Saturday, May 26, 2007

Shirin Ebadi, Human Rights, Women, and Islam

On May 16, a fundraising event was held in honor of Shirin Ebadi and Her Excellency Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa in Rutgers University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Shirin Ebadi, the famous lawyer, Nobel laureate, and human rights activist, spoke after dinner. There was nothing new in what she said, nor was anything new needed. However it is time to draw up a balance sheet of Ebadi’s ideas and philosophy just to make sure that every bit of the fruits of her efforts is preserved.

In the aftermath of the announcement of the Nobel Committee that Shirin Ebadi had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I lost a good night’s sleep over it. No, not because of the excitement due to the honor which as an Iranian woman I felt, and not because I was thinking about how many qualified Iranian women were in fact honored along with her, but because of the difficult situation she was in. Following the announcement, the news broadcasters qualified the decision by singling out her claim that Islam is perfectly compatible with human rights and as a result with equal rights for women. I rolled over all night thinking where she came up with this idea and how this important thought had been overlooked by the keen eyes of many zealous Muslims who cared to portray Islam as such and many other human right activists who did not want to alienate Muslims. I tried to foresee the arguments she would come up with. The day after and the day after, all the way up to the day of the ceremony and her acceptance speech and her book’s publication and beyond, she presented no argument beyond appealing to a moderate interpretation of Islam. The compatibility of human rights and Islam has remained nothing more than a bare claim.

While I respect Shirin’s religious faith and applaud her effort to democratize it, I’m still hesitant to be too optimistic about the fulfillment of all her claims. In her speech at Rutgers, which was in fact a summary of her book, she revisited the issues of women, gender, politics, democracy, Islam, religion, culture, etc. All were backed up with not more than a very few cherry-picked examples. No arguments were given which would stand up to the present audience’s questions, let alone the ruling conservatives of Iran, the zealous clerics in the seminaries in Qom, or, on the other hand, any feminist movement.

Ebadi claimed that the problem of gender discrimination in the Middle East is not Islam’s problem. How? Very simple. One reason she gave was that the non-Islamic countries still have gender discrimination: The United States does not have enough women in its Senate and Congress or as cabinet minister and so on. The second reason was that the discrimination against women is not the same in all Islamic countries. Neither of these arguments was carefully enough examined to be of any use in bolstering her claim. The Islamic countries she mentioned, where the women enjoy some sort of equality, are multi-cultural and multi-religion nations. Of the countries identified as Muslim nations which are not being regressive towards women, Bangladesh and Pakistan still inherited the multi-cultural essence of their original motherland India. Similarly Malaysia and Morocco are all very much affected by the non-Islamic cultures that they were in close contact with.

On the other hand, Ebadi’s examples of non-Islamic nations with gender problems turn the table around. So if it is not Islam, then it should be the culture! Well, is she ready to accept the challenge? Does she mean a women-loving culture which produces Nizami’s Haft Paykar, Saadi’s ghazals, or Hafez’s Shakheyeh Nabat, or, for that matter, Ferdowsi’s women, has produced all these discriminatory laws towards women? I simply suggest that she read Vis o Ramin, a celebrated medieval love narrative unique in the literature of the world, and judge it for herself. And if medieval Iran is too unrealistic, I refer her to the resumé of thousands of Iranian women from her own generation and even older who have emerged from a wide range of backgrounds and were nurtured by the same culture which she tries to blame.

She then made an analogy between gender discrimination and hemophilia, arguing that women are only the carrier of disease, which is passed on to her son without ever being affected by the disease herself. This analogy was well-received with laughter and applause; however, it remains an analogy and should not lead us to any conclusions. But even if we do draw conclusions from it, does she mean that we, the women, are responsible for the maladies we are facing? I hope not!

Then what? Well, there are still problems. She mentions some: stoning law, divorce law, child custody law, polygamy law, travel permit law, honor killing law, blood money law, and etc. Where are these laws from? Of course these are all shariat, but the conservative version of the shariat. Ebadi believes that there is a milder version of Islam which does not advocate any of this, though she is not very clear on its operative system and how or by whom these mild interpretations should be implemented. Ordinary people? The elite clerics? Those who have a hold on jurisprudence?

