

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Censorship from one nation to the next.

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"So, do you know the different types of Muslims out there?", he asked me, seemingly having rehearsed the question in his head; I guess it was an inevitable question to follow with considering he'd told me he was from Jeddah and I'd said I was living in Iran. In anticipation of this question I'd considered the array of potential responses; I'd concluded that he must be Sunni and figured he'd know that my being from Iran, invariably and unwittingly makes me Shia. "We have two main types of Muslim: Sunni and Shia", he added, not entirely sure if I knew the difference what with my muddled background I'd informed him of between the questions. "Yes, I'm aware there are four – potentially a fifth – and I guess you must be Sunni?", I asked. "Yes, and you must be Shia?", he responded, to which I eeked out some kind of vague answer.

Prior to this, we'd sat beside one another in silence for seven hours before he settled my curiosity as to whether he was Indian. He'd put his in-flight sandwich to the side and waited till I'd eaten mine, "is this a ham sandwich?", he then asked, and to my embarrassment, I wasn't entirely sure. "Turkey, I think" – it was a Muslim question and how I wished to be correct, fully aware of the ensuing conversation. I asked the air steward, who confirmed that it was indeed Turkey, and so we got started.

"Are you learning Arabic?", he asked after I remarked upon the Islamicness of his question. "No, the dictionary I was fingering through was a Farsi to English one", I told him, "but so much of the language uses Arabic". He seemed to think that Iranians spoke Arabic, yet he wasn't so incorrect, I explained my frustrations of trying to learn Farsi and being confronted with so much Arabic thrown without foundations. We flicked through the dictionary and I pointed out the compound verbs, "see, Arabic word, Farsi verb", I said pointing to the word 'utter' - 'to utter'. "But you're not pronouncing it correctly", he exclaimed, repeating the word with a throaty flex. I flicked through to the pages containing Arabic characters, "all the words in this section are Arabic", I told him; he looked at me with a pause; leaned back as if to check if a punch-line was up my sleeve, then laughed. I pointed to several compound verbs and proceeded to read them out with a tongue flex; he laughed again, asking me why I'm bothering to learn.

He restrained to make a comments regarding Sunni-Shia differences and was nearly clever in holding his true opinion back. "It clearly says in the Koran that there are no further prophets after Mohammad", for which wasn't precisely the issue I thought. "Well, as you know, the distinction comes from recognising the leadership after Mohammad", I precariously interjected before he came back at me, "so, which holds more power, an Imam (leader) or a prophet?", he asked, as if he was holding a trump card. I had to concede that in such ranking he would be correct, but I felt the need to explain some background.

Iran struggles to keep some semblance of identity through three main theatres: culture, ideology and rule

"Our language, Farsi, has so much Arabic in it due to an Arab invasion", I cautiously started, managing to find some continuation from our previous discussion. I explained that before this time, Islam – as far as I knew – was not the dominant ideology of Persia. I explained what little I knew of the Zoroastrian faith and referred to Iran's two and a half thousand years of monarchic rule. I ventured far into matters I knew little about, mentioning variations of Islam though various dynasties within Persia. I dropped in my patchy history of England's not too dissimilar predicament with Henry VIII; "to me, it seems like Iran struggles to keep some semblance of identity through three main theatres: culture, ideology and rule", I boldly stated, attempting to explain that these elements are inseparable. It seemed that from my fellow passenger's point of view, Iran was making a mess of things.

We arrived in America and repeated that awkward moment whereby one says goodbye only to meet again in queues. I joined the visitors queue hoping to not have to revisit the second-interview room and explain why 'Iran' appeared on my visa-waiver form again. "So what language do they speak there in Iran?", the upbeat immigration officers asked me as I added various biometric details in, "Farsi is the national language, but it's interesting you ask...". I summarised the conversation I'd just had with my new found Arab friend, flinching after I said the words 'Arab invasion'. He took a look around him and hushed his voice, "invasion are just a sad fact of life". He explained that we're all one side of it at one time or another. I stood feeling very uncomfortable as he vaguely mentioned how the native Americans know this only too well. I left, having been given the all-clear, feeling slightly glad that Iran and America, thus far, were not on either side of this sad fact of life.

