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Reports about Iran mask very different reality

(2012-02-28 16:13:16)
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杂谈

分类: 国际评论
Reports about Iran mask very different reality
Global Times | February 27, 2012 20:20
By Wang Wen
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http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/697648/Reports-about-Iran-mask-very-different-reality.aspx 

If a friend reminds you not to randomly take pictures in Iran, especially of Iranian women, he is mistaken. If a Western report sees Iran as a repressed, closed nation, then it is also mistaken. If you come to Iran expecting stereotypes gleaned from friends or Western reports, then you are gravely mistaken.

I made a grave mistake on the first day I arrived in Tehran earlier this month. I did not take a single picture of the Persian beauties around, until four fashionable girls in bright-colored clothes sat next to our lunch table. After five minutes of hesitation, I asked them whether I could take their picture. They immediately assumed elegant poses, smiling for the cameras.

This was just the beginning of our love affair with Iran. At one point, a pretty female diplomat welcomed us. Praised for her beauty, she smiled and joked in fluent Chinese: "Should I introduce you to an Iranian girlfriend?"

Within the first day, I found my knowledge about Iran was nearly completely wrong. In Iran, I noticed 1984 sold in a small bookstore. Is there more thorough criticism toward an authoritarian society than this book?

Before leaving for Iran, a young female scholar in our visiting group asked Mahdi Safari, the Iranian ambassador to China, about the color and style of the head covering she should wear in Iran.

The ambassador responded with a smile: Whatever kind of covering is fine, as long as it is worn to show your respect. In Tehran, wearing a covering is merely a habit - it conceals neither the colorful clothes and ornaments worn under the black robe, nor the passionate hearts beneath conservative appearances.

After the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were no female singers, bars or karaoke in Iran. The entertainment industry and night life in Iran have been greatly shrunk. Even in Tehran, the most open city in Iran, bodily contact between men and women is completely forbidden, including handshakes. Adultery theoretically can lead to the parties being garroted.

But according to locals, people do not suffer sexual repression. Temporary marriages are legal. If the couple agree, the marriage can last merely one or two days, as long as the man is Muslim, and the woman is single, divorced or a widow.

An Iranian diplomat told me candidly that there are prostitutes in Iran, "We are cracking down on prostitution. But you know, that's part of humanity, and is thus difficult to eliminate."

Indeed, Tehran has no night life, but people are not lonely at all. Romantic entanglements are as frequent as in other countries.

A friend told me that one-night stands are common. As a result, private clinics run a good side business performing illegal abortions, and sex goods sell well.

It is not that Iran is suffering from social deprivation, but that there are too many external stereotypes about this allegedly extremely conservative, dull and isolated country. Words like romance, elegance and passion, usually used to describe France and the US, also apply to the Iranian society.

Such descriptions echo through history. At Isfahan's Chehel Sotoun Palace, frescoes of semi-naked women have existed for more than 400 years. In Iran, a tourism book about this country has a Persian beauty decorating its first page, with the caption reading: "What is Iran? It's the fervent heart beneath women's black mantillas."

Going through Iran's history, one would find that such reserve is actually key to the Iranian personality.

In the past millennium, Iran was occupied or invaded by the Arab Empire, Mongolia, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire and Russia. But despite all these obstacles, their civilization, script and national culture have never halted to grow vigorously.

In that millennium, Iran's surrounding civilizations, including ancient Egypt and Babylon all fell apart, while Iran has endured. With this in mind, I believe we will not be overly confused when discussing Iran's position as the only regional power standing against the No.1 global superpower.

The author is an editorial writer and chief opinion editor at the Chinese edition of the Global Times. wangwen@globaltimes.com.cn 

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