Iran Talks Give Peace a Chance

A perspective on the nuclear talks with Iran and what it means for Iranian people, human rights, and peace. This post originally appeared on Harry's Place

“Nuclear energy is our indisputable right”

Eight years ago when I last lived in Iran, the slogan: “Nuclear energy is our indisputable right” had become the punchline to a joke. When I shopped for fish at a popular market on Jordan Street in Tehran, the staff greeted me by chanting it in a friendly manner. On a trip to Kermanshah a Kurdish family asked me: “Is nuclear energy only your indisputable right, or is it also ours?” When then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the provinces, he was met by people chanting, “A public swimming pool is our indisputable right.” During the 2009 election campaigns, people sent text messages to each other that read: “Sorry I woke you up at this time of night. It’s nothing special – I just wanted to say that nuclear energy is our indisputable right.”

Taken by Tori Egherman. Share-and-share alike with attribution.
The woman with the video camera is asking me about the right to nuclear energy. Image provided by author.

Framework agreement

On April 2, as Iranians were celebrating the closing day of their two-week New Year’s holidays, the news broke that negotiators had at last come to an understanding about the framework for a nuclear agreement. That framework includes replacing the core at the Arak heavy water plant and decreasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 95%, as well as intensive inspections. It also means that Iran won’t leave the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Vocal hardliners have been quick to point out the framework’s weaknesses, with some in the US and Israel arguing that it is too soft and those in Iran claiming the country is surrendering. Some have interpreted the celebration of Iranians as meaning that the P5+1 negotiating team cut a bad deal. This shows a lack of understanding of Iran. People there take to the streets to celebrate World Cup losses. Any opportunity for public celebration is welcomed.

What many in Iran seem to particularly long for is rapprochement with the West and with the United States in particular. According to an article by Narges Bajoghli, the majority of those in Iran’s Basij and Revolutionary Guards also look forward better ties to the West. She writes:

In over nine years of on-the-ground research with different factions of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij, I have found that an underlying concern for many, regardless of political leaning, is a desire to create an Iran with more opportunities for their children, and that means the removal of sanctions and better relations with the world.

The role of sanctions

Tough sanctions may have brought Iran to the negotiating table, but what kept them there was the knowledge that the people of Iran wanted engagement with the West. This was made clear in 2009 in the wake of the disputed and flawed presidential elections and again with the election of current president Rouhani. Iranian voters overwhelmingly rejected the candidate seen as representing the Supreme Leader’s foreign policy, then nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Jalili ran for office specifically on his record of standing firm on Iran’s right to its nuclear program.

There is a strong sense of nationhood and national pride among most Iranians inside and outside the country. The nuclear program, which has been a cause of so much pain and deprivation in Iran, represents accomplishment and security even to those who would seem to be its natural detractors. For a final agreement to be successful, the people of Iran need to have some evidence that their suffering under the sanctions regime was not for nothing. This means lifting sanctions that hurt them the most and making sure to do it with great fanfare. For instance lifting the sanctions on refined petroleum, which have contributed to a dramatic increase in pollution in cities like Tehran, may immediately contribute to cleaner air.

Sanctions also camouflage corruption. They allow profiteers to drive up prices on items such as medicines and create false shortages. They give power to the corrupt and dangerous in society. I saw this every day when I lived in Iran. I saw how poorly the US and Europe communicated both the scope of and the reason for the sanctions to the Iranian people.

Human rights

While most human rights advocates and Iran’s civil society welcome a negotiated agreement, there is concern that hardliners will seek to establish their control by increasing oppressive measures. Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says:

Iran could be roiled in political tension in the wake of the agreement, and even more so if a more permanent agreement is reached in June. Hardliners will push to maintain political relevancy, while pent up demand for basic rights, long frozen as Iran locked horns with the West, will rise to the surface.

The Iranian government’s record on human rights is disastrous. Ethnic minorities face severe discrimination and suppression of their rights. The rate of execution per capita is the highest in the world. Religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i, suffer. The Baha’i face arrest, harassment, and barriers to education. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, stated that pressure on Iran is especially important: “Iran is the country in the region with the biggest gap between potential [for respect for human rights] and reality.” People in Iran are ready to claim their own rights and are chipping away at the structure that limits them. As one Tehran professor recently wrote in an open letter to the spokeswoman for Iran’s foreign ministry, defending Dr. Shaheed:

The fact is, even if in all of the almost 200 member states of the UN, human rights are violated, and Western countries keep silent against all of them, violations of human rights in the 201st country are still unjustifiable.

A successful agreement that relieves the state of near-war means that civil society and human rights defenders will gain more space. The state of conflict with other powers and the isolation of the country are often used as excuses for tamping down dissent and arresting human rights defenders. They face charges such as “compromising national security” and “spreading propaganda against the state.” With a final agreement, these spurious charges will become more and more ridiculous and harder to defend. A successful agreement also means that human rights defenders can lobby other powers for support without hearing the response: “All we care about is a nuclear agreement.”

Give peace a chance

Some of you may think I’ve been “irantoxified” as a result of my four-year stay in Iran. I can tell you that I was, indeed, fundamentally changed by the experience. I felt real oppression for the first time in my life. I had to learn to control myself emotionally, physically and verbally. I also became passionate about human rights, not just in oppressive countries like Iran, but in free countries like the United States and the Netherlands. I saw what war does to family and friends and watched as my sister-in-law trembled uncontrollably at the news that American warships were in the Persian Gulf. I met Basiji who valued democracy, a judge who opposed the nuclear program, observant women who railed against forced hijab, a transgender man who read tea leaves, and ruthless profiteers. I was met with kindness and hospitality that were both unexpected and comforting. I buried people I loved there. I left the country wanting nothing less than the best possible future for the people who had welcomed me so unabashedly.

There will not be a linear path to reform and an opening of society. There never is anywhere. Iranians will have high expectations that an agreement will solve their economic and social woes. This is true even as they make jokes about expectations of buying whiskey in supermarkets and going into the streets in shorts.

In summation, if this agreement is to work and if the government of Iran is to be persuaded to permanently give up any efforts to build a bomb, the people of Iran need to be convinced they’ve made the best of all possible agreements. In the wake of the agreement, sanctions need to be lifted quickly and loudly. By publicly clarifying what is no longer sanctioned, the US and Europeans can give the people of Iran the information they need to hold their own government accountable for economic malaise. The sanctions will no longer be cover. The benefits of being part of the international community must be made clear to the people of Iran. They are certainly aware of the suffering that comes from isolation.

Prayer Goes Out; Food Goes In: Plum Chicken with Bibi Kasrai

The day I spoke with the author of The Spice Whisperer, Bibi Kasrai, she was busy with her new enterprise, a cooking camp for children. She had left a career as a corporate executive to do what she loves: cooking and teaching.

That day the children were making hummus, croque-monsieurs, and popsicles. It’s this mix of cultures that makes Bibi and her cooking special. As she describes in her book, her journey from Iran to the United States took her all over the world, learning to cook, falling in love, and encountering a wide range of cultures.

Five years after the revolution in Iran, when Bibi was a teenager, her family went into hiding. An arrest warrant had been issued for her father, the well-known and well-loved poet Siavosh Kasrai. The family moved from house to house, not wishing to put friends and supporters in danger.

