Sajjad Kargili is a freelance journalist based in Laddakh. He can be reached at skargili[at]gmail.com.
Most of the people have their own experiences and perceptions about Iran. Some of them believe that Iran is facing tremendous hardships and crisis. While some people are of the opinion that hardliners have total control over socio-political setup there and nobody has the freedom to challenge their authority. They also think that women enjoy little or no freedom in the various walks of life.
The first thing I noticed on my arrival in Tehran was something heart-warming. A beautiful sight of women holding their purses while men carrying children in their laps. It was a picture of Tehran I never heard and saw before. For a while I was taken back. I spoke to cab driver and other lady passenger in the car on some women related issues. She was a student wearing jeans and draped in a long Chadur (Iranian version of Burqah). When I asked her about the opportunities for women in the country, she said they a special park for women in Tehran, where only women can go and enjoy. They can enjoy games, swimming etc.
Not just in Tehran, same kind of parks, gym centers exclusively for women are found almost in every city of Iran. She said something interesting that struck me. In Iran, she said, even woman has right to divorce her husband if she has serious disagreements with him. I looked out from the window of the car and saw a poster where a woman was holding a picture with slogan “Death to Israel”. It was a poster about a women conference on Islamic awakening in Tehran. In Iran, seminars and conferences are regularly held on women rights, where Iranian officials including the supreme leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenaie show up. I asked a gardner in Tehran about the possible attack on Iran from west and his reply was interesting. “Any attack on Iran will strengthen the unity again and Iran will go on 79s position,” he said.
One of the most beautiful things that left an impression on me was the grave yards of the martyrs who laid down their lives during the Islamic revolution. People visit there, pay respect to the martyrs, pray for them and leave back. This is something I have never seen in my own country. I found the graves well maintained. There are some grave of the unknown martyrs which are named “Shaheed e Gumnam Frzand e Khumaini” (unkown Martyr son of Khumaini). I saw pictures of some Iranian revolutionary guards in the posters in almost all signal lights on the roads titled “Shohda e Shabaniya”( martyrs of the Shaban ‘Islamic month”).
The Indian and Pakistani students have the unions in Qom (the holy city) where there are more than 15000 foreign students in the Islamic seminary. It’s interesting to know that the translated versions of almost all newly published books are available within a month in Iran. People in general and clerics in particular watch the Indian movies. Even on Iranian official television channels, Indian movies are dubbed into Persian and telecasted. In Mashhad I found a lot of Amitabh bachan and Salman khan fans .
I saw in people utter hate for Taliban, Saudi kings and Israel. They are blamed for the ills plaguing world in general and Muslim world in particular. Iran, on its part, seems ready for the any possible attack by US/Israel. I saw some effect of sanctions on Iran but it is not in a way as the world media portrays it .The corruption level in the private and government sector is very minimal. The sense of patriotism among Iranian youth is very deep. Iran cannot be compared with Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore I must say the future of Iran is bright and the influence of Iran in Middle East is also very deep rooted.