10 May 2011

Journey to Iran: preparations

Alea jacta est. On January 16, while traveling through the US, I received an invitation from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Science in Zanjan, Iran, to participate in the thesis defense session of a former student.
Going to Iran? Some people advised me not to go to that "vicious country"; others said that it would be an interesting experience... But in that time, the Iranian-Dutch woman Zahra Bahrani (45), was sentenced to death; she was hanged in Tehran on January 29, while we were enjoying a trip to the Monterey Aquarium (see previous Blog). The Dutch governement froze all official contacts with Iran’s “barbaric regime”. Should I go?

In what country was I travelling? Since April 2008, the US carried out 1,099 executions; 3,283 inmates (half of them white) are “on death row” and almost 70% of the people are in favour of the death penalty, although alternative sentences are getting more in favor...
After reading that, I decided to accept the invitation.

With this picture of the late Iranian-dutch Zahra Bahrami, I want to commemorate the more than three thousand people on death row in the US and the people executed in Iran on the occasion of their new year (86 according to Amnesty International).

Visa. When calling the Iranian Enbassy in The Hague I thought the voice was talking a familiar language: hebrew! Later, in the office where women have to wear headscarfs, I heard the greeting "Sálom", resembling the Israeli "Shalóm" (and not the Arabic "Salam").
From where does the Iranian hatred against Israel come? I know that some European historians and Arab leaders and movements (eg. Hamas) deny the Holocaust. But how can a president of a large country as Iran join them? Is it just a helpless act of bullying Israel?

I have many more questions about Iran:
From where does the strong devotion to God come? I know it is not a secular state like ours, where politics and religion are separated, and where we still maintain a "Queen, by the grace of God"....
Why, after chasing the Shah in 1979, did most people accept from Ayatollah Khomeini that there would be an Islamic Republic based on the rules of "one God"? An acceptation that may again occur after the present revolts in the Arabic countries. There were many dissidents that left Iran or were imprisoned after 1979: Will I still be able to see signs of this former opposition? Will I meet people that regret to have accepted the political involvement of the Ayatollah's?
We will see.

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