There is no use for interpretations if they are not done systematically and are not institutionalized. This includes the permissibility of interpretation by non-authorized clerics or laymen. Any new version of reading and interpreting religious texts needs to be brought under an umbrella of what in other religions is called a reformed version of that religion; and still we should remember that the reform movements won’t eliminate religious orthodoxy, i.e. if the modern version of Islam does not permit certain kinds of punitive acts it does not mean that act would be abolished. Still, a fully-established and well-recognized reformed branch of a religion needs to go through the processes of empowering, legitimization, and entrenchment in order to be of any use; and the political power structure, the majority of legislative and judiciary bodies, should adhere to that branch of religion to make it effective.

A reformed Islam is passed overdue. Like any other religion, Islam has to face such an unavoidable destiny. However, like all its predecessors, the movement needs to come from and within the faith. Post-Vatican II Catholicism and Reform Judaism both developed from within their respective original faiths and texts. The reform within these religions were not just a mere interpretation of texts or the insertion of reformed ideas into these religions, but a close examination of the texts and reading, teaching, and advocating this close examination and, more importantly, challenging dogmas and being prepared to be challenged. It is the third factor which we need to emphasize, though we cannot ignore the importance of the first two, which requires a huge amount of courage and dedication. We, as a Muslim nation ruled by Islamic laws, need to go a few extra miles. Except for one short aborted and native movement, Babism-Bahiism, and an even more fleeting one launched by Kasravi, there has not been any serious major or minor attempt in any established way towards reform in Islam in recent centuries. We all are familiar with their bloody fate which was no better than that of the medieval Sufis or those very few other medieval movements, all labeled as heretics. Conservatives have had quite a tight control over the laws and the parameters of religion, and any digression is suppressed with great severity. The definitions of ertad, blasphemy or heresy, are so broad that they could bring down just about any reformist claim very easily. I’m surprised how Ayatollah Sane’i or President Khatami or Ayatollah Montazeri and the late Hojatoleslam Salehi Najafabadi were not formally charged with this, though each one of them has been pushed into the same dead end corner.

Once a friend of mine, an Iranian physician who had come back from a conference in Beijing, told me that in the conference, a Vietnamese surgeon asked him about the current state of health and medicine in Iran. My friend, caught by surprise, told him that the state of our medicine is like our traveling—we travel by airbus and jumbo jet as well as by donkey. What do you do in Vietnam? The colleague answered that there they only travel by bus. I thought about this anecdote as Ebadi was talking in Rutgers. Women rights, human rights, etc., in Iran move from one extreme to the other. While one woman in one part of the country gets stoned for adultery, the government allegedly provides another place with an official house of prostitution. While one woman is battling in court to divorce or for child custody, another gets millions of votes and becomes the head of city council. While one hundred sixty thousand women are getting arrested in just two days for bad hejabi, our activists in the UN are fighting against the stoning law which had been applied in the rarest of cases. And while clerical reformists are advocating and arguing over the legitimacy of the enforcement of hejab as unsubstantiated law, our feminist activists boycott the election which would have placed them in power. We are truly the land of “broken mirrors” and it is not easy to see our true faces and I have no idea with what certainty Shirin Ebdi points to the sources of our problems in our culture; it is a gross oversimplification indeed.

Ebadi equates human rights with woman rights and considers this equation as the key to the process of democracy in the region. Of course the fate of many issues, at least, in Iran, is tied directly to women: democracy, human rights, reformism, and peace. However, reducing human rights and democracy to women’s rights is another oversimplification; and looking for a shortcut is even more of an underestimation. We have the examples of Communist [pdf] China or Soviet Russia which were far from democratic; and human rights violations were not less than in many other places. Still formal gender equality was maintained, although there is still a wide range of domestic abuses in both countries. To focus on “women rights” in accordance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights not only won’t help the women’s movement in Iran, but is a severe distraction, while emphasizing justice as a major tenet of Islam will lead us to unavoidable means of equality to maintain that principal. Why not ask for the given? Women have enough in their power to ask for the justice which includes equality. Twenty-five million voting ballots are nothing to be ignored; let us use them for a possible change!

