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Iran: We’re together and we suffer it together
08 Feb 2011
BY LITTLEBLACKFISH

Little Black Fish would like to share this clip of a group of Iranians in the Fars province dancing to make the best of a long traffic jam earlier this week.

It is significant in a country where music and dancing are banned social activities. When I first saw it two days ago it has some 300 views. Now with more than 10,000 views, demonstrating the engagement of our ever-growing community, it corresponds with the picture given below by a young Iranian citizen’s account of every day life in Tehran.

A report of everyday goings on in Tehran, for our friends outside the country:

“In life everyone experiences moments of loneliness — the story of being in a room full of people but feeling alone. I’m no exception to this rule, but I can say that it’s been some 18 months since I last had that feeling. In fact it’s been some time that even strangers that I meet seem familiar. It’s been 18 months that we’ve had a shared experience, that we’re all looking in the same direction, reading the same news, and it seems have the same dreams.

It’s been a long time that it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. There is something in common to be found with everyone, the most common being unemployment. I encounter people my own age who are mostly unemployed or older people who complain of the unemployment of those around them – educated and uneducated, worker and capitalist, political and non-political, like a fire that once roaring, burns wet and dry together. And for those working the inevitable question is “are they paying your wages on time?’ with the inevitable reply “we haven’t been paid for x many months”.

With unemployment out of the way, the conversation turns to the cost of living and the eradication of subsidies. Here narrative and analysis and legend are all mixed together and even the narrator can’t distinguish their boundaries. And no-one is in pursuit of the truth. It’s as though we’re drowning in a host of undesirables and our only solace in this endless ocean of disaster is in listening and telling

Beyond this, I must confess something. These days I’m experiencing a kind of freedom that I never even dreamed of. Right here in the streets of Tehran and in the darkest days of coup d’etat rule. I’ve gained a privileged freedom that even the perpetrators and supports of the coup have not encountered. Whenever and wherever I may be, I speak freely from the heart without fear of what the strangers around me might think. Never before have I had faith that those around me may think the same way as me. You can talk to anyone about the most controversial news from prisons of rape and torture, of the horrors of Kahrizak [detention centre] with the final agreement that “they’re [the regime] on their way out”. Somehow people’s empathy has transcended miles of political games. Poverty, expense, unemployment and a thousand and one difficulties have drawn us so close together that no one can break that unity easily. It may seem an exaggeration but I include military forces and police in this, I mean, you can easily stand next to a police officer and complain about the status quo and get the measure of his point of view too.

Moving on from the economic situation and politics, the next hot topic is Tehran is air pollution. As always traffic prevails, but recently I’ve noticed a new element to it, like today, as we were stuck in heavy traffic the driver said: “It’s probably the work of the people-harassing Basij [street militia]” referring to their directionless stop and search operations.

Hashish smoking among young people is so commonplace that it’s considered as ordinary as smoking a cigarette, and no-one even bothers to give good advice on it, as though it’s completely acceptable. Only the use of crack, that is the most current and cheapest substance, is considered somewhat disgraceful and that’s probably due to the negative view towards its destructive effect. Even so, every night crack addicts are visible on street corners throughout the city, their bodies showing the infected wounds of their addiction.

The number of street sellers has exceeded all imagination, though they haven’t uprooted the beggars – after all they too have something to sell, the simplest being your fortune, the famous ‘fal-e Hafez”. Otherwise there are wind-up toys, torches and digital watches, the most expensive going for 2000 Tomans (2 US Dollars). The latest CDs and DVDs can be bought at red traffic lights.

I’m not sure why, but it’s been a while since there was any talk of football, no longer considered a hot topic for discussion. Instead (comedy series) “Bitter Coffee” has captivated everyone and with each new set that comes out the talk is of whether you’ve seen it. The most popular character in the series seems to be Baba Shah, whose expressions have caught on and are used in everyday conversations. Farsi1 [a new TV network broadcasting from Dubai] and more recently Manoto [broadcasting from London] have become serious competitors. Of course Parazit [broadcasting from Washington D.C.] is as popular as ever.

Among students and young people there are two more subjects of great importance. The first is emigration, which has long been relevant, but these days it has a new intensity. The second is arrest and prison. The situation is such that there are few youngsters who haven’t suffered the prison experience — however short. Somehow the authorities have managed to take the edge off that experience too, making it normal.

The long and short of it is that it’s not so bad. We’re together and we suffer it together. People still fall in love here and I think in a country where love still exists, there is still life and hope.”

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