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My Encounter with Iran

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Message Karla Hansen

My Encounter with Iran

American poet Carl Sandburg wrote succinctly on the topic of encounters in “Choose”:

            The single clenched fist lifted and ready.

            Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.


            For we meet by one or the other.

Mainstream media in the United States portrays Iran as the raised clenched fist and misguidedly, the masses buy this distorted picture as gospel.  For the past six weeks I have met, dined, danced, cried and laughed with Iranians.  I am a short fifty-plus, blue eyed American woman who has yet to feel any fear or unease on Iranian soil. 

Accompanied by my Iranian born husband, I have privileged access to many experiences not available to most visitors. Traveling with a camcorder and camera, I record the universal human stories that unfold before me.  I will carry home to Des Moines, Iowa, a portrait of Iran quite different from the narrative depicted by the mainstream propaganda machine powered by the U.S./Zionist/military alliance that has a stranglehold on America.  I am no longer polite about bluntly naming bullies.  Our world is unraveling at a frightening speed and I have lost what little patience I possess expecting that governments will change unless a mighty roar is heard from the people.

My journey took me from Tehran to a small Kurdish village near the border of Iran and Turkmenistan, where I was royally welcomed as the first American to walk the simple mud paths winding through the homes, courtyards and livestock quarters. And, where I received a great honor as the village men invited me to film the exclusively male ceremony celebrating the engagement of two promising young villagers.

A myth that has been dispelled in my experience is the one that holds Iran is a ‘police state’.  I witnessed police and military presence in the three multi-million populated cities of Tehran, Esfahan, Mashad, as well as five mid-size cities and numerous villages.  The police presence is primarily used for traffic control because frequently two lanes turn into three as cars ignore the painted lines on the road and then along comes a family of three on a single motorcycle and the two lanes of traffic fluidly becomes four.  In such situations, I expected to see clenched fists, or at least hear harsh shouts.  However, travel seems to survive on quick beeps of the horn, with the drivers remaining calm and matter-of- fact, and then return quickly to conversations with passengers. 

From Tehran to tiny tribal villages, I have been greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm, despite decades of U.S. imperial offenses that have touched the lives of each and every Iranian.  Misty-eyed I apologize at each new encounter for these acts of aggression, including the ongoing economic sanctions of nearly thirty years.  

Tens of thousands Iranians at Imam Square surrounded me for President Ahmadinejad’s  April eighth visit to Esfahan. Arriving very early, the police and armed forces took special care of me, allowing me to film the speech and escorting me to a special place on the fence that separated the men from the women.  I am still pondering how very calm I was during the entire five hours, a sea of black chadors lapped against my feet dangling from the fence.  Reportedly the square can hold two million, and I saw not a smidgen of grass in the standing room only crowd.

I recorded all of the President’s speech and was amazed at the accuracy reported in the English version of the Tehran News the next day.  President Ahmadinejad speaks with a resolute diplomacy that reinforced my previous assessment of him, when I was in the audience at two events in New York City last September.  His statements regarding the roots of war as greed are right on target and, of course, the military, industrial complex of the U.S. and Israel are loath to admit he is courageous for speaking the truth, for that would entail looking into the mirror. 

President Ahmadinejad repeated this insight shared in last year’s address to the United Nations  “We think the time for the atomic bomb has come to an end.  The bomb is not effective.  We have passed that time.  We have entered a new era, the era of thought, humanity and culture.  Those who have atomic bomb arsenals or want to build a new generation of them, in my opinion, are people who are politically backward, period.” 

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Karla Hansen, MSW, LISW Private therapy practice in West Des Moines Iowa. Peace and social justice advocate. Married in 2007 to Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Ph.D., author of "The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism" Will visit Iran, Spring 2009.
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