“My family had helped the Jews, the Baha’is and royalist friends escape, but now it was our turn," she writes in The Spice Whisperer. "My mother came up with a plan to hire smugglers that would hopefully take us to France where all our European dreams would come true; except we ended up in Moscow via Afghanistan.”

Before they left Iran, as a last refuge when they had nowhere else to hide, her maternal grandmother took them in, saying, “If they are going to take you, let them take all of us.”

“My grandma was comfort,” Bibi recalls. “She was pure love.... Even when she wanted to teach a lesson, she was mild. Like she would say to me, ‘Bibi, you have a hot temper. When you get really angry take a glass of water and hold it in your mouth.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because when water is in your mouth, you cannot say anything.’”

Read the entire article on The Guardian

Plum Chicken photographed by Sanam Salehian

Iran Elections: Celebration Now, A Long and Unpredictable Path Ahead

Photo from Instagram user alirezamalihi of celebrations in Tehran

This is an excerpt of my latest piece on Global Voices.

In the past few days there have been threats against the families of BBC reporters. The Internet in Iran was slowed to a crawl. The Iranian Cyber Army launched botnet attacks against a number of media sites including BBC, Radio Farda, and Radio Zamaneh. Pundits predicted a win for Saeed Jalili, calling him the Supreme Leader's favorite. Others predicted a run-off between the conservative mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Qalibaf and the most moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani.

VOA reporter Negar Mortazavi tweeted:

Which prompted this response from the director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Gissou Nia: one was more surprised than Iranians themselves by the results (except for Gissou Nia). Today, Hassan Rouhani was declared president with more than 50% of the votes. The Internet is back on and images and videos are flooding out of Iran.

Financial Times Journalist, Borzou Daraghi writes on Facebook that hardliners had so thoroughly convinced themselves that they really "won" 2009's elections that they were completely caught by surprise:

When you begin to believe your own lies, you become extremely vulnerable.

Khabar City shares images of voters on their blog along with this tidbit:

به گزارش خبرنگار خبرگزاری فارس از شهرستان ساری، مردم ایران بار دیگر با نشان دادن شناسنامه و حضور در انتخابات لرزه بر اندام دشمنان انداختند. 90 درصد مردم مازندران در انتخابات شرکت کردند.

The Fars News stringer reporting from the city of Sari said that just by voting, the people of Iran have made their enemies shake in their boots. 90% of voters in Mazandaran cast their votes.

Read the rest on Global Voices.

Bare Bones Overview of Iran's Election System

Here is a bare bones overview of the structure of Iran's election system that I am presenting in Amsterdam on June 14, 2013. Hope you all enjoy it.

Taste of Iran: Lari Kebab Made as a Stew

I loved the concise flavors of this dish, but learned that in order to replicate them I had to have the best ingredients.

Taste of Iran: Lari kebab recipe

Iranian student in Italy recreates a traditional dish – with a twist

Lari kebab
Lari kebab served with salad and jasminebasmati rice. Photograph: Tori Egherman

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is lit against the night sky, the square empty save for a couple walking hand in hand and a man with a dog by his side. In a top-floor apartment a few blocks away, Peyman Majidzadeh is putting the finishing touches on his favorite dish, Lari kebab, made on the stove instead of the grill and with chicken instead of lamb. It might be a stretch to call it Lari kebab, but that's what Peyman calls it and so will I.

During the four years I lived in Iran, not only did I never eat Lari kebab, I had never even heard of Lar, the county seat of Larestan in Fars province. Four hundred kilometres from Shiraz, the province's best known city, it's not one of the more visited corners of Iran.

Larestan sits in the desert, close to the other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. It has its own dialect, but it has no oil and little in the way of other mineral resources. It has no sites of particular interest to tourists or pilgrims. Very few Iranians from elsewhere in the country have ever been to Lar. Any who do go are likely to be surprised by the small city's wealth and the fact that it is served by an international airport and a six-lane highway.

Read the rest on The Guardian

Blast from the Past: Thoughts on Rafsanjani's 2005 Campaign

I wrote this piece in 2005 when the elections for Iran's next president were in full swing. During the campaigns, I walked through my neighborhood with my headscarf around my shoulders. Music blared from black SUVs. A three-story banner of former president Rafsanjani graced the corner building that housed some of his campaign staff. It was a strange time and a bit of a break from the relentlessness of the Islamic Republic. You'll note I don't even mention Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His campaign was nearly invisible in Tehran. It wasn't until the run-offs that I noticed his candidacy. This was originally published on Marketing Profs.

The Hashemi Brand in Iran's 2005 Elections

The elections in Iran are in full force, with only a few days left until the Friday ballot. Iranian television is filled with interviews with the candidates, sound bytes and advertisements about the vote. Movies are interrupted every few minutes by voting reminder message; in the middle of intense emotional scenes, bells ring and an animated ballot dances across the screen.

Candidates' web sites tout the politicians' credentials and attributes, while blogs debate who is genuinely democratic-minded--or, conversely, true to the tenets of the Islamic Revolution.

The presidential campaign in Iran is short: about one month. There are a lot of rumors and discussions before the official start of the campaign season, but it really goes into gear once the Supreme Council announces the list of approved candidates. This year there are six.

One of the candidates, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (, has done more than the others to market his particular presidential brand. In this brief article, I discuss the tools that his campaign has used to create the Hashemi brand.

Guerilla Marketing

Jay Conrad Levinson is often called the father of guerilla marketing. He defines it this way: "It is a body of unconventional ways of pursuing conventional goals. It is a proven method of achieving profits with minimum money."

While I cannot speak for the actual costs of the Rafsanjani campaign, the methods that the campaign is using are, indeed, unconventional. They are particularly unconventional for post-revolutionary Iran.

The Rafsanjani campaign has employed Iran's hip youth as its army of unpaid campaign workers. They wrap themselves in Hashemi stickers, tape his poster on their backs, celebrate soccer success in his name, attend performances at the candidate's Tehran headquarters and participate in skating events. They wear Rafsanjani campaign materials like fashion accessories.


This army of hip youth may be politically apathetic in large part, but that does not really matter. The Rafsanjani campaign has grabbed the image of youth and energy for itself. You might say that the Rafsanjani generation and the Pepsi generation are one. In other words, it may not matter to Pepsi whether the Pepsi generation drinks Pepsi, as long as Pepsi's sales are robust; similarly, as long as Rafsanjani wins the election, who cares who voted for him.

The Graphic Image

Rafsanjani is his own brand. Because of his uncommon looks, he is, arguably, the most recognized cleric in the world. As with every other candidate in Iran's presidential election, his image covers entire walls.

The campaign puts forth several images of Rafsanjani: the official site features a photo album [no longer available] that highlights his revolutionary achievements, while the popular photo-sharing site Flickr displays a very different view of the candidate.

The posters with his image are conservative and traditional, while the popular Hashemi sticker is really quite radical. On it, the Iranian flag is reduced to an abstract mark. His name, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is reduced to Hashemi.


In a country where wives often call their husbands by formal names like Engineer (Mohandes) or Mister (Agha) and young girls are often called Little Miss (Dokhtar Khanum), the use of a name other than the surname is more than familiar: it is intimate.

With the plastering Hashemi stickers on ankles, across foreheads and on motorcycle windscreens, the Rafsanjani brand has come to mean that it is offering intimacy and friendship.

Will It Work?