So much emphasis, no matter how well-meaning, on the heartbreaking, suppressive, and misogynistic sharia laws not only won’t do any good, but is counterproductive. For those of us living in the US or Europe, it is a constant battle and a waste of energy just to wipe out the stereotypical image of “the battered, abused and backward Iranian women” which is bestowed upon us by well-meaning activists. Recently, a young Iranian writer told us that a publisher would reject her novel unless she revised it. The problem was with the male character in the book, who was a loving, caring father and did not abuse the heroine of the novel. The publisher bluntly told her she could not sell a book in which the Middle Eastern female character is not abused by a father or brother or husband in the States. A female friend from Pakistan, a very accomplished journalist, was asked to write her memoirs. She finished, but it was rejected. Why? She was too strong, too professional, not abused, and was too successful prior coming to the US. These are just a very few example of what this negative portrayal could do to us.

We as Middle Easterners expected to be particularly grateful for any show of favor from our “betters.” An Iranian women friend in France who received the honorary Légion d'honneur award from the European Parliament in Strasbourg for her services to refugee women in France refused to have any public celebrations, and was harshly criticized for this. The female French activists expected her to be especially grateful for receiving such an honor since she herself is a foreigner, indeed the first foreigner to receive this award. One of the services she had performed was creating a very simple language teaching method suitable for illiterate women who need to speak French to make living in their host country. Ironically enough, Shirin Ebadi’s book fall as a victim in this way as well. Her book was the only book written by a Nobel Laureate which did not received the publicity which it deserved. It never got in the display windows and the desks of the bookstores, Why? It should be clear by now...

Our activists, such as Ebadi and Mehrangiz Kar, could be more valuable to the human rights, women rights, and democratic movements if they could separate the domain of their activities. Lectures in American and European universities and campaigning in the UN against some isolated cases of stoning which is an extremely unusual and rare practice which the Islamic Republic has executed only few times and in remote and backward regions of the country which are largely out of the central government’s control, a practice which the ruling clerics are either against or embarrassed by, is a waste of time and energy. This could very easily be solved within the Iranian judiciary system and by some local advocacy. The conditions set to make the claim, to prove the case, to testify to it, to judge it and to implement it are so difficult, bordering on the impossible, that not even one case of stoning should ever happen. When we get access to a platform in the UN, why waste it on such an isolated case rather than campaigning for something which affects us all in a more vital way, such as the freedom of press, or the condition of prisons, the hejab, or unwarranted searches. In all these cases not only do we have the international community on our side but the people, many progressive clerics, and above all our kind and generous culture. The international community will not and can not help us to defeat the suppressive sharia laws, but our tradition and culture does.

Campaigning on the employment of women, encouraging their activities in various NGO’s, training young Iranian lawyers to work as volunteers in various parts of the country, for example, would be a more positive move and would be welcomed by Iranian women. With some forty million women in Iran, of course there are hundreds of horrifying stories which could be found (as everywhere else in the world). Taking them as a norm or representative and posing them as typical not only won’t eliminate those individual problems, but in many cases hinders our progress.

What worries me the most is the impact such advocacies will have on the Iranian women’s situation. I’m also worried about wasting the limited energy we have and losing momentum. I’m worried about exhausting ourselves by going on wild goose chases. I’m worried about missing opportunities. It had happened to us several times and it might happen again. What I’m worried most about is losing our morale. The outcome of constant confrontations and constant failure is nothing but demoralization; and when it is coupled with the unfair image of “battered Iranian women,” exaggerating the strength of our adversaries and underestimating our own, nothing good will come of it. And above all, making a vicious circle out of our problems and turning them into a cluster of pain is just a prescription for suicide rather than a way out. Instead, a little encouragement and a positive self-image will do wonders. Harping so much upon laws which none of us are likely to confront in our life, such as how if a woman is run over she receives less compensation than a man, or how two women count for one man as witnesses, are good for putting our law books in order but do not meet our immediate and everyday needs.

Being able to have a relationship characterized by mutual respect without being threatened by assault is more our concern. Having self-confidence and self-respect is more essential for obtaining and demanding our rights, and millions of wonderful laws in the court’s library cannot take the place of such things. The young women who run and got elected in even religious cities like Arak or Ardebil as the head of the city council were not worried about how much blood money they might receive if they were run over. What they needed was the vote of the majority of people who would trust them and respect them and believe in them. Fortunately, they received even more than they had asked for. The culture which Ebadi blames as the source of our problems is fortunately on our side and loves us and adores us. Let us hold on to it and be good to it. It has been very good to us.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Iranian Friendship

The best thing about Iran is its mothers and the second best thing is its friends. I do recall years ago I met a client of mine, a fashion designer who, when she noticed I’m Iranian, told me her ex-husband was Iranian too. I tried to find something appropriate to say, considering her bad experience, when she continued that although he was not a good lover and husband, he was her best friend and still is. I felt relieved when she continued that not only was he such a good friend, but his family and particularly his mother were such amazingly loving people. That was not an isolated incident and it was not the comment of only one individual. It never surprises me to receive that kind of acknowledgment. The impact that this particular aspect of culture has on our life had never lost its high value to me.

