Category Archives: USA

Iran’s exceptional reaction to 9/11 attacks: candlelit vigils for the victims and 60k soccer fans respected a minute’s silence

“Iran’s sympathetic response to the American tragedy has been exceptional for a country under US economic siege for two decades. Only hours after the Sept. 11 attack, President Muhammad Khatami condemned it, as did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other officials have sent sympathetic messages, including one from the mayor of Tehran to the mayor of New York – the first public official contact between Iran and the US since the 1979 Iranian revolution. […]

More important, 60,000 spectators observed a minute of silence during a soccer match in Iran’s Azadi Stadium, and hundreds of young Iranians held a candle-lit vigil in Tehran.”
Source: The Christian Science Monitor | US and Iran must work together against Taliban by R. K. Ramazani – September 24, 2001

“Iranian women light candles in Tehran’s Mohseni Square in memory of the victims of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. [see first picture above] […]

Even the most hardline Islamic clerics, who despise the United States, have been shocked into silence by the attacks. President Mohammad Khatami set the tone for Iran’s reaction with a statement that in Persian rang with deep compassion: ‘On behalf of the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic, I denounce the terrorist measures, which led to the killing of defenseless people, and I express my deep sorrow and sympathy with the American people.’ […]

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the attacks which have been blamed on Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. […]

‘Why should Americans deserve this? That’s a sick thought. They are just ordinary people like us,’ said Massoud Moshiri, as he bought cigarettes at a juice stand.” […]
Source: Times.com | Photoessay | Iran mourns America’s dead – September 18, 2001

“Last week, for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution, there were no chants of ‘death to America’ at weekly Friday prayers around the country, which are controlled by the conservatives. […]

On Tuesday, Ayatollah Khamenei, in his first public remarks on last week’s attacks, markedly failed to brand the United States an enemy. ‘Islam condemns the massacre of defenseless people, whether Muslim or Christian or others, anywhere and by any means,’ he said, adding pointedly: ‘And so Iran condemns any attack on Afghanistan that may lead to another human tragedy.’ […]

On Tuesday, more than than 3,000 mostly young people held a candlelight vigil in Tehran for the victims of the terror attacks, closely watched by security forces.

One reformist member of Parliament, Ahmad Borghani, even went to the United States interest section at the Swiss Embassy on Tuesday with a wreath of white flowers to sign the memorial book in sympathy with the family’s of the victims. ‘This tragedy has brought the two countries closer,’ he said. ‘But the United States must not expect Iran to cooperate in a military attack — considering our past relations.’
Source: The New York Times | World | A NATION CHALLENGED: TEHRAN; Iran Softens Tone Against the United States by Nazila Fathi – September 21, 2001

“IRAN — President Mohammad Khatami condemned ‘terrorist’ attacks on the United States”
Source: The New York Times | US | Reaction from around the world – September 12, 2001

“Leaders of Middle Eastern nations, including U.S. foes Libya and Iran, have condemned the terror attacks on the U.S. […] Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian president, said he felt ‘deep regret and sympathy with the victims.’ ”
Source: CNN.com | World | Attacks draw mixed response in Mideast – September 12, 2001

“Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate who is struggling for power against the country’s hard-line Islamic leaders, expressed ‘deep regret and sympathy with the victims’ and said ‘it is an international duty to try to undermine terrorism.’ ”
Source: FoxNews.com – September 12, 2001

“And in Iran, Tehran’s main football stadium observed an unprecedented minute’s silence in sympathy with the victims. Iran’s Ayatollah Imami Kashani spoke of a catastrophic act of terrorism which could only be condemned by all Muslims, adding the whole world should mobilise against terrorism.”
Source: BBC News | World | Americas | Islamic world deplores US losses – September 14, 2001

“Even in Tehran, where anti-American chants are all too common, thousands of people attending a World Cup qualifying match between Bahrain and Iran observed a moment of silence.”
Source: The New York Times | US | AFTER THE ATTACKS: THE VIGILS; Surrounded by Grief, People Around the World Pause and Turn to Prayer by Dan Barry – September 15, 2001

“In Iran, antipathy toward the United States was set aside as 60,000 spectators and players observed a minute of silence at the Tehran soccer stadium before a World Cup qualifying match.”
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal | REACTION ABROAD | World grieves along with America by Audrey Woods from Associated Press – September 15, 2001

“Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has strongly condemned the suicide terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. ‘Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned’ he said ‘wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be’. ”
Source: BBC News | World | Middle East | Iran condemns attacks on US – September 17, 2001

“Last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, one of the most conservative and anti-American Muslim clerical leaders, called the fight against terrorism a ‘holy war.’ He joins a host of learned Muslims who have loudly condemned terrorism as forbidden in Islamic law in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11.”
Source: The New York Times | Opinion | Islam and the opposition to terrorism by Roy Mottahedeh – September 30, 2001

“After news of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks spread to Tehran, hundreds of Iranians, students, merchants and housewives joined in a candlelight vigil in a downtown square. Many were crying. Three weeks later, I am still approached by ordinary Iranians, in restaurants, Internet cafes and on the street, telling me how sorry they are, and how worried they are about the ‘American war’ that is about to begin, just next door.”
Source: NBC News | Inside Iran, a nation conflicted by Jim Maceda – October 7, 2001

“On the evening of September 11, 2001, about two hundred young people gathered in Madar Square, on the north side of Tehran, in a spontaneous candlelight vigil to express sympathy and support for the United States. A second vigil, the next night, was attacked by the basij, a volunteer force of religious vigilantes, and then dispersed by the police. […]