Only time will tell how truly effective the Rafsanjani campaign has been. One thing is for certain: Political campaigns in Iran have changed. The Rafsanjani campaign is just one of the many signs of that change. (Check out the Flickr photo tag Election84 for a sense of this visual election.)

The campaign of former police chief Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who is number two or three in the running, also targets the youth. With his casual and stylish clothes, chic glasses, and sponsors such as Efes Zero Alcohol beer, the Qalibaf campaign directly competes with the Rafsanjani campaign for the hearts of Iran's youthful population.

The biggest difference between the two marketing styles is this: Rafsanjani's campaign is fueled by the images of teenagers and 20-somethings wrapped in Hashemi accessories, while Qalibaf's marketing team has chosen to make the candidate himself the symbol of youth with his new fashionable outfits and attractive image.

We'll Be Watching

It isn't just the presidential candidates who are seeking to brand and re-brand themselves--it's the entire country of Iran.

Plans are in the works for a tourism campaign that will target CNN's international audience. Payvand News reports that the country is ready for foreign tourists and investors.

Well, we'll be watching.

Cooking Aubergine Stew with Halleh Ghorashi

(Or as we Americans call it: Eggplant)


Before going to Iran, I had eaten only stale, tasteless turmeric that added colour rather than flavour. On my first full day in Iran, I had a dish of eggplant stuffed with ground lamb, topped with unripe grapes, and seasoned with turmeric. I thought it was cinnamon, even writing in my diary that it was a different kind of cinnamon, "deeper and more earthy tasting. It isn't as light or sweet. I guess you could say that it tastes as though it was grown with cumin..."

Now, every time I taste turmeric, I think of those early days in Iran, when I hadn't yet overdosed on kebab and hospitality, and every meal was rife with new flavours and observations.

Food is a bridge to the past, and the best dishes come accompanied by good stories. This week, I cooked a stew of eggplant and chicken with Halleh Ghorashi, an influential scholar in the Netherlands, who I know came there as a refugee. Among her friends, however, she is more known for her cooking than for any of her academic accomplishments.

"When I cook, I cook with love," she said. "I think of it like a painting that I compose with care."

The dish she chose to cook was one that provided an enduring link with her mother and her own troubled childhood. When she cooks her eggplant dish, Halleh can't help but remember the strain of growing up with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia.

"It was always a painful relationship. Her life was dominated by her sickness and there was a direct connection between her miserable life and me, since her schizophrenia emerged with my birth. From that moment, my mom was never normal like other moms. I was often embarrassed of her sickness. She was fighting all the time with her family, with the neighbours, with my father, with everyone."

Read the whole article on Tehran Bureau, The Guardian

The Last Days of the Tehran American School

"Everyone wants to go back," says one former student.

[ feature ]In 1978, the Tehran American School closed its doors after 24 years in operation. J. Thom McInnis, a high school senior at the time, had a part-time job working for Pan Am. "I remember evacuating many of my schoolmates and their families those last days when I worked at the airport," he says. "I remember fathers throwing their children over the heads of the crowds at the airport in a bid to get closer to the front of the line for those limited seats out of the country." 

For Anthony Roberts, author of Sons of the Great Satan, the sudden departure from Iran came as a shock. "I was angry. I was pissed off. I didn't understand it because I was a teenaged boy. Now that I am older, I understand it was the loss that really made me angry." Overnight, his whole world abruptly changed. He was separated from his closest friends and uprooted from the place he'd come to call home.

When I left Iran, I didn't know what happened to any of my classmates for 30 years.... It wasn't like so-and-so went off to this college and so-and-so went off to that college. It was like 24 hours. You can pack one bag. You have to leave now. Nothing set up on the other end. You're just going home to set up with relatives and go on from there.

Social networking brought the former classmates back together. They started reaching out to one another and now have several active groups on Facebook. Roberts says, "For some of us there were tears. It was like a 30-year-old weight lifted from us."

Read more:]

The Speech Squeeze

Learning the language of self-censorship

Poker. Rumi. The US Postal Service motto: Neither snow nor rain nor heat…Serendipity. All have their roots in ancient Persia. No matter how much you think you know about Iran, there’s always more. It’s no surprise, then, that you know so little before boarding a plane to take you to Tehran.

Maybe you’re nervous. Pulling the unfamiliar scarf close around your head. Tucking in loose strands as the plane rattles over the Alborz mountains for its landing. You expect prying eyes, secrecy, and suspicion. What you don’t expect is the friendly welcome from strangers and family, the chaos at the airport, the sheer number of women in black hijab everywhere you look.

The first week you are in Iran is a revelation. Everyone you meet speaks to you. Strangers try out a few words of English, speak to you in simple Persian. They express opinions. Slam the government. Make jokes about clerics. Shout out: We love you miss, in heavily accented English.

There are people and cars everywhere. You see women in sheer headscarves braving the treacherous pavement in high heels and challenging the limits of acceptable hijab. You see daredevil teenagers roller blading in and out of  traffic and up and down the cement steps in Tehran’s largest park.

A young man tells you Iran is the worst country on earth. Another tells you it’s the freest country on earth. We have no laws, he says. That makes us free.

You go to party after party after party, with loud music, dancing, and rotgut alcohol.

You wonder how you could believe all those bad things you heard? How you could ever believe this was a nation gripped by fanatics? Made up of joyless government lackeys ruling propaganda-fuddled believers? Who told you they lacked free speech? Iranians, your husband tells you, are masters of survival.

Of course you write about all this on your blog. You have joined some 50,000 others who blog from Iran.

It isn’t only blogs that are plentiful in Iran. The newsstands are filled with newspapers and magazines. When the censors shut down one paper, another opens in its place — sometimes with the same staff and editors. The television is overrun with talk shows covering safe subjects such as health and sports. Some days are filled with nothing but football, clerics, waterfalls, and the call to prayer. Hollywood movies are heavily censored. Men and women are shown touching in stylized fight scenes, but never with affection. World famous philosophers speak in English to well-groomed hosts. A sharp-tongued little person pretends to be a toddler on a popular children’s program. Foreigners show off their skills speaking Persian. Women in yellow hijab read the news. A repertoire cast stars in comedy after comedy.

Even with your rudimentary language skills, you can make out the undertone of unspoken communication, the constant play of meaning and intention.

You learn to do the same on your blog, purposely misdirecting, changing names, locations, and timelines.

You discover that American companies are busy restricting your internet access, telling you when you complain that they would never sell their product to a country like Iran. Wink, wink, nod, nod. A government purchaser tells you how easy it is to buy sanctioned software at international fairs. The salesman says to us, Don’t tell me where you’re from or how you’re going to use the software.

The taxis you take each day — sometimes alone, sometimes shared with strangers — are like rolling think tanks with drivers discussing the benefits of taxation, lecturing on the evils of the British, and expressing their love of Madeline Albright. One out of every three taxi drivers works for intelligence, a driver tells you. Which one are you? You ask him.

The bearded government workers you meet shuffling around in slippers and with their pajamas sticking out from under their slacks are ready to discus the political thought of Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin, and Jurgen Habermas. Like over-protective parents, they mete out discipline and information because Daddy Knows Best. Is it they who set policy for what can and cannot be communicated?

In a shared taxi with aging Basiji, you are asked when you will be accepting Islam? You answer that you don’t believe in anything enough to convert. Your traveling companion kicks you and abruptly changes the subject, apologizing for your misunderstanding. Later he warns you to always state a belief in God at the very least.