My trips to Iran would not be so exciting if friends were not part of them. Not only the old ones; classmates, college buddies, neighbors, and colleagues, but new ones as well. Those I met just few years ago in conferences, in meetings, in concerts, in parties, and occasionally in art exhibits. I go to Iran mainly to visit them and talk with them. Whenever I return from these trips, I feel a little awkward to explain my happiness just by saying “I was with friends.” Even my husband, who is so familiar with Iranian culture and tradition, has a hard time to grasp the concept of “wonderful times” in terms of just being with friends. My recent trip was very special to me since I had few reunions with old friends.

I met few of my high school friends in a restaurant for lunch after some forty years. They all were married and some of them had grandchildren. All of them were professionals, physicians, chemists, sociologists, environmental scientists and biologists. (We were all in the Natural Science School. I was the only one who left the field for the humanities and the arts.) The most impressive aspect of it was the fact that we all came from very modest lower to middle class families. We all attended a local public school which did not have a library. There was no public library available (the Library of Parliament was the only public library in Tehran at the time) and believe it or not we did not even have laboratories at school. Our parents were mostly involved with various problem of life with not much time to tend to our needs. There was no entertainment either. Sports facilities were non-existent and books were such a rare commodity that if anybody had one we would all borrow it and pass it around. A book which was borrowed would never return to the original owner, it would have gone through so many hands that it would have been impossible to trace it back. I do recall once my brother borrowed two volumes out of three of Anna Karenina (second volume missing). Being such a lengthy novel we could not wait for any of us finish the entire book, so we divide it and passed it around and read it and shared our portion with each other; and since we could not locate the 2nd volume we had to guess that part of Tolstoy’s writing. It did not even occur to us that we were doing something that we were not up to: to fill up the gap in Tolstoy’s novel.

In our reunion, we all remembered that novel which probably was our first one to read on seventh grade. We remembered even each other shoes or dresses; we remembered our exams and even the mistakes we made on our exams. We remembered very well that none of us knew where we were heading; none had any role model except our female teachers. There was not that much ahead for us to follow; our mothers were very different than us; all they knew and insist on was that we study and study.
However we had each other. Talking to each other was the second big luxury and entertainment next to “contemplating.” Now that I think about it, I feel how fortunate we were. It was just between these luxurious activities that we discovered and formed ourselves as well as we could. There were some errors as well, such as when Nahal and I both decided we were tall enough so we should never need to wear high heel shoes. I’m 5' 3" and Nahal was 5' 3.5".

