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May we halt, take a deep breath and get a little perspective here. For the last year I have been hearing the escalation of the theatrical antics surrounding "Iran's nuclear ambition". This exceptionally boring situation has been bouncing around the top stories in the Western media with not a set of teeth to give it any bite. This is because Iran has repeatedly indulged the often embarrassing requests put forward by the IAEA on behalf of the EU3 (or whatever super-hero name they wish to band as these days). Yet the IAEA, of late, have not found any reason for concern - no amount of cameras, inspections or adaptations seem to change the fact that the facilities in question are for civilian use - as was set in motion with the US some 30 odd years ago. But amidst this seeming duality, let us not forget that it is the "nation's right" to civilian nuclear energy - and why not - with oil prices hiking-up, one would naturally want to sell such a commodity as oppose use it domestically. It's an ugly alternative yet it makes sense financially - in the short term at least.

So, to date Iran - a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty - have not breached their commitments to it, unlike the US and UK. Conveniently though, Israel, Pakistan and India - all of which are not bound by the fickle agreements of the NPT - have not provided other nations with this stick with which they can be beaten. This treaty however, with all it get out clauses, is flouted around the media as a tightrope that the neo-liberal club are excused from walking. With these double standards so conspicuously evident you might naturally conclude that this all a guise. Yes, I see now, they're exporting the much prized democracy; the freedoms or is it simply global hegemony? But will this be met with the welcoming cheers like the Iraqis before them?

As for the seemingly "revolting" comments of "wiping Israel from the map", this had been unsurprisingly reported with a neglect for further information. Maybe this is the slip-up some of us have been itching for, or maybe some of us aren't as servile as others would like and the threatening rhetoric can be met. This quote, however, was a quote from a previous statement by the late Ayatollah Khomeini (some 25-years ago) and was also reiterated by the former leader, Rafsanjani (5-years ago, yet with little fuss that time round). The latest airing of this old Iranian favorite was bound in the context of an Anti-Zionism talk among students at a Tehran university. Oddly enough, Zionism (of the non-Christian flavor) is not particularly subscribed to by Jews and such ideology could be mirrored with the fundamentalism that poorly represents Muslim groups.

At this point let us understand that the state of Israel is a long disputed occurrence after much global rearrangement during the 20th century, and, my hunch is that the Iranians see this state more as a concept not successfully seen out. Muslims the world over see the Israelis and its government as occupiers - heavily gifted with arms from the US - and with their relentless harsh behavior you can see where the frustration arises. Ok, I'm not suggesting that this is one sided and I wish to tread carefully around the mucky puddle that is the "Israel/Palestine" conflict but you might note that the reporting at least is a little one-sided. And as for any potential wiff of anti-semitism, this cannot be present - muslims live in peace with and have respect for any person of the book - be it the Torah, Bible or Koran. This was even said so in a radio address by Rafsanjani after the "revolting" comments.

As for nations facing threats, where's the violin for Iran who face repetitive threats of sanctions, expulsion from the oh-so-unbiased UN and "regime change" (illegal under international law) - lest we forget the path that took us down with Iraq. Maybe these steps are to preempt the imminent threat - yes, I'm starting to see a pattern emerge - war is peace.  And these are just the words... Iran, it seems is surrounded by many US orientated nations with many US military bases - Iraq now completes the list. Add this then to the border breaches by US forces in Iraq, the US drone flights passing Iran and blame for bombings in Iraq. Alarmingly, these are the things we hear about - what then is going on behind the scenes?



The man himself.

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In between taking care of non-de-script business in the often vacant seat of the senior engineer, my mind - oddly sensitive to repetition (heh?), noted the forth playing of an Iranian oldie looping on the nearby computer.

This nostalgia inducing song - no doubt a classic from the "shah's time" - appropriately pined for the loss of someone, somewhere as so many Iranian songs do. I looked up to confirm whether the image on this AV file was also repeating - as indeed it was. The fast pace of a photo slide-show was cutting in and out with the most shameful of graphic transitional effects, showing pictures of a decadent yet charming looking chap, often posed with a beautiful woman or some world icon. I recognised the odd face - Prince Charles and President Carter, yet only guessed others by context. Blending in and sliding off, loosely familiar faces smiled in the lush spectrum only found in early colour photography. I turned to check whether this was being watched by others in the room, and indeed it was - they were fixated, silent and in a trance. Each person old enough to be my father and old enough to have remembered these photographs the first time around. In entered another old pair of eyes with not a head in the audience rotating. A glimpse of the screen was simply enough for them to be captured. Silence and music, thoughts and memories.