At a party filled with foreigners, a diplomat asks, What can we do to encourage free speech here? Your husband jokes, There is plenty of free speech in Iran. It’s freedom after speech we need. At the same party an intellectual says to you, You think this country is not one ruled by law. I’m here to tell you it is ruled by law. A crowd surrounds him. He enjoys the attention, showing off his mastery of English and offering tasty anecdotes about his work with Iranian government officials. Later he finds himself arrested, accused of imagined crimes, imprisoned for months.

You meet writers who keep a suitcase packed to take with them in case of arrest. A filmmaker you know asks you not to write about his film because the government is unpredictable. Who knows what they will find offensive?Your dear friends are carted off for interrogations, their houses ransacked, their children witnessing.

A journalist finds herself the subject of an article in the hardline newspaper Keyhan— an organ of the Supreme Leader’s office — and worries that she will be targeted for arrest. She rids her house of alcohol and tries to teach her young children to ignore knocks at the door.

More and more journalists and activists get hauled away for questioning, some disappearing into the labyrinthine prison system. Even though the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran promises free speech, it does so with a caveat: as long as it does not offend Islam. Investigating economic policy, drawing a cartoon of the wrong person, or reporting on the harassment of dervishes offend Islam it turns out. By 2007, Reporters Without Borders dubs Iran the world’s biggest prison for journalists.

Reporters aren’t the only target. Lawyers, human rights defenders, students, labor leaders, government defenders, and business people all find themselves on the wrong side of prison bars. Speaking out can be dangerous depending on who is speaking, when, and where.

The taxi drivers still talk politics. The butcher still tells you how much he yearns for freedom. Soldiers still greet you with toothy smiles, telling you they love foreigners and peace. You still hear discussions and debate and disagreement. In many ways, little has changed. The biggest change is you. You have learned to keep quiet, to restrict your own speech. The government no longer needs to do it for you.

یاد گیری زبان خود سانسوری
پوکر مولانا ،شعار خدماتی پستی ایالات متحده آمریکا این رو میگه : نه برف ، نه باران ، نه گرما........ سرندیپیتی . حقیقت اینست که اینها همه ریشه در تمدن ایران باستان دارند ، فرقی‌ نمی‌کنه که چقدر در مورد ایران میدونی‌ چون هنوز چیزهای زیادی هست که درموردش نمیدونی‌. بنابر این طبیعی‌ هستش  که وقتی‌ سوار هواپیما میشی‌ اطلاعات کمی‌ در مورد اون کشور داشته باشی‌. کمی‌ نگران هستی‌ و دلت شور می‌زنه ، روسری که باهاش تا به حال آشنا نبودی رو میندازی سرت و موهاتو میپوشونی در همین حال هواپیما تلق تلق کنان برای فرود کوههای البرز را رد می‌کند.

در اینجا انتظار نگاههای فضولانه و مرموز  و بد گمان و داری اما مطمئنا منتظر خوش آمد گویی گرم از سوی غریبه و آشنا و شلوغی فرودگاه  و دیدن زنها با روسری و چادر مشکی نیستی‌.در همان هفته اول ورودت همه چیز رو می‌فهمی هرکسی میبینتت می‌خواد باهات حرف بزنه ، غریبه ها با انگلیسی‌ دستو پاشکستشون یا با فارسی ساده سعی‌ می‌کنن در گفتگو رو باهات باز کنن. دولتو میکوبن ،آخوندا رو مسخره می‌کنن گاهی هم با لهجه فارسی به انگلیسی‌ میگن : وی لاو یو میس.

همه جا پره آدم و ماشینه، در پیاده رو زنها رو میبینی‌ که روسری نازک و کفش پاشنه بلندشون بی‌ محابا حجاب اسلامی و رسمی‌ رو به چالش می‌کشن. نوجونای نترسی رو میبینی‌ که با اسکیت این ورو اون ور می‌رن و از پله‌های بزرگترین پارک تهران بالا و پایین میپرن.

مرد جوونی‌ بهم میگه ایران بدترین کشور روی زمینه یکی‌ دیگه میگه نه ایران آزادترین کشور دنیاست چون ما قانون نداریم همین باعث می‌شه که آزاد باشیم.

پشت سر هم هی‌ میرم پارتی و مهمونی ، با صدای بلنده موسیقی می‌رقصم  و مشروب ارزون میخورم.

به این فکر می‌کنم که چطور این همه چیزهای بدی که در مورد ایران شنیدم باور کنم چطور می‌شه باور کرد که این مردم و مملکت بدست یک سری آدم متعصب و کور دل که آدمهای بیسوادو شستشو مغزی دادرو کنترل می‌کنن اداره بشه. کی‌ میگه این مردم آزادی بیان ندارن ، همسرم به من میگه ایرانیا در پایداری و تحمل شرایط سخت استادن. حتما همه اینها رو در بلاگم مینویسم من هم به جمع  ۵۰۰۰ نفری می‌پیوندم که در ایران بلاگ نویسی می‌کنن.

فقط اینجا بلاگ نیست که زیاده ، دکه‌های روزنامه فروشی پره روزنامه و مجله است . وقتی‌ یک روزنامه توقیف می‌شه دیگری جایگزین می‌شه با همون  ویراستارو کارکنان خودش.

تلویزیون هم پره از برنامه‌های سرگرمی و بی‌خطر مثل ورزش و سلامت ،بعضی‌ روزها تنها چیزی که از تلویزیون پخش می‌شه فوتبال و سخنرانی‌ آخوندها و تصویر آبشار و اذانِ . فیلمهای هالیوود اینجا بشدت سانسور میشن . زنا و مردا وقت دعوا به هم دست میزنند و گلاویز میشن اما نمی‌تونن از روی مهربانی همدیگر رو لمس کنن. فیلسوفای معروف هم با مخاطبینشون انگلیسی‌ حرف میزنند. آدم کوچک با صدای زیر بچگانه در یک برنامه پرطرفداره کودکان نقش یک خردسال و بازی‌ می‌کنه. خارجی‌‌ها پزه صحبت کردن خوبه فارسیشنو میدن. مجری‌های زن هم با مانتو روسری زرد اخبار میگن. سریالهای کمدی هم با یک گروه ثابت و تکراری از بازیگران پخش می‌شه .

با فارسی دستو پاشکسته هم می‌شه منظور آدما رو  از لحنشون اینجا فهمید ، اینجا معنا و مفهوم آنچیزی که میگن با آن چیزی که واقعا قصد گفتنش و دارن فرق می‌کنه اینجا معنا و مقصود با هم بازی‌ می‌کنن.

اینجا یاد میگیرم که در بلاگم از همین روش استفاده کنم عمدا نکات رو منحرف کنم و نام‌ها و مکان‌ها و خطوط زمانی‌ رو تغییر بدم.

متوجه میشوم که شرکتهای آمریکایی‌ مشغول محدود کردن دسترسی‌  اینترنتی هستند.وقتی‌ اعتراض می‌کنم میگویند هرگز محصولشان را به کشوری مثل ایران نمی فروشند. تعجب آور که یک خریدار دولتی میگوید خرید نرم افزار تحریم شده در بازار بین‌المللی  چقدر آسان است. فروشنده به ما میگوید به من نگویید که اهل کجایید و از نرم افزار چه استفاده میخواهید بکنید.