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A whole lot of zeros.

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"I'm surprised there's not a revolution!", a repatriate exclaimed, suggesting that the conditions in some way mirror that of the last time around. It was another occasion for me in uptown Tehran among chic furniture, an enormous television with accompanying surround sound speakers competing with the sound of highrises being clanged together in the neighbourhood. With the current financial uncertainty facing her new homeland it seemed odd to me that she would suggest Iran needs a revolution.

I listened to an Iranian radio station, broadcasting from that very same nation, referring to an article someplace, purporting that Iran's economic situation mirrors that preceding the revolution. I listened to another show from that same nation suggesting that the citizens themselves are far from the economic comfort of around the same period. "It used to be that mortgages would be three times one's annual salary", a lady reminisced, "it used to be that a single earner could provide for the family", another caller remarked.

I repeated this to a colleague, for which we worked out the ratios for our relatively healthy incomes. The price of a modest house, in a modest part of Tehran would be twenty times our annual salary.

As the west deals with it's own belief system it's interesting to note that between all the cracking and crunching, Iran is somehow an Island, as the same colleague put it to me. "How does all this effect us here in Iran", I both ask and get asked. This I can only hazard a guess at. Be it through inability or through some observation of Islamic law, we as Iranians cannot play with credit and thus we own things as oppose to debt - for better or for worse. I guess in our cases we only need believe that the cash currently occupies our hands before we expend on a top of the range BMW with its immense trade tariff (and trust me, they're queuing up for them). In my case, this means I cannot get that mortgage that I'd never in my lifetime be able to pay off.

the knock on effects to oil prices are certainly a point at which Iran will see a crunch

How all these international matters will come to effect us here on our Island will no doubt be known over time, seen maybe by the queues of corporations waiting at our shores, either decreasing or possibly even increasing interactions. This island is however a banana republic of sorts and thus the knock on effects to oil prices are certainly a point at which Iran will see a crunch and in a very immediate fashion. Should this come about, I very much doubt our repatriate will be proved right, yet I'm not sure how much those outside of the BMWs can be stretched.

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A Kharegi

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The Gift of Being a Khareji by X-Rey

Khareji is the word used for a foreigner, but all who are foreigner are not khareji. The main use of khareji is for Americans and Europeans. All Far East foreigners are called Japanese and all black skins are Africans!

The word khareji is mostly used in this sentence: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA(wow!), kharejiiiiiiiii!”

You’re in Vali-asr Street in Tehran, where there’s almost always a khareji seen. Now pay attention, as a khareji guy you’re under the young girl’s attention, especially if you’re a blue-eyed, blond-haired one. You may also encounter the angry looks of the boys you’ve robbed of their girl’s attention! As a girl I really can’t say what happens to the attention when a Khareji girl is around!

The kharejies are really beloved in the majority of people, if you’re a khareji you’ll soon realise it, for example, when sitting in taxi, where the taxi driver will try to start a polite conversation with you about politics, the weather or even Darwin’s theory of Evolution. You’ll also realise it when you’re lost, you’re in the queue at the bank or even when you’re at the bakery; you can always count on our help! And do you know why?! Cause we Iranians love kharejies! We love to tell our friends that we’ve met a khareji, that we helped a khareji, and that we had a chat with a khareji. It makes us feel proud!

Ok, now let me tell you a story:

I was once in a park with a friend.

we do not know what to do with this large volume, the government made some of them to control the relationship between boys and girls

As we have a large number of police in Iran and we do not know what to do with this large volume, the government made some of them to control the relationship between boys and girls, to make sure everything is Islamic enough!

The police stopped us as we were walking:

“Sorry, can I know what is your relationship and what are you doing in the park?!”
“No you can’t!”
“He’s my classmate sir, and we’re here cause I wanted to give his book back”, I brought his book out of my bag as evidence!