I met some of my friends from our old neighborhood. We lived in a neighborhood called “Chaharsad Dastgah” means four hundred units. This neighborhood prided itself on a few things. The most important was its small triangular clay soccer court which was the birthplace of Iran’s National Soccer Team. Almost every member of the team was trained in this humble court which was not made for this purpose but had been usurped by soccer loving youth of our community.
We all gathered in the weekend place of one Armenian friend. Lots of friends were there. It was so exciting to see those old friends who had changed by now. However, after fifteen minutes they were all transformed into what they were just forty years ago, only a little grayish and wrinkled. We talked and recalled the good old days. My brother was talking about my mini mini skirts which apparently was a favorite topic in some circles, when Fariborz, a famous soccer player in National Team arrived and asked whose skirt was short? Mina’s? When? We all laughed. He would drive me to and from work for three years and never noticed my exposed legs? I did not know if I should be flattered or insulted. I decided to be just nostalgic for the passed days of honor and trust, for the days that we were the guardians of goodness, the days that not everything was “me” and not every end was “my feeling,” but the days when we took pride in our discipline and restrictions.
It was so touching that Mrs. Habibi, the pretty wife of captain of our National Soccer Team still remembered, not my legs, but the name of the movie we saw together: My Fair Lady.
A visit to the cemetery was also an achievement on my part. I had avoided it during my last two visits back home. When we buried my father there in 1972, the cemetery was new. Now it has turned into a huge green park which is the eternal home for some dozen more beloved. It was not exactly the same as visiting the friends, but visiting the loved ones, who did not wait enough for to see our better days and departed untimely (is there any good time for that kind of departure?) would bring a feeling of grief mingled with feelings of liveliness. It tells us to extend our love and affection we had for them to those who are still around. Lots of aimless love was hovering in the cemetery. I manage to gather a bag full of them with me to share with others who are still with me.
Among those I visited, was the grave of a handsome young man, Aman Teymori, the only son of my friend Eftekhar. He was killed in an accident caused by an avalanche just less than three mounts ago. At his grave I was filled with dismay and grief, more so than over any of the other losses I ever encountered. I did not even dare to suggest his parents to share that love with others; it was too cruel, although, I learned they have not wasted any time and bonds of love are already established between them and the survivors of one of the ski resort keepers who died trying to save their son. (
Besides the mothers and friends and the landscapes and parks, taxi drivers should have a proper place as a contributing factor to the beauty of Tehran. Yes, what would a city be without them, those temporary “friends” who patiently drive us from one part to the other part of the city safely, in the city that some ninety percent of drivers do not like to use their turning signals, those who can give us the most accurate information about any place we want and those who—I do not know how—remember all those labyrinths of northern Tehran, those who, when they finally take us to our destination would tell us “ghabeli nadareh” meaning their service is not worthy of us, we do not need to pay. Most of the time they are just being polite, but it still feels good. They are mostly very educated and well informed and also very political. I think the kind of free zone that we enjoy in every taxi owes its freedom and independence to these brave, outspoken and intelligent drivers. One can talk to them about any subject. Not only the most accurate news is being broadcast in their little kingdom, but also one gets pampered like never before in adult life. They stop without nagging so you can buy a bouquet of flowers or an ice cream if you want to. They can even stop at the bakery and pick up some fresh bread for you. Once they take you somewhere they remember it for the next time, and they go out of their way to leave you on exactly the same side of the street, even if it means driving few blocks back and forth; all these while carrying on a conversation about the elections or the candidates’ qualifications for office.
In this trip I also met several interesting drivers, whom I can never forget. One of them, Ali Akbar, while driving my to the dentist, talked about the blessing of having children. When I told him I do not have any, he turned back and said, “You sound as if you have so many, you sound as if all the children in the world are yours.” I wanted to cry. The man did not even know me, but sure he listened and did not give me a usual cliché response. I look forward to seeing him on my next trip. Do not be surprised; in Iran, personal relationship does not have a fixed boundary.
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My Seventeen Day Trip to Iran

My seventeen day trip to Iran ended peacefully and nicely. Those of my friends and families who were nervous can breathe now. No nuke was dropped, mini or otherwise, no air strikes of any sorts whatsoever. People were happy, life was going on, and it was business as usual.

It was after some thirty-five years that I saw Tehran in the Spring. I think it is one of the most beautiful cities now. A network of highways, trimmed with amazingly colorful landscaping, has wrapped the city like a handsome basket of flowers. I hope the metro project expands quicker and some part of current traffic would move underground so one can enjoy the surrounding better.

There was not any sign of anxiety on the people’s part over the various US threats against Iran. It seems that people are getting used to this kind of rhetoric and do not take it seriously. I think the Islamic Republic in general, and the government of Ahmadinejad in particular, has desensitized the people to the point that even taxi drivers, who are always ready to comment on political and social issues, were quieter.

All over the city every quarter of a mile big, well-designed banners were hung, with a simple message: “ Ettehad-e-Melli, Ensejam-e-Eslami”—National Unity, Strengthening of Islam. It is the first time ever since the Islamic Republic was in power that the ruling authorities so openly appealed to Iranian national identity prior to its Islamic identity. Something like this had been done previously on a number of occasions; even Imam Khomeini appealed to Iran’s 2500 years of history to encourage people during the Iran – Iraq war, and every so often the clerics conveniently remembered that we have a history prior to Islam, but there had never before been such a campaign for Iranian national unity.

I did not hear even one word about the enrichment of uranium or atomic energy. It was as if such things did not exist. Instead I heard almost everywhere about Dehnamaki’s Movie Ekhrajiha (The Outcasts). Some thought it was very funny. Others did not see it because they considered Dehnamaki himself to have been a thug who was trying to reinvent himself. Some thought that making a big box office hit does not mean anything. Some thought Iranian movies are very derivative and that even its humorous aspect is not creative but is taken from other comedies.