Something prompted the break-up of this journey and all but one of the audience left silently. The music - still uncomfortably out of sync with the picture change - failed to bother the last audience member who slowly drifted off to sleep only to later be woken by my closing of the file.


A response to a letter sent by my Auntie in England


The family sports complex.

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I must say that I myself am suprised at your perspective of Iran. Firstly the practice of sacrificing a sheep is far from the norm and has come as very strange news to my Iranian friends here. These friends are very suprised by how religious and traditional my family are, so please don't view my family activity as normal. The sheep incident I found very respectful and a nice gesture... initially, I - like you - was mortified, but upon learning that this was to be a charitable gift for the local-poor people I was a little won over. Also, if we understand that this was a sheep that was intended for the slaughter - as is practiced around the world for as long as animals have been kept as livestock, so we shouldn't really get so attached. I found this moment an interesting one due to my being so close to the action, so to speak... I've always felt that people should bare witness to the process of food from sun to mouth so we can appreciate what we have. I hope you understand.

Regarding your comments about the sports complex - you must forgive me, I did have a little laugh. Especially as it was only the other day that I went out with a female friend to the biggest sports complex I've ever seen or even heard of (amusingly the name of which translates as "Revolution" in Farsi). I was driven there and taken around what should better be described as a sports town - it was that big! There was an 18-hole golf course, ten-pin bowling, plenty of tennis courts (indoor and outdoor), paint-ball field, swimming pools to name a few of the facilities. All of these are available to both men and women. In fact the mother of the girl I was with is an aerobics instructor! With regards to the swimming - naturally the men and women swim at either separate times or in separate places, as with the family sports complex.

Speaking of which, yes I am working there and for the moments am working on various design projects for tile patterns on the walls as well as researching various technologies to help with monitoring staff movements, customer volumes and methods to deal with money handling. I also help oversee construction work for the ever expanding complex. We currently have 6-pools, steam and dry saunas, Jacuzzis, restaurants, gymnasium, weights room, massage parlor and are expanding to have a wave-pool, two water-slides and a huge conference hall - naturally split in two for both men and women. At weekends we are currently having just short of 1000 visitors per day and this is just in Ramazan (half days essentially).

Iran, it seems, would be a huge suprise to you. This place, in a lot of cases, has a lot more to offer than England... shopping wise, Tehran has it all - or so I'm assured by my Uncle... "if it's available in the world then you can find it in Tehran". There are many affluent people and many fancy venues for them. I see the most impressive cars driven around by the most unimpressive drivers... this place is becoming increasingly materialistic and in some places it's overwhelmingly ugly. Sure, there are problems and odd laws but at the same time there is an odd amount of freedom. Iran is different, it is hard work but hard work in a different way to England.

 I hope this helps you understand things and that my blog will help you and other's not fall into the trap of leaping on what you hear about the place from various "respected" sources in the West.




By adding my writing to a blog (a web-log or online diary) I am able to make my words available to non subscribers as well as add functionality such as the ability for visitors to make public comments. This blog site will also archive all my previous posts of which can be found in the right-hand column. This blog site also allows visitors to see related news and projects or links to other blogger friends (please see right-hand column again). And because this is online, it is viewable 24/7 - lucky you.


If you are interested creating your own blog then it is quite straight forward and free. I am using Blogger, a free service provided by Google. There are other companies offering similar services yet these are not necessarily free. My blog uses the coding of blogger but is hosted though my own server and uses a my own template design yet there are basic ways to achieve the same results without needing to be code savvy.



Imam Reza's shrine, Mashad.

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I've never quite appreciated how much liquid I drink during a day until the first day of the holy month of Ramazan. For the last 5-days I have been starring at fridges, walking part-way to taps and have even been trying to keep my mouth closed to conserve moisture. 

In an effort to indulge the where's-and-ways of Iranian life I figured I'd give the whole fasting malarky a go, regardless of my religious persuasion. This simply entails a nil-by-mouth policy during sunlight hours as well as restricted smoking and sex. The duration of Ramazan is seen as one of the more holy periods in the Islamic calendar and follows the transition of the moon and the movement of the sun. During this month Muslims are expected to be courteous and considerate which was shown in the generosity each day when breaking the fast, yet, this depravity seems to bring out the beast in people. During the first day of Ramazan I witnessed above average car crashes as well as minor physical scuffles as people struggle with the deprivation.

My fasting was put on hold (as is the case when traveling) whilst I was given the opportunity to visit the city of Mashad to join my uncle and his son-in-law for a short 2-day trip. The purpose of this visit was to pay our respects to Imam Reza - Iran's only Imam whose shrine resides within its border's. I was informed that Imam Reza is very much the person one would see to make requests from, and it seemed, my uncle had developed a long list. He even boasted a few times that his previous requests' have never taken more than 72-hours to be met.