“Hehehe, so why did you have to give it back in the park?!”

I tried to show him the place I was before hand (the clinic which again as evidence I showed him my scrub and my card), and the place I was going to (home, which I had no evidence for!), and the place my friend was, and, as a conclusion I told him the park was in the middle of the place we both were! He asked me for my ID card (maybe I was a real important person and I just didn’t know it myself!). He gazed at it.

“Where is Hamburg?!”
“It’s in Germany!”, the place I was born.
“Oh! So then you’re khareji?!”
His eyes had a shine and his smile reached his ears!

“Well, not really!”

In fact not at all, none of my parents are khareji and I didn’t really lived there, but it seemed that it wasn’t really important to him, he continued:

“Germany! Can you speak in German?!”

Rey, keep your smile on your face and calm down!

“Hehe, yeah, I can!”
“So say something!”, the smile! Oh my god!! The smile!

I really can’t remember what I said; I just remember that I counted the whole new conversation as a positive sign. He laughed and said something in Turkish, gave me back my card, “good luck, it means”, he said with a smile, and disappeared on the horizon as he was shaking his hand and the birds were singing and the sun was setting or…he just went!

So now you know why being called khareji as a gift, right?

This entry was not written by me [ddmmyyyy] but has been edited by me. I've added the pre-edit in the comments section - its worth the click.

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The telecabins

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"So would you like to explain what brings you to Iran", I ask the forty-something German standing within my view finder. His voice adapts to a semi-serious tone as I played around with the video camera positioning, "I'm in Iran to cover the elections", he responds, explaining that he will do so as a photographic journalist as part of many politically orientated projects he's working on around the middle east. We stood almost halfway up a scenic mountain setting overlooking a hazy Tehran, I set our photographer-guest to the side of the frame to both catch the passing groups of curious Iranian tourists and the crossing telecabins hanging in the sky behind. He spoke with an impassioned frustration about his more prominent project, "I'm photographing walls, that is, walls of detention: the West Bank in Israel/Palestine, the Mexico border and Belfast for example".

The impromptu interview came to a natural close whereby I realised I should probably get the borrowed video camera back to its rightful owner. We squinted up and down the mountain in search of the group we'd arrived with yet a quick phone call confirmed my suspicions that the day's events had pretty much been called off and a regroup for tea and cake had commenced. With disappointment we set back down to join the group and with further disappointment I listened to the real meat of our guests opinions as the camera hung switched off and by my side.

The Big Green Spring-Clean: join us in clearing up the clog-up. In and effort to rid Iran of rubbish we are conducting periodic team cleans. Begins Friday 7th March (17 Esfand). Meet @Bam-e-Tehran @Tochal (end of Velenjak). 9am. Bring gloves, wear green & make a sign "People came & cleaned me". Pass it on.

"I know the leader of this certain NGO", interrupted one of the American raised Iranians at the cafe table, "and I could arrange coverage with this certain publication", she continued. This triggered others of similar culturing to add in, "oh, and I know this person, who knows this other person, who's involved in this certain group". Within a short period of time we'd amassed a list of potential-maybes to come to an event with no clear definition. "How about we just set a date; all of us here will attend; do this once and then take things from there", I suggested, conscious of putting talk into action for this proposed ongoing event. But supposedly one group needed to notified, another person needed to pull some strings, things needed writing and delegates needed to be found to delegate to the lesser delegates. Apparently I was not appreciating the dream; indeed I appreciated the hidden purpose by which Iranians can nurture their association to the land (that they may feel has been taken from them), yet my suggestion of leading by example was met with silence. "Next Friday, 9am we meet at this location, wear green, bring gloves, make signs and be ready to document the process", I put it, "I'll send a message around, please pass it on".

