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.