Iran: history, country and people. George Clark 16th November 2020

George told us that, in the past, he had vis­ited sev­eral areas along the ’Silk Road’ but had never been to Iran.  When he  told his family and friends that he was con­sid­er­ing a trip to Iran they were unhappy, because they thought that it was a dan­ger­ous place for British, Europeans or Americans to visit.

They said, “You might be arres­ted and put in gaol.”

However, he found that Iran has lots of his­tory and the people he met were really nice, but that they thought that they had a “shit gov­ern­ment!”

Some people think of Iran as Persia but the Iranians don’t agree.

It is the 17th largest coun­try in the world (636,000 square miles) and a pop­u­la­tion of over 80 mil­lion, of which 99% are Muslims.

It is part moun­tain­ous, where the rich go skiing, and part desert, which is very arid but greens up when the rains come.

In about 1000 B.C. Iranians migrated  from their home­land into Medea on the Caspian Sea in the north and Persis on the Persian Gulf in the south.

In the 7th Century B.C. the Persian tribes in the south were uni­fied and in 549 B.C. they conquered Medea , fol­lowed by Babylon in 539 B.C., and the first Persian Empire, stretch­ing from Pakistan in the east to Turkey in the west, was formed.

Cyrus, the con­queror, stated, ”I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, power­ful king, king of Babylon and the four quar­ters of the earth.”

Respect the tra­di­tions, cus­toms and reli­gions of my Empire.”

[Was this the first declar­a­tion of Human Rights?]

There fol­lowed many inva­sions and battles and dyn­asties until in 1979 the Islamic Revolution installed Ayatollah Khomeini.

In 1980 — 1988 Iran -Iraq War, inva­sion of the US Embassy, Nuclear Proliferation and Treaties and inter­fer­ence in Middle East polit­ics all led to the situ­ation in today’s

Iran.  This explains why George’s friends think that Iran is not a friend of the U.K.

The Government of Iran is in layers.  The first layer is elec­ted by the elect­or­ate

(but a can­did­ate cannot be elec­ted unless the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader in the second layer agree!)  This means that nobody gets the chance to be elec­ted by the elect­or­ate unless the sit­ting Government agrees — hardly demo­cratic!

The elect­or­ate, in gen­eral, are not happy with Government because of the Economy.

The Economy depends on oil and gas, but sanc­tions mean that they cannot sell it so the eco­nomy is going down the tubes.

The aver­age income is 40 dol­lars a month, but the mul­lahs are get­ting richer as the pop­u­la­tion gets poorer.

The lan­guage spoken is Farsi.

Women can vote and are allowed to drive and are better off than those in sur­round­ing coun­tries but they have to wear a hijab? when they go out.  They can marry at age 14.

George’s trip star­ted in Shiraz in the south.

(This is where the Shiraz grape came from but alco­hol is banned for Muslims!)

He trav­elled north through Yazd and Isfahan to Tehran.

He saw a Paradise Garden — Paradise comes from ‘para­didi’ which  means ‘walled garden’.  (The gar­dens are so beau­ti­ful in an arid desert area that the word came to mean ‘heaven on earth’.)

He vis­ited a mosque — women were allowed to enter and wor­ship but they had to be dressed so they were covered from head to foot.

In the desert he saw the extens­ive ruins of Persephelis? which were in remark­ably good  con­di­tion, prob­ably due to the desert cli­mate.  The city was des­troyed by Alexander the Great.

The rest of his trip included:

A fish farm in the middle of a desert!,

A temple where the inhab­it­ants take their dead up to a Tower of Silence, which is a  crater on a hill top, where the bodies are left for the birds to pick clean,

A quad­rat irrig­a­tion system of shafts dug down to the water table to tunnel water to fields.  The farm­ers have to pay a water tax.

Tehran is a desert city but it has a Paradise Garden, a bath house and National Bank of Iran, which is full of mag­ni­fi­cent jew­ellery.  However, air pol­lu­tion in Tehran is ter­rible because of the dens­ity of traffic.

George was keen to stress that the food was good although pork is for­bid­den.  He had meals in people’s houses, in res­taur­ants, from street vendors and from pic­nics provided by the drivers.

At all times he felt free to wander and safe to speak to the people he met, which is why he encour­aged us to try a trip to Iran.