The Afghanis persist on undermining our efforts. We've still yet to find so much as a pistachio shell

"Day three of the Big Green Spring Clean...", I jokingly gasped as one of the group was rolling with the camera, "... and the Afghanis persist on undermining our efforts. We've still yet to find so much as a pistachio shell". We were fooling around, yet it was true, we came across a waste bin every 20-metres and an Afghan circling every 40, yet this didn't deter our 20-plus team. Headscarfs were held in place with one hand while plastic bags were grasped at in the other; contingents of mostly young women leaped off the beaten track to respond to the calling of a glinting ring-pulls. "Excuse me", interrupted a woman while I'd gotten to day four, "I just want to say, what you are doing is great, keep up the good work", she continued before darting off. "Did we get that on film?", I asked as I turned to the camera once again.

I tried not to read into the fact that only one of the three well-connected, American-raised conspirators turned up (and late at that) and instead enjoyed the abundance unfamiliar Iranian attendees wearing some shade of green. But I later learned that the successes didn't stop there, another mixed ethnic friend who also didn't attend informed me that the multinational company she works for awarded her with a prize for writing about green issues. She'd suggested some association within her writing, "I hope you don't mind", she smiled. Her prize was a trip to Malawi to take part in some kind of green activity – I can only guess that'll involve delegating tasks to locals on how to offset the carbon footprint her trip will produce.

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Gathered among friends

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This is a slightly adapted email sent out recently…

So, this weekend; the final of the three-nights-one-location party stint ended on a good note. The first of these nights deserves a write up in itself, having been spent with English Farsi students and being reminded of how much I’ve adapted to this place. It was weird to have my Englishness trumped.

So, as mentioned, the regular and rotating Peace Delegation from America came once again to [my friend’s] house for a soirée of sorts. Before they arrived I joined the group of cosmopolitan Tehran folk amassed and discussing the variety of guests due. Our friend linked to this Delegation informed us that the Delegation’s organisers had exceeded the annual quota of visits and that there was talk about increasing what was seen as a successful program.

[The host] was freaking out [with joy] about having a black woman, a Jewish Rabbi and some dude high-up in some church be guests at his house. Oddly enough, the Rabbi turned out to be a young Jewish author and the Christian dude ended up being a former band manager of various greats (having toured and worked with The Dead, The Who and a few others that escape me now). It was only the black woman who failed to fit the description; she turned out to be a well decorated Native American from a reservation in Arizona.

As we met them at the door they needed each name to be repeated until they comfortably got their tongues around the strange new sounds. “And you are?”, they asked one-by-one, “David”, I responded, reaching out my hand. “David?”, they repeated, “yes David” … “David?”, they asked again, awaiting a reassuring punchline that never came. As the weather was pleasant we guided them through the house to sit out on the balcony whereby they, like many before, commented about the great view [of the Alborz Mountains] – even though little could be seen in the dark condition.

"I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much"

It turned out that the touring Christian (of some peculiar strand) was from the [San Francisco] Bay area like [the host], to which streets and notaries were reeled out one after another; the native Indian answered questions related to her cluster of clothing and I made inquiries with the Jewish east coast gent about his book that was short-listed just that day for a prize. He talked about this book, informing us that it was entitled ‘Children in War’, which was - if I remember rightly - a collection of non-fictional accounts, as the title would suggest. During his explanation he came back on somebody’s comment with, "I think Israel has only 10-years left", I was somehow surprised to hear this and responded jokingly with, "you've been listening to the words of our president too much". I asked him why he thought like that, to which he went into detail as to how there are apparently a large volume of Jews who fit a schizophrenic profile, Jews who simply can't deal with both the Israel issue and their conscience. He then went on to talk about some kind of lobby thing called J Street that is there to confront or compete with K Steet - or was it the other way around? By this I gathered that he meant there was a lobby group(s) that has strong support for the plight of the Palestinians.