However, there was another big hit movie, not funny at all, Khoon bazi (Blood Sport) by Rakhshan Bani Etemad with brilliant acting of her daughter Baran. The film was about the drug problem and what made it more interesting was that Bani Etemad had discussed drug abuse among the upper-middle and upper classes, unlike the customary idea which considered it as a poor and lower-class problem.

Of course the subject of Islamic veil in the month of May is always the top issue and this year it was there in its full display. It was the headline of newspapers, under the various titles of “bad hejabi” or “shol hejabi” (bad or slovenly veiling). The difference this time was that the head of the police department took it upon himself to deal with this issue as a kind of crime. It was on his top agenda to curb bad hejabi. The police had arrested one hundred and sixty thousand offenders in the first two days, and finished processing only forty thousand of them. The government was under attack from various sides, including clerics. The most popular argument was based on two premises. One was that those who are considered as bad hejabis are the legitimate children of Islamic Republic, i.e. the Islamic Republic had been incapable of instilling into its own people the mode of behavior it wanted to enforce and therefore said it would not work and to give it up. The second argument was a matter of priorities. Did the government deal with other more pressing issues? Did it bring the oil money to the people’s table? Did the government fulfill its promises? Is the hejab the most important issue at this time? However important as all these arguments are, no one expected to receive an answer to any of them. People just hope that they would be heard.

Noushin Ahmadi

While we are at it, I should say luckily the last two woman activists (related to the campaign for one million signatures) were released. However Noushin Ahmadi and Parvin Ardalan, who had been freed on bail, got jail sentences.

Parvin Ardalan

My two trips to my favorite place, book shops, were wonderful. I bought a lot of books. I do not want to make you eat your heart out, but I bought a whole bag of books for less than one hundred dollars, lots of fiction and non-fiction. Have you ever bought any book for less than one dollar? I do not mean to be wicked!

I would like to mention one important issue to the publishers. There is no clear indication on most, indeed practically any, of the books that they are fiction or non-fiction. I noticed Amin Maalouf’s Garden of Lights was translated as The Life and the Philosophies of Mani, the Iranian Prophet. This book is fiction and it is a great injustice to the Prophet of Manichaeism and the author if the reader takes it as a historical work. There were so many books of these kinds. Another important issue is the customary short biography of the author and the blurb which are totally missing. I hope some one pays attention to that.

Food was great as usual. However, I wish people would eat less meat. I do not understand how such political people would consume that much meat. Just consider that eight pounds of grain should be used to produce one pound of meat. Please, please, please people of Iran, vegetables are wonderful. Eat them!

Also regarding food, the bad news is that cooking, which was considered a pride of the Iranian household, is now passé. No one cooks any more. “Take outs,” “orders,” and “reservations” are in.

This was my third trip to Iran. Whatever I saw was so accented with love and tenderness that it was difficult to find something to nag about. Even when the government’s off and on gaffs cause such uproars, one is more impressed by those energetic and courageous protests than the government’s foolishness. I for one cannot stop myself from choosing the best. I notice the uproars.

With all my naïve optimism I came across two defects that I could not ignore. One is Iran’s tile works. The country which is one of the oldest ceramic and tile art centers and has produced the magical monuments in Isfahan, is doing so poorly now. Even in the expensive houses of north Tehran, one gets very disappointed when walks into the bathrooms. Should we blame it all on Afghan’s refugees [pdf] who are the major body of construction workers?

And the final defect I find was the Almond. Yes, the Almond! My generation can remember very well that one table spoon of its bitter oil was used to clean our systems every so often and even sometimes as a threat and deterrent. Yes the same nut which for centuries was used to describe the most beautiful eyes is not such an Iranian commodity any more. In the nut shop there were three piles of almonds. Two of them are very attractive, all the same color, large and elegant shaped almonds, the third was of mixed sizes and colors and none looked like almonds. I asked the shop keeper what was the difference. He pointed to the two attractive ones and said they were American almonds and that the crooked mixed ones were Iranian and tastier. Well guess what, they were all bitter or tasteless as hell. If you go to Iran, even if you want to patronize Iranian products, avoid almonds.

Everything aside, the Alborz Mountain, covered with snow, still stands there majestically.

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