Our flight to Mashad was most picturesque and certainly more so as my uncle's influence had arranged for his son-in-law and myself to sit and experience the landing within the cockpit, for which brought a great childish excitement. The awesome sights were even more amazing up close as we later entered the immense shrine of Imam Reza. The main courtyard was roughly the size of a premiership football pitch with many appendages therefrom. Every last detail had not escaped the touch of some master craftsman - be it the fine work of goldsmiths', the intricacies of ceramists' or the relentless geometry of glassworkers'.

Navigating through the shrine is not something one can consciously do, we would drift through a river of human traffic, colliding with bodies that were stopping to kiss and rub faces with doors frames, bodies that respectfully walked backwards bowing and bodies that took to praying in any available space. The soft tones of muttering prayer would be interrupted by loud ripples of Islamic phrase, chanted in unison. The epicenter of the inner shrine - where the tomb lay - was 4-people deep with ushers prodding weeping grown-men with fluorescent Poundland feather-dusters. Upon finding a calm spot, we set about business repeating Islamic prayer between relaying our requests to the Imam. A little later we repeated these activities among a crowd of nearly 50,000 people, split between the main courtyard like two opposing teams: that of head-to-toe black-clad women competing with the earthily toned men. We sat in baking heat, line after line on Persian rug after Persian rug, listening to the prayer leader spout foul words regarding America. I was disappointed to later hear the group's chanting of, "down with America", which seemed to set off a day of protest concerning the current theatrical antics regarding Iran's nuclear power ambitions.

Our subsequent day was filled with meetings with old friends and shopping for local delicacies before heading back to Tehran to make preparations for the 4am kebab feast and thus resuming the fasting. As it turned out, that next day my uncle was to hear of good news, this was that Imam Reza had granted his wish - once again, within 72-hours - as for me, I'm still waiting.



Women Games - eh?.

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It's rare that I see non-Iranian folk while traveling around Iran and with this, I usually enjoy the status of exotic foreigner, yet, a visit to Hotel Laleh - Tehran last week shattered this monopoly of attention I held. I was weaving through the lobby, passing brightly coloured tracksuits like the gates of a slalom run and was intrigued as I read "Azerbaijan"; "Uzbekistan"; "Kazakhstan" arched on the backs of these uniformed women*. After investigating further it appeared that Hotel Laleh was host to athletes of the Forth Islamic Women's Games. The event boasted participants from 40-countries partaking in various sports such as golf, basketball, karate, swimming and even "tenise"**. I was fascinated - curious as to how one can wear a black plastic bag during physical excursion, but, team Uzbek seemed to have found a way round this by fashioning a bandanna from their headscarfs. Amidst this crowd I eventually found our guests that we had come to meet.

This British couple - friends of my father, were part-way through a "Silk Route" alternative holiday before we meet them at the hotel. This package holiday had taken them on a tour to the historical sites of Iran prior to my meeting them. The tour follows one of many old transport routes of the silk traders, with our guests' specific route taking them from the city of Shiraz to a city in Uzbekistan (formerly part of Persia). I had heard stories of their arrival, where my father met them at Tehran's Mirabad airport before their tour began and was most amused at there reaction to the country. These stories still resonate over meals with the family, where a mixture of heat, hygiene and horrorific traffic troubled the our female guest. My father still tirelessly repeats the comments made by the gentleman where he was surprised to have not seen any camels or donkeys.

For me, their visit allowed me to feel more like a citizen and I was happy to relay the many cultural differences. It was also nice to take a break from the stuttered, slow and clear English speaking I'd become accustomed to. This was happily exercised on our visit to the Iranian Contemporary Art Museum, where I instantly perked up at the realisation of the current exhibition. The museum is currently exhibiting loaned 20th century artworks from various noteworthy galleries such as the Tate Modern. I trekked around with one of our guests, exhibiting my fragmented knowledge of Modernism whilst excitedly digesting new pieces by favored artist. I am still dumb-founded at this collection and am making further plans for further visits.

The rest of our visitor's day was consumed with tours of jewelry stores and the family sports complex before we went for dinner at a plush outdoor restaurant beside a river that flows through the Karaj mountains. We indulged in the usual mix of kebab and Hubble Bubble pipe before sharing controversial conversation regarding religion on our return journey. I was both pleased and concerned to indulge in the debate and as the only "non-believer" in the car I was surprised to hear such refreshing perspectives - although - I swear my father and step-mother chose to not hear a lot of what was said between myself and our guests.

*Further countries participating: Armenia, Bosnia, Brunie, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrghizstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Senegal and Syria. 
**Further list of events: badminton, handball, table tennis, taekwondo and volleyball.