Similarly, I was talking of American politics with the Christian dude, but not before I answered his list of questions about Iran. Every other sentence I had to remind him that what he sees before him and over the balcony – if anything at all – is far from the reality of Iran. He mentioned that he was about to begin a PhD in Sexology, to which it took a few minutes for the group to move beyond the resulting jokes. I both volunteered information I'd learned about sex in Islam to which he brought further inquiries. He said that they were heading to the holy city of Qom the following day to which I mentioned that he could be in for a treat and could also stock up on literature for his future studies. I spoke about the sex calendar devised by the mullahs, indicating the best times for a Muslim to have sex within the week/month/year. He perked up on that one. I also mentioned a few of the related Islamic laws and also of one in particular concerning falling through floors during earthquakes and impregnating things below - that and matters concerning anal sex. He'd asked about gay folk in Iran - to which I had to amusingly remind him that we didn't have any here. I followed on this by adding the oddity that is gayness in Iran; that the men pretty much do all but penetrate in display of their affection with other men. I talked of a book I'd read entitled, ‘Sex Morals and Marriage in Islam’ saying that he might be able to get one of the clerics to run around for him to gather this and many more.

With that I felt it best to educate him on how he should behave before the people he was about to meet in Qom; educating him on how better to shake hands and how best to phrase his requests. By coincidence he was already wearing a ring very similar to those worn by mullahs; that, coupled with the beard he’d been especially growing for the visit, assured me he’d do just fine.

He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb

My conversation with the Christian dude pretty much carried on until they left - for which I was a little worried that I consumed all his time when there was so many other interesting people that he could have spoken with. He mentioned at one point about having visited [the Iranian poet] Hafez's tomb, following with complimentary words about the nation and its history. He asked for my forgiveness as he became, “a little spiritual”, telling about how deeply moved he was by visiting the tomb. He welled up in his explanation; nearly enough to drop a tear. Seeing his red bulbing eyes partly avoiding me seemed to trigger me off too, yet for wholly different reasons.

I was engrossed with his perspective on America and its politics; he was deeply critical and deeply angered. He was sickened by paying tax and knowing that the official figures of how much of that got spent on the military is about 35%; we agreed that this is more than likely lower than is the case when noting how these things are publicly presented. He spoke of the big players such as Haliburton, KBR and the Carlyle Group and how the American people are at the whim of these corporations in many respects. Obama he was looking forward to, suggesting that it might be a break from the current elite - I contended that this result would make little difference should it actually transpire.

"I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted.

On that, we spoke of possibilities that might swing it another way: Iran was his suggestion. I suggested that something would surly be brought out of the bag for the voting occasion to inspire a specific choice, sadly I had to admit that Iran could indeed be that. He was disillusioned with the system and felt maybe it needed taking back, yet had no confidence in this coming about. With that he spoke of his concern for his children, suggesting at one point that he feels bad for bringing them into the world with what he felt was looming: "I give it a year and the dollar is done", he awkwardly asserted. He followed this with talk of fuel prices, limitation on food, decreasing employment figures and a disgusting health care situation.

We brought the conversation back to Iran, whereby he asked about the political situation both now and previously here. It seemed he’d done his research and there was little for me to add. We spoke of the '53 coup, the Shah and the current regime which led to talk of the current developments in the nation with regards to sanctions and how Iran is dealing with business internationally. I brought it back home with the big topic of these days that is inflation. He was worried about the dollar for next year and I was worried about how over 90% of Iranians would be able to afford anything next year if the events of this year repeat themselves. It all seemed rather odd to discuss all this from the balcony of one of the more fancy high rises of Tehran.

Details were exchanged and goodbyes were said before we wished them well for their pending Qom trip. The Christian dude went to shake my hand and frightened me by doing so in the mullah like way - it took a moment to remember where he'd learned it from.

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In the process of voting

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"Guys, don't you get it, every time we vote we are voting against ourselves", I tried to point out to my colleagues-cum-team mates as we sat huddled around a table for our end of year party. "Hey come on, we gave you four votes on the last round!", gasped an opponent on the neighboring table as an end of round vote count was taking place. To say that the system descended into chaos would be to suggest that it was ever anything else; true, the lady who beat me by one point in the acting round of the competition did do a great job of convincing us she was constipated, but merit was long forgotten by that point.