تاکسی‌هایی‌ که هر روز سوار میشوم چه زمانهایی که با غریبه باشم یا تنها شبیه مخزن فکری متفکر هستن.  رانندها در مورد مزیت وضع مالیات صحبت میکنندو از انگلیسیها بد میگیندو به مادلین آلبرایت ابراز علاقه میکنند. یک راننده تاکسی به من میگه از هر ۳ راننده یکی‌ برای وزارت اطلاعات کار می‌کنه ، من هم بلافاصله می‌پرسم شما چطور؟

کارکنان دولت را میبینم که با دمپایی این طرف و آنطرف می‌رن و پیژامهایشان از شلوارهای گشادشان زده بیرون آماده‌اند که در بار عقاید سیاسی کارل پیپر ، آیزیا برلین ، یورگن هابرماس بحث کنند. آنها مثل پدر و مادرای هستند که بیش از اندازه از فرزند خود مراقبت میکنند ، نظم آگاهی‌ رو پیمانه میکنند چون صلاح‌و خیره تو را بهتر می‌دانند و میخواهند. آیا اینها هستند که تصمیم میگیرند چه چیز قابل انتقال است و مراودات را کنترل میکنند .

سوار تاکسی یک مرد بسیجی میان سال از من می پرسد کی می خواهم مسلمان شوم. جواب می دهم به اندازه کافی اعتقاد ندارم. مسافری که کنارم نشسته پایش را به من می زند، ناگهان بحث را عوض می کند و بابت سوء تفاهم من عذر خواهی می کند. کمی دیر تر به من گوشزد می کند که از این به بعد در این مواقع حد اقل بگویم که به خدا اعتقاد دارم.

در مهمانی که پر از خارجی است دیپلماتی می پرسد چطور می شود آزادی بیان را در ایران رواج داد. همسرم به شوخی می گوید: "در ایران آزادی بیان فراوان است. آزادی پس از بیان است که نداریم." در همین مهمانی یک روشنفکر به من می گوید: "به نظر می آید که این کشور قانون ندارد. من می گویم که خیلی هم قانون دارد!" چند نفر دورش جمع می شوند. او از از توجهی که جلب کرده خوشش می آید. پز انگلیسی سلیسش را می دهد و چند ضربالمثل با مزه در باره کارش با مقام های حکومتی می پراند. مدتی بعد با اتهامات خیالی دستگیر و به ماه ها زندان محکوم میشود.

با نویسنده هایی آشنا می شوم که یک چمدان بسته و آماده دارند تا اگر دستگیر شدند با خود ببرند. یکی از آشنایان که فیلم ساز است از من می خواهد چیزی در باره فیلمش ننویسم چون حکومت "غیر قابل پیش بینی" است: "کسی چه می داند چه چیزی از نظرشان توهین آمیز است؟" دوستان عزیزت را می برند برای باز جویی و جلوی چشم کودکانشان خانه هایشان را می گردند و غارت می کنند.

روزنامه نگاری مقاله ای در باره خود در روزنامه تند رو کیهان –  از ارگان های بیت رهبری – می خواند و نگران می شود که مبادا تحت تعقیب باشد. هر چه مشروب در خانه دارد بیرون می ریزد و به بچه های کوچکش یاد می دهد که زنگ در را جواب ندهند.

تعداد بیشتر و بیشتری از روزنامه نگاران برای سوال و باز جویی کشانده می شوند و بعضی از آنها در دالانهای سیستم زندان ها ناپدید می شوند. قانون اساسی جمهوری اسلامی ایران وعده آزادی بیان می دهد اما با یک تبصره: "مگر آن که مخل به مبانی اسلام باشد." به نظر می رسد بررسی سیاست های اقتصادی، کشیدن کاریکاتور اشخاص نا مناسب یا گزارش آزار و اذیت دراویش همگی  توهین به اسلام است. تا سال ۲۰۰۷ میلادی، گزارشگران بدون مرز ایران را بزرگ ترین زندان برای روزنامه نگران نامیده.

گزارشگران تنها گروه مورد هدف نیستند. وکلا، مدافعین حقوق بشر، دانشجویان، رهبران حزب کارگر، پشتیبان های دولت وتجار همگی در بند می افتند. اظهار نظر می تواند خطر ناک باشد، بسته به این که چه کسی حرف میزند، کی و کجا.

راننده های تاکسی هنوز در مورد سیاست حرف می زنند. قصابی که ازش خرید می کنی به تو می گوید که چقدر تشنه آزادی است. سرباز ها لبخند دندان نما می زنند و می گویند خارجی ها را خیلی دوست دارند و طرفدار صلح اند. هنوز هم بحث و جدال و عدم توافق به گوش میرسد. از خیلی جهات چیز زیادی تغییر نکرده. مهمترین چیزی که تغییر کرده خودت هستی. یاد گرفته ای سکوت کنی و حرفهایت را فشرده محدود کنی. دیگر لازم نیست حکومت این کار را برایت انجام دهد.

درباره نویسنده

توری اگرمن به عنوان نویسنده و مدیر برنامه برای عرصه سوم کار می‌کند. او در بین سالهای ۲۰۰۳-۲۰۰۷ که در ایران مشغول به کار و زندگی بود برای وبسایت ویو فرام ایران با نام استر وبلاگنویسی ‌ می کرد.

Originally published on Article 19.

The Beauty Regime

When I first started living in Iran, I was a kind of an illiterate, exotic creature who had to learn the alphabet from scratch and could have meaningful conversations only with toddlers. I was tolerated and coddled in equal measures, which made life easier for me. My mistakes were cute and lovable instead of breaches of protocol that could cause catastrophic rifts in the delicate political balance of the family.

It wasn't just language that messed with me. I was a fashion disaster, ill-mannered and coarse. I must have seemed an oaf to people who'd practiced good manners for millennia.

Nothing made me feel more oafish than the women surrounding me. Most wouldn't dream of leaving the house looking less than perfect. Their nails were exactingly manicured, their hair straightened and dyed, their bracelets gold, their eyes carefully outlined. At parties they wore low-cut, form-fitting dresses. They danced with flair as though their hips were unhinged, while my moves had been learned in proto-mosh pits. I could slam with the best of them, but anything more refined required concentration.

On top of that, my eyebrows had never been trimmed and my hair was unruly. I had never quite outgrown my tomboy phase and the longest time I'd spent in heels was about two hours: long enough to dance at a friend's wedding.

In the cafés in North Tehran, women let the obligatory headscarves slip to their shoulders, making a great show of lifting them up over exquisitely coiffed hair. They balanced on heels high enough to make me dizzy, navigating the uneven pavement with grace.

Read more at Tehran Bureau.

Too Much Is Never Enough: Making Ghelye Mahi

Every time we had people over for dinner, my husband would say to me, "Tori, we didn't make enough food."

"How can that be?" I'd ask. "There are leftovers." It wasn't until we moved to Iran in 2003 for a four-year stay that I understood what he meant. A chicken leg or two is not leftovers. It's ta'rof -- good manners. It's what the guests leave behind so you won't think you served them insufficiently. "Enough food" means that another party can be fed with what is left over at the end of the evening.

The first time we were invited out in Iran, we were served omelets, fish, whole roasted chicken, yogurt and cucumbers, yogurt and spinach, tomato, cucumber, and onion salad, salad with iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island dressing, spring chicken kebabs, and chopped lamb kebabs. All of this was brought to the table just before midnight. Kamran whispered, "Do they think we're cows?"