The statement that Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s popularly elected President, made was extraordinary — extraordinary to American ears, at least. ‘My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims,’ he said. ‘Terrorism is doomed, and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it.’ ”
Source: The New Yorker | Letter from Tehran | Shadow Land by Joe Klein – February 18, 2002

“Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11
A Public Call For Rememberance of the 9/11 Tragedy […]
Now, with the first anniversary of 9/11 tragedy upon us, as SMCCDI expresses its sympathy to the families of the victims and survivors of that ungodly event, and the honorable nation of America; it invites all free spirited Iranians to honor the memory of the victims of that day by gathering and lighting a candle in front of the main entrance of the Tehran university and major public squares in Tehran, and the main squares in other cities and townships, from 6:00 PM till 9:00 PM, on Wednesday 11 September.”
Source: daneshjoo.org | Post 1873 by SMCCDI Political Committee – September 10, 2002

“Finally, I’ve found a pro-American country. Everywhere I’ve gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States […]. Iran is also the only Muslim country I know where citizens responded to the 9/11 attacks with a spontaneous candlelight vigil as a show of sympathy. ”
Source: The New York Times | Opinion | OP-ED Columnist: Those Friendly Iranians by Nicholas D. Kristof – May 5, 2004

“Ordinary Iranians have long had a softer stance toward the West than their leaders; after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iranians held a spontaneous candlelight vigil in Tehran.”
Source: Chicago Tribune | News | Contenders for Iranian presidency talk up U.S. by Evans Osnos – June 12, 2005

“In Iran, vast crowds turned out on the streets and held candlelit vigils for the victims. Sixty-thousand spectators respected a minute’s silence at Tehran’s football stadium.”
Source: BBC News | Middle East | Iran-US: Gulf of misunderstanding by Gordon Corera – September 25, 2006

“Mourners held a spontaneous candlelight vigil as thousands of people took to the streets of north Tehran chanting, ‘Death to terrorists.’ Iranian soccer fans observed a minute of silence before a match with Bahrain. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the attacks: ‘Mass killing is wrong, whether it’s in Hiroshima, Bosnia, New York, or Washington.’ During Friday prayers at Qom, Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini said that the Iranian people grieved with the relatives of those killed, and the traditional slogan ‘Death to America’ was absent from the crowds’ mantras.
Source: Command Posts | Focus on: 9/11, Iran | After 9/11: The United States and Iran by David Crist – September 11, 2012

“Iranians mourn 9/11 victims”
Sources: shabhaft.blogfa.com | Post 134 and LiveLeak.com | Forgotten fact: night of 9/11, Iran – Spontaneous candlelight vigil to express sympathy and support for the American people

Other must read Iran-USA news: The other Iran | Tag | USA

” 2001/09/11, thousands and thousands Iranians went instantly in the streets with candles in homage to the victims ”
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/category/terrorism/september-11/” iranians mourn 9/11 victims ”
http://shabhaft.blogfa.com/post-134.aspx” Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11 ”
http://daneshjoo.org/article/publish/printer_1873.shtml
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=44b_1359356589&comments=1#DDqQZ5dOfJ70MPYf.99
” 2001/09/11, thousands and thousands Iranians went instantly in the streets with candles in homage to the victims ”
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/category/terrorism/september-11/” iranians mourn 9/11 victims ”
http://shabhaft.blogfa.com/post-134.aspx” Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11 ”
http://daneshjoo.org/article/publish/printer_1873.shtml
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=44b_1359356589&comments=1#DDqQZ5dOfJ70MPYf.99In Iran, vast crowds turned out on the streets and held candlelit vigils for the victims. Sixty-thousand spectators respected a minute’s silence at Tehran’s football stadium. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5377914.stm

Duluth orchestra and Iranian composer make music history

For perhaps the first time since the Iranian revolution in 1979, an Iranian composer living in Iran collaborated with an American orchestra. It was the world premiere of “Kalileh,” a classic Persian fable set to music by composer Hooshyar Khayam, performed on July by the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra (LSCO), in Duluth, Minnesota.

The story of how a small orchestra in Duluth commissioned an original piece from a young Iranian composer begins last year, when conductor and artistic director Warren Friesen needed six more minutes of music for a concert. “So I literally went into YouTube, and I put in ‘piano and strings’ and let’s see what comes up,” he recalled. Thousands of pieces did and Friesen listened to snippets of dozens of them.

“I came across a piece called ‘Stained Glass’ by a composer I’d never heard of, with this funny name of Hooshyar Khayam. […] At this point I didn’t even know that Hooshyar was living in Tehran. All I knew was that I liked his music.” The LSCO performed the piece last July in Duluth, and an unlikely friendship was born between the 62-year-old Friesen and 36-year-old Khayam.

“I was very much moved by the extreme power of the musicians in the American orchestra, who could in fact play the Persian rhythms with that accuracy and that perfection,” Khayam said. So after that performance, Khayam agreed to create an original piece for shadow puppets and chamber orchestra based on an ancient Indian/Persian fable of the composer’s choice to play this year. Ultimately, Khayam added a youth chorus into the mix.

The result is “Kalileh,” based on an ancient Persian fable of the same name, which tells the story of a jackal, a trickster character, who seeks to become more powerful by becoming more beautiful. “The opening chorus, which I love, says ‘Come, Come Wanderer, lover of leaving, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come, come.’ It’s such a beautiful invitation,” Friesen said. The lyrics, explained Friesen, are verses of poetry written by famous 13th-century Persian poets Saadi and