Greetings from Tehran

This is a guest post by HP’s Iran Correspondent

You might be interested to learn that Harry’s Place is being blocked here. I had no problems viewing it a year or so ago, so it’s a recent development. On the bright side, it must mean that someone considers you to be a threat. I can’t get the BBC website or any of the British newspaper websites either. The BBC Persian satelite channel is being jammed although we’re still getting the English language BBC World.

Something really interesting happened yesterday. I went to Dar Band, an area high in the north of Tehran full of tea houses and ‘Chello Kabob’ restaurants where young people go to drink tea and share ‘ghaliun’ (the ‘hookah’ pipes). Ghaliun was recently banned by the regime here, ostesibly for health reasons, but in reality because it was a social focal point for young people of both sexes to meet and interact whilst sharing the pipe. Recently they have reappeared, albeit illegally. The tea houses now call them “G’ and list them as such on their bills.

My children and I were taken to one of these tea houses restaurants, by my aunt. All around young people were sitting on the raised platforms covered in rugs high in the shadow of the Alborz mountains. My kids don’t speak Farsi (and my Farsi is pretty rudimentary) so the neighbouring young people soon heard our English conversation and turned and smiled at us. What was remarkable was how freely they were willing too discus the state of affairs in Iran. They didn’t have any hesitation in criticising the regime and in particuar Ahmadinejad, Kamenei and Rafsanjani. They told me that some of them had been demonstrating, chanting “Mubarak! Ben Ali! Now is the turn of Kaminei!”.They also wanted me to tell them what was being said about Iran in Britain.

One of the things that stood out was just how much shame they felt about Ahamdinejad. They told me that it was humilating to them that such an uncouth, ignorant and scruffy person was representing their country.

The most remarcable part however was as we were leaving. I was paying the manager who sat behind a desk at the entrance of the restaurant, as is common in Iran. Above him were the ubiquitus portraits of Khomeini and Khaminei. He noticed my son staring at them. “What’s he looking at?” he asked abruptly. Careful to avoid causing offence I explained in my poor Farsi that they didn’t know Iran too well and he was just looking. “Tell him” the man said, “That that one is Khomeini; he is dead. The other is Khameini. Soon inshalah he will be dead too.”

I’ve been coming to Iran now, every year or so, for many years and this was the first time that I’ve heard people speak this way, in public, to strangers.

Perhaps things might change here soon. Inshalah.