A recent expedition to update my passport - it must be 5-years ago that I first came to visit as an adult.
flickr View my photo journal
"I wanted to come back on a point my dear friend was making", I begun, noticing the nearby table of customers re-show interest as a new mouth fired-up. "I often get contacted by the western media showing an interest in the Iranian blogging scene and I wonder if they kind of project a romanticism in it", I added, repeating a point made in my initial contact with our international guests. "I'm not really qualified to answer in any case as I don't read blogs in Persian; because of my level of competence, and there's very little else that interests me that is written in English", I somewhat embarrassingly revealed. I returned to another point I'd mentioned in my prior correspondence, "I think it is too simple to think that politics is affected by the politically orientated; such thinking neglects to appreciate a more subtle and possibly more powerful undercurrent".
I spoke of the sweeping fad that is Yahoo 360; a social networking site that took over from the blocked Orkut; currently evading blocking by virtue of the inability to form groups, as my friend later pointed out. I'm not a subscriber to this fad but often hear it spoken about and frequently find a fellow colleague at work obsessing over correspondence or tweaking new photos of himself. I also spoke of Flickr, which is blocked here, but has a simple way around it. With Flickr, I mentioned a point that has always interested me so much with this site, this is the unifying subject matter or photography. With this cover, all manner of activity is catered for without arousing suspicion; in the case of the Iranians, this can be making new inter-gender relationships as well as delving into politics. I referred to the Flickr community, which strike me as a relatively unified, yet wholly charming bunch of people, and made a point that such active use of these sites help substitute restriction in both the culture and laws.
With such situations whereby some news organisation or another expresses an interest in the romantically suppressed Iran, I normally get turned off; if only by feeling that I'm expected to confirm western perspectives. Similarly, I watched a series of NBC reports from Iran the other day, whereby it was suggested that Iran, "has a long way to go", referring to the segregation on the innercity buses*, they explained this half-truth further, "women – by law – have to sit at the back". Well yes, but men by law have to sit in the front, and they failed to mention that the metro is unisex with even a special section for women only. With these western goggle firmly wrapped around their heads I get frustrated in meeting the requests, and not to mention paranoid for my personal safety, for which I've adapted various automatic responses.
As we arrived at the agreed coffee shop location for the interview I realised that I'd once again forgotten to get and give descriptions of how we looked. "Excuse me, are you...", we unsuccessfully asked as several foreign looking possibilities sat around. For the occasion I had invited several similarly situated friends, yet sneakily I'd not informed either party of the eventuality. With this, the plan was to deflect my input, increase the quality of results and maybe to have safety in numbers if all turned out to be not as it seemed. Upon meeting the journalists, no evidence was provided to prove their associations and a few interesting details were given that seemed odd for them to have not mentioned before; all of which not helping ease my mind. Thankfully though, common ground was a plenty and although certain points roused me as they unsuspectingly (I hope) triggered sensitive points, I managed to settle.
With a slight lapse in security, the whole of the regime would surely be gone – I was sitting in a dream American targetBoth my friend and I, between us, seemed to provide an interesting juxtapose of points during the recording, to which much of my friend's words were new to me. He mentioned a declining interest in politically motivated blogging for Iranians, as the results and threats do not weigh up. It was suggested that the fate of the nation seems beyond control between elections and thus a certain futility is felt in such writing; certainly as friends of his have been punished for such activity. Among his incite he presented a fascinating volume of technical facts concerning internet activity in Iran that had both me and our international guests wide-eyed with interest.
My friend concluded on an amusing point, "we know the president is how he is, why write and complain when it's beyond you to do much about it; it's stating the obvious, like saying that Donald Duck is a cartoon duck; that he's a character by Disney and he can talk – you know, nothing changes". And with this summary the romanticism was surely dispelled as we all laughed an awkward laugh.
*Only on the innercity buses - intercity buses are mixed.