Day 1 In Iran
Our Organizing and Political Director, Paul Kawika Martin, has just begun a 2 week journey in Iran, below are the reactions/experiences from his first day. The purpose of the trip is to build connections between Iranian and American people, in spite of the looming threat of a U.S. attack on Iran based on a variety of absurd pretenses. Read about the very real threat of U.S. use of nuclear weapons on Iran and sign our No War with Iran petition today to help us stop this escalation and expansion of war.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation selected 24 delegates with diverse backgrounds for our 13-day trip to Iran to practice citizen diplomacy.
Our first taste of Iran started on the state-run Iran Air we flew from the United Kingdom. The old 747 gave us more leg room than the fancy Virgin Atlantic seats with personal screens and entertainment center we flew from New York city. By law, all women over the age of nine must wear the hejab – garments that only leave the hands and face uncovered. Iranian women do this in two ways. The chador covers the body like a black tent. The other perhaps more fashionable option includes a scarf, manteau (similar to a trench coat) and pants. Of course, all the female flight attendants wore the proper covering. This, along with Iranian candy, food and tea would be the things you would notice compared to a U.S. flight.
My next taste of Iran occurred during a one-hour walk of the streets of Tehran where we engaged in three conversations with Iranians. As the women in the delegation shopped for scarves and manteaus to cover their heads as the law demands, I took a walk with two of my fellow delegates, Ross and Rudy.
Walking amongst the 14 million in Tehran, three young women walked by saying “hello.”
As three tall white men, we stick in a country with few westerners. Shiva, 17, and her two sisters, around 21, exchanged short pleasantries perhaps because they wanted to practice their English. A few minutes later, Shiva chased us down to offer us hot fava beans that street vendors cook during the cool weather. After our thanks, she went back to her sisters. With curiosity as a motivation, Shiva found us again to find out why we traveled to her country. Impressed with our peace mission, she told us that she continues to study biology and her sister majors in agriculture.
All the while, Shiva’s sister would fix her hejab as it kept falling off her head.
I felt a bit nervous because although enforcement is becoming less strict, women are forbidden be with males other than their husbands and family.
Shiva did most of the talking, maybe she spoke the best English, maybe she felt most comfortable pushing the envelope of Iranian law. Most of all, Shiva wanted us to tell people in the United Stated to love Islam and God and that often people hold misperceptions about Islam.
Our other two shorter conversations were with men. While, I only know a few words in Farsi, many of our encounters included the conclusion of disagreement with the Bush administration bad and peace is preferable. In this hour, I felt very welcomed by Iranians.
I will write when I can during our busy schedule and send when limited access to the Internet allows. Tomorrow we will meet with the victims of chemical weapons – supplied by the U.S. – during the Iraq/Iran War.
Paul Kawika Martin