I tell you this so you won't balk at the amount of food my friend Zohreh Sanaseri (pictured) prepared for our dinner of ghelye (ghalieh) mahi -- a stew of fish, herbs, and tamarind paste. She invited three others to share the stew with us, but made enough for at least ten people.

In four years of living in Iran, I never once encountered ghelye mahi. In fact, it wasn't until a night out at a Persian restaurant in Amsterdam that I ate it for the first time. The flavor was surprising: sharp, sour, sweet, and fishy all at once. It was made with many of the ingredients found in other stews I'd eaten in Iran, but tasted nothing like them. I searched for recipes and tried making it a few times before giving up. None was as good as my first time...

And then I ate ghelye mahi at the home of my friend Zohreh, who hails from the city of Abadan in southwestern Iran. "It was the Paris of Iran," the eldest of her two daughters, who were born in the Netherlands, tells me. "Was," Zohreh emphasizes. "Before the war."

It was the war with Iraq that drove Zohreh and her family out of Iran. She settled in the Netherlands with her husband when she was just 25. "I had never cooked before in my life," she says. "I learned everything here."

Read more at Tehran Bureau.

Unveiling Iran

In 1978 and 1979, life in Iran drastically changed. This was especially true for women and girls, who once again found themselves and their bodies the focus of revolutionary change. Decades earlier they'd been forced to give up the veil in the name of modernity. Now they were forced to put it back on. They could no longer sing or dance in public. Iranian photographers Newsha Tavakolian and Kamran Asthary use their work to respond to a world fundamentally changed...

Originially published in Neuland Magazin.

Text by Tori Egherman, Guest Curator

Dear Viewers,

Some days ago, I listened to the Dutch chief of police discuss the proposed ban on the burka. Would police arrest women who covered up? he was asked. It depends, he answered, explaining that the police rarely stopped people who weren’t carrying identifications, so why should they stop women in burkas? It seems the battle for change is waged on the body of women, whether it’s in the Netherlands or Iran.

Kamran Ashtary’s series Chador was created as a way for him to make sense of a world forever changed by revolution and exile. He was a teenager during the revolution against the rule of the Shah in Iran. When Islamists gained the upper hand, his sisters were forced to wear veils. Friends were arrested. Relatives and acquaintances disappeared, some were executed, some never heard of again. Kamran left Iran in the early 80s and found refuge in the Netherlands. The photographs taken for Chador are part of a larger series examining exile, separation, and the photographer’s relationship to home and family. In Chador, which begins with an image of his own mother, Kamran photographed men and woman wearing the veil. He contrasts these images with objects: a rock, a knife, a whip.

With the exception of his mother, none of those photographed had ever worn a veil. He photographed each person as though they were a member of his own family facing the unfamiliar for the first time. The results were surprising. The portraits show a range of emotions from fear and sadness to amusement and frailty.

Newsha Tavakolian’s series Listen visualizes the silencing of women’s singing voices through a series of portraits of Iranian singers and imagined CD covers. The images for those CD covers feature a young woman in a veil in a variety of situations and characters. She’s a boxer and a princess, caged and cosmopolitan. She is demanding and confrontational and decidedly not to be pitied.

More than ten years separates the work of Newsha Tavakolian and Kamran Ashtary. Newsha’s series is recent. Kamran’s was done in the late 1990s. Kamran grew up without ever seeing his sisters in a chador until forced after Islamic law became the rule in Iran. Newsha was born after the revolution. Her relationship to the veil is different. It’s taken for granted, even fashion. Older women in Iran often speak of the veil as a kind of humiliation. (Younger women rarely if ever speak of the veil in those terms.)

When I look at Kamran’s mother, with her direct gaze and the graphic line of the chador cutting across her lined face, I see the same strength as when I look at Newsha’s boxer, with her oversized red gloves, and her insistence on claiming her space. One stands in the middle of the road, ready for anything, demanding to be seen. The other meets our gaze, fully aware of the image she presents the viewer.

I love the photos of these two photographers. I love the challenge they present, the daring of the two series of images. I hope you enjoy them too.

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You Can't Say That in School

At the end of September, children all over Iran begin their first day of school. It’s an exciting time, filled with hope and the promise of new friends and new experiences. For many children it’s also about learning how different the world of the family is from the world outside the family. Many people were interviewed for this article. Some had come of age during the darkest days after the revolution, during the war with Iraq. Some had children who had recently begun school.

My daughter begged us to move back to Iran,” a woman I met at a party in north Tehran told me. “For her life in Iran was all about cousins and family and staying up late. What could be more fun for a five year-old?” The woman had recently moved back with her husband and daughter after several years of living and studying in the United States. She had four sisters still living in Iran and two others living in North America. Like many others, she thought raising a child would be easier in Iran with family all around her than it had been in the US with one sister more than 2000 miles away and the other not much closer.Everything changed after her daughter’s first week of school. In kindergarten she was already hearing chants of “Down with America” as part of the morning school assembly. After the first week, she was coming home crying, asking her mother why her schoolmates were chanting against her. “Why do they hate me?” she wept. For most children her age, the words were meaningless. They were just words strung together like misheard lyrics. Still, this one little girl understood them and took them personally. She felt scared and hurt. A few months later, for a number of reasons, the family moved back to the U.S. The girl is now sixteen and an Iranian-American. I often find myself wondering if she experienced anti-Iranian sentiment at her school in Virginia like so many immigrant children did in years past. If she did, how did she deal with it?

First Day of School

The first of the Iranian month of Mehr, which in 2014 fell on September 23, is the first day of school in Iran. For children and their families all over the world, the first day of school is a big step. Everywhere, children learn that the world of their home and of their family is very different from that of school. They can be confused by all the new rules and norms they encounter. For many families in Iran, that normal process is exaggerated. Preparing children for school in Iran involves more than buying pencils and notebooks. Many parents are faced with the challenge of explaining complex rules of behavior to children emotionally incapable of understanding them.

During the first years of the revolution special teachers who were part of the Revolutionary Guards could come to the schools at any time to pry information from the children. This is a special kind of horror for parents and children alike. “It was quite normal for the regime,” Kevan says. “They were ready to kill their own children for the sake of the revolution. They had no shame in trying to get other’s children to inform on their own families. It may be salt on the wound to say this. But it is a wound.

You Have to Conform

Kambiz1 (31) stated, “From the first day you have to conform.” He went on to discuss his first day of school:

I was so excited to go to school. I want to go to school. I want to go to school. I demanded. The first day I woke up early. After that first day, I wasn’t so excited to wake up and go to school. Before I went, my mother told me, ‘You have to tell people that your father is on a business trip.’ I thought, why should I tell them that when I know he is in prison?

It was three weeks before anyone asked Kambiz about his father. He responded that his father was away on business and did not return until very late. “It made me feel so bad,” he said. “It is such a paradox for a child to know you are lying. I couldn’t understand why I had to do it.

The first years of school for Kambiz corresponded with the end of the Iran-Iraq war and the death of Khomeini. “It was unusual to have a relative who was a political prisoner then,” he said. This was especially true in his neighborhood where many of his schoolmates had relatives who had gained power after the revolution. “I could not talk about it with anyone.

Politicized Religion

Maryam lived in the United States until she was nine, where she went to a predominantly African-American Sunni mosque and attended weekly Shia discussion circles. She describes her family as “religious intellectuals,” explaining that as a result they had fewer taboos than many other families.