It was a simple situation; ten tables with roughly five or six people per table; each round we'd send a suitable candidate to either sing, draw, dance or appear a little clogged up. Following each round we were asked to vote on the performance but with the exception of not being able to vote for one’s own representative. Yet, with this haphazard recognition system it soon became apparent to me that one should never rightly cast a vote for they'll only vote against themselves. Regardless, the voting went on; be it for recognition of merit and a willingness to ‘enjoy-the-taking-part’, or be it for the tit-for-tat; back scratching; "we voted for your shit skit, where's our payback?".

Naturally I took it all very seriously, paying careful attention to the new and unavoidable vote bartering, yet conscious that we'd always schemed the better result. As the competition concluded our mixture of great team performances and vote trading brought about a tie for first place with the Media Monitoring department, for which was oddly settled with a round of tug-of-war. Our failure here was in accepting the newer and shinier end of the two-part, make-shift rope, leading to a swift demise and very sore hands.

Another small voting matter took place this weekend, with equally as many peculiarities and equally as contended. This weekend saw the elections for the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran; which – depending on what side of the Atlantic you stood – was an event that would test of the president’s approval, or be a display of defiance against the Grand Arrogance.

‘who’ and ‘what’ were therefore interchangeable; without somebody to vote for there was nothing to vote for

“Are you going to vote?”, became a repeated question asked by very few optimists. Many considered that I’d presented my willingness with these words, for which were often thrown back with a, “what is there to vote for?”. This question would rouse resentment, for which seemed to centre around the vetting process, whereby many so called reformist candidate didn’t gain prior approval by the Guardian Council (the supreme authority in Iran). The words ‘who’ and ‘what’ were therefore interchangeable and thus without somebody to vote for there was nothing to vote for.

A friend of mine assured me that one must be pragmatic; that one must pick the lesser-of two-evils and to at least put an, “urgently needed halt to some upcoming disastrous policies”. I could appreciate his desire for crisis management but wasn’t convinced that this is a sensible solution.

My friend stood alone among all those in my circles. “What for?”, became the reasoning for a boycott, but yet again I found no comfort in this being a solution. I was reminded of the end of year work party, "guys, don't you get it, every time we vote we are voting against ourselves", but like the party we would surely end with a tug-of-war.

I’d gathered a few friends for lunch on the big day, whereby we’d hoped to reach a decision for the will-we-won’t-we? I’d pitched my optimist friend against a self proclaimed intellect with opposing views, yet the resulting sparks – though entertaining –still had me sat on the fence. The decision tormented me as I tried to openly consider all options. My immediate options were as follows: to vote (pragmatically and based on trusted advice; for I was desperately lacking), to boycott or to spoil the ballot. Each option held a weight that tugged hard against the other, yet the rope seemed to somehow be wrapped around our throats with only the means to breathe being the thing that would give.


“I think Iran is a relative beacon of light in the region and in some ways refreshingly honest with its democratic process”

“So who did you vote for?”, came a microphone to my face, “I don’t know”, I responded, being half true and slightly ambiguous in my words. “So what do you think of the elections so far?”, returned the microphone, “In what respect?”, I questioned, conscious of all the eyes turning in my direction as I spoke in English. “It’s interesting to observe so many people having faith in a strange ideal”, I continued, sticking with the ambiguity. Her questions were also vague as she alluded to how things compared in a global context, “I think Iran is a relative beacon of light in the region and in some ways refreshingly honest with its democratic process”. Her astonished face led me to want to retract my words, “how do you mean?”, she came back at me, “well, the controversial vetting process, I’d say other nations have more subtle means, but nevertheless have some form of vetting; it’s interesting to see that it’s rather straight-up here”. My indifference almost silenced her; it seemed too much to consider that somebody from beyond these borders wasn’t bleeting for democracy. Again she asked what I thought of this local display, yet I didn’t know what to add, “you tell me, you’ve been here longer. How does it feel for you? Do you think this is going well?”, I said in agitation. As I turned the questions around, she turned her microphone around, flicking the off switch underneath and indicating to the cameraman that they were done.

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