… I learned to draw a line between the religion we had and the state religion/religious propaganda. Frankly that’s the only way that any religion can be saved in Iran if you are not brainwashed. I learned to be suspicious of whatever religious and historic education we got at school.

She was suspicious of the “ultra-Shia stuff” they were taught in school but rarely discussed this with her teachers.

Later, in college, I would sometimes argue with religious teachers and even the lady at the door telling us we were not dressed appropriately from a ‘fellow Muslim’ perspective. I tried to convince them that their lifestyle is not the only Muslim lifestyle out there. However I wouldn’t mention my unconventional-for-a-Shia beliefs. About politics, there was always a line not to cross publicly. I think I was very aware of it from 11 or 12 years, if not earlier.

Don’t Talk About the VCR

The first time Payam (31) understood that he could not talk about things that happened inside the house, outside the house was the day before his first day of school.

Before my first day of school, my father told me not to talk about our VCR. We exchanged videos in the neighborhood and had family movie nights with neighbors. Of course, this was forbidden when I was a child. My father told me that teachers might draw pictures of the VCR and ask if anyone in the class knows what it is. He warned me not to volunteer that I knew. ‘I don’t want you to lie,’ he told me. ‘Just remain silent. If they know, they will come to take away the VCR,’ my father told me. ‘And they might take me away as well.’ I had a hard time understanding why there were things we couldn’t talk about outside the house, but I didn’t want my father to be taken away.

A year later, special teachers assigned by the Revolutionary Guards did come to the school to try to get information from the students, now six and seven years old. Payam was silent, but other children in the class did volunteer information. “I was very quiet in school. Even though I participated in discussions, I did not easily make friends, and I did not talk very much outside of structured discussions.

For many of the people I spoke with for this article, especially those in their thirties, the need to hide information was tied to a sense of fear. Mostafa explains, “For me it was about danger, not lying.

The Way We Live

On Aida’s first day of pre-school in Tehran just two years ago, she lifted a glass of water to toast the health of her new friends. “Salam-a-ti,” she said happily. “To your health.” Alcohol is illegal in Iran and some could connect her toast to her family’s private actions. That afternoon, Aida’s mother was forced to explain that there were things that could be said at home that absolutely could not be repeated in public. At just three-and-a-half years of age, Aida could not understand why she had to keep some things quiet, just that she needed to. Her father laughed when he recounted the story and then added, “She was upset, but that is the way we live in Iran.

Things have changed a great deal in thirty years. Rooftops all over Iran are covered with illegal satellite dishes. The regime continues its fruitless battle to isolate the population from the outside world, currently doing battle with messaging apps and arresting people for spreading jokes or making videos.

Even with all the changes, Payam cannot imagine raising a child in Iran today. “I don’t know how I could protect my child or explain why some things are okay to talk about and why some things are not. It’s hard for me to imagine.

They say that a mark of intelligence is the ability to hold contradictory ideas without having your head explode. For many of Iran’s youth, this is the only way to stay sane and safe every single day.

1 All names have been changed to protect identities


نخستین درس برای دانش آموزان کوچک ایرانی: در مدرسه نمی توانید "اسمش" را بیاورید

خانمی که در یک مهمانی در شمال تهران ملاقات کردم به من گفت: "دخترم به ما التماس کرد که به ایران برگردیم، زیرا زندگی او در ایران خلاصه می شد به وقت گذراندن با خانواده و خویشاوندان و بیدار ماندن تا دیروقت. چه چیزی می تواند برای یک کودک پنج ساله جذاب تر از این باشد؟". این خانم اخیرأ پس از سال ها زندگی و تحصیل در امریکا به وطن برگشته بود. او چهار خواهر داشت که هنوز در ایران زندگی می کردند و دو خواهرش نیز ساکن امریکای شمالی بودند. مانند بسیاری دیگر او نیز دریافته است که تربیت فرزندان در ایران بسیار ساده تر از امریکا است، زیرا در اینجا تمام خانواده در اطراف او هستند در حالی که در امریکا یکی از خواهرانش ۲۰۰۰ مایل از او فاصله دارد و خواهر دیگرش نیز چندان نزدیک تر از این نیست.

اما همه چیز پس از نخستین هفته تحصیل دختر وی در مدرسه تغییر کرد. او در مدرسه و در مراسم صبحگاهی شعار "مرگ بر امریکا" را می شنید. پس از هفته اول گریان به خانه برگشت و از مادرش پرسید چرا دانش آموزان مدرسه بر علیه او شعار می دهند. او در حالی که می گریست پرسید: "چرا آن ها از من متنفرند؟". این کلمات برای اکثر دانش آموزان هم سن او بی معنی بودند. این ها تنها کلماتی بودند که مانند کلمات یک شعر نادرست به هم متصل شده بودند. اما این دختربچه کلمات را درک کرده و معنای آن را خطاب به شخص خود برداشت کرده بود. او احساس ترس و آسیب دیدن داشت. چند ماه بعد این خانواده به دلایلی به امریکا بازگشت. دختربچه اکنون شانزده ساله و فردی ایرانی-امریکایی است. اغلب از خود میپرسم آیا او هم مانند بسیاری از کودکان در گذشته احساسات ضد ایرانی را در مدرسه خود در ویرجینیا تجربه کرده است یا خیر. اگر چنین باشد، چطور با مسئله کنار آمده است؟

نخستین روز مدرسه

نخستین روز ماه مهر در ایران، که در سال ۲۰۱۴ مترادف با روز ۲۳ سپتامبر بود، نخستین روز مدرسه برای ایرانیان است. نخستین روز مدرسه برای کودکان و خانواده های آن ها در سراسر جهان مرحله مهمی در زندگی به شمار می آید. در همه جای جهان کودکان می آموزند که دنیای خانه و خانواده با دنیای مدرسه تفاوت زیادی دارد. آن ها ممکن است در برخورد با قوانین و هنجارهای مختلف دچار سردرگمی شوند. این فرایند طبیعی برای بسیاری از خانواده ها در ایران حالتی اغراق شده دارد. آماده کردن کودکان برای مدرسه چیزی فراتر از خریدن دفترچه و مداد برای آن ها است. بسیاری از والدین با چالش توضیح دادن قوانین رفتاری پیچیده ای مواجهند که کودکان از لحاظ احساسی قادر به درک آن ها نیستند.

در نخستین سال های انقلاب مربیان خاصی از سوی سپاه پاسداران می توانستند در هر زمانی به مدارس رفته و سؤالاتی را از کودکان بپرسند. این امر موجب القای نوع خاصی از ترس برای والدین و کودکان می شد. کیوان می گوید: "این کار برای رژیم کاملأ عادی بود. آن ها حاضر بودند فرزندان خود را برای انقلاب بکشند. آن ها بدون هیچ شرمی از کودکان می خواستند تا اطلاعاتی را درباره خانواده های خود در اختیارشان قرار دهند. گفتن این ممکن است مثل نمک پاشیدن روی زخم باشد، اما این زخم حقیقی است."

همرنگ جماعت شو

کامبیز[1] (۳۱ ساله) چنین می گوید: "از نخستین روز باید همرنگ جماعت شوید". او صحبت هایش را با توضیح نخستین روز مدرسه ادامه داد:

"خیلی هیجان داشتم که به مدرسه می روم. من می خواهم به مدرسه بروم. من می خواهم به مدرسه بروم. این خواسته من بود. نخستین روز خیلی زود از خواب بیدار شدم. اما پس از آن روز اشتیاق خاصی برای بیدار شدن و رفتن به مدرسه نداشتم. پیش از آن که به مدرسه بروم مادرم گفت "باید به مردم بگویی که پدرم به یک مأموریت کاری رفته است" با خودم فکر کردم چرا باید این حرف را به آن ها بزنم، در صورتی که می دانم پدرم در زندان است."

این ماجرا مربوط به سه هفته قبل از آن بود که کسی از کامبیز چیزی درباره پدرش بپرسد. او پاسخ داد که پدرش به مأموریت کاری رفته و تا به این زودی ها به خانه برنمی گردد. او چنین می گوید" این کار باعث شد احساس بدی داشته باشم. به عنوان یک کودک دانستن این که داری دروغ می گویی، تناقض بزرگی است. نمی دانستم چرا باید دروغ بگویم."

نخستین روزهای مدرسه برای کامبیز مصادف بود با پایان جنگ ایران و عراق و مرگ خمینی. به گفته او: "در آن زمان زندانی بودن یکی از خویشاوندان مسئله ای غیرعادی بود". این امر خصوصأ در محله اقامت کامبیز صادق بود، زیرا بسیاری از هم مدرسه ای های وی خویشاوندانی داشتند که پس از انقلاب به قدرت رسیده بودند. "نمی توانستم درباره این مسئله با هیچکس حرف بزنم."

دین سیاسی شده

مریم تا نه سالگی در امریکا زندگی می کرد. وی در آنجا به یک مسجد افریقایی-امریکایی بزرگ اهل تسنن می رفت و در جلسات هفتگی محافل اهل تشیع شرکت می کرد. او خانواده خود را "روشنفکر مذهبی" توصیف کرده و توضیح داد که در نتیجه این امر تابوهای آن ها کمتر از بسیاری خانواده های دیگر بوده است.

"...یاد گرفتم بین دینی که داشتیم و دین دولتی تمایز قایل شوم. اگر شستشوی مغزی نشده باشید، این تنها راهی است که می توانید دین خود را نجات دهید. یاد گرفتم نسبت به آموزه های تاریخی و مذهبی مدرسه مشکوک باشم."

او نسبت به "مفاهیم متعصبانه شیعه" که در مدرسه آموزش داده می شد مشکوک بود اما کمتر پیش می آمد که درباره این مسئله با مربیانش بحث کند.

"بعدها گاهی اوقات در دانشگاه با اساتید مذهبی بحث می کردم، حتی با آن خانم دم در که به ما می گفت از دیدگاه یک "فرد مسلمان" پوشش مناسبی نداریم نیز بحث می کردم. سعی کردم آن ها را متقاعد کنم که سبک زندگیشان تنها سبک زندگی اسلامی نیست. اما به عقاید خود، که برای یک فرد شیعه خلاف عرف بودند، اشاره ای نمی کردم. در حوزه سیاست همواره خطی وجود داشت که نباید به طور علنی از آن عبور می کردم. فکر می کنم از ۱۱ یا ۱۲ سالگی، یا حتی زودتر از این سن، نسبت به خط مذکور آگاهی داشتم."

درباره دستگاه ویدئو حرف نزن

نخستین بار که پیام (۳۱ ساله) فهمید نباید در خارج از خانه درباره اتفاقات درون خانه صحبت کند، روز قبل از نخستین روز مدرسه وی بود.

"پیش از نخستین روز مدرسه پدرم به من گفت درباره دستگاه ویدئو حرفی نزنم. ما در محله خود فیلم های ویدئویی را رد و بدل می کردیم و بعضی شب ها با همسایگان فیلم می دیدیم. زمانی که بچه بودم این کار ممنوع بود. پدرم گفت ممکن است معلم ها تصویر یک دستگاه ویدئو را بکشند و بپرسند آیا کسی می داند این چیست. او به من هشدار داد که در پاسخ نگویم که می دانم این دستگاه چیست. او به من گفت: "نمی خواهم که دروغ بگویی، فقط چیزی نگو. اگر متوجه شوند دستگاه ویدئوی ما را خواهند گرفت. ممکن است حتی من را هم ببرند." نمی دانستم چرا چیزهایی وجود دارند که نباید بیرون از خانه درباره آن ها حرف بزنم، اما نمی خواستم پدرم را ببرند."

یک سال بعد برخی معلمان که از سوی سپاه پاسداران استخدام شده بودند به مدرسه آمدند تا اطلاعاتی را از دانش آموزان گردآوری کنند. در این هنگام پیام شش یا هفت سال سن داشت. پیام چیزی نگفت، اما برخی دیگر از دانش آموزان کلاس به طور داوطلبانه اطلاعاتی را ارائه کردند. "من در مدرسه خیلی ساکت بودم. حتی با این که در بحث ها شرکت می کردم، اما به سادگی با کسی دوست نمی شدم و خارج از بحث های تعیین شده زیاد حرف نمی زدم."

بسیاری از افرادی که برای نوشتن این مقاله با آن ها مصاحبه کردم، خصوصأ آن هایی که در دهه چهارم زندگیشان بودند، نیاز به مخفی کردن اطلاعات همراه با نوعی ترس بود. مصطفی چنین توضیح می دهد: "من احساس خطر می کردم، نه احساس دروغ گفتن."

باید این طور زندگی کرددو سال پیش آیدا در نخستین روز دوره پیش دبستانی خود یک لیوان آب را به سلامتی دوستان جدید خود بلند کرد. او با شادی گفت: "به سلامتی". مصرف الکل در ایران ممنوع است و این عمل وی ممکن بود به فعالیت های خصوصی خانواده وی ارتباط داده شود. عصر آن روز مادر آیدا مجبور شد برای او توضیح دهد که بعضی گفته های درون خانه را به هیچ عنوان نمی توان نزد عموم تکرار کرد. آیدا که فقط سه سال و نیم سن داشت نمی توانست بفهمد که چرا باید درباره بعضی چیزها ساکت بماند. پدر آیدا در هنگام تعریف کردن مجدد این داستان خندید و گفت: "مادرت مضطرب بوده، اما در ایران باید این طور زندگی کرد."

اوضاع در این سی سال بسیار تغییر کرده است. سقف خانه ها در ایران پوشیده از دیش های ماهواره غیرقانونی است. رژیم نبرد بی نتیجه خود را برای جدا نگه داشتن مردم از دنیای خارج ادامه می دهد. در حال حاضر رژیم در حال مبارزه با برنامه های پیام دهی و دستگیر کردن مردم به جرم ساختن لطیفه و ساختن ویدئو است.

حتی با وجود تمام این تغییرات، پیام نمی تواند بزرگ کردن و تربیت فرزند در ایران را تصور کند. "نمی دانم چگونه باید از فرزندم محافظت کنم و توضیح دهم که چرا بعضی حرف ها را می شود زد و بعضی حرف ها را خیر. تصور این برای من مشکل است."

می گویند نشانه هوش و ذکاوت فرد این است که بتواند ایده های متناقض را نزد خود نگه داشته و گرفتار سردرگمی نشود. برای بسیاری از جوانان ایران، این تنها راه حفظ ایمنی و سلامت ذهنی در زندگی روزمره است.

[1] تمام نام ها برای محافظت از هویت افراد تغییر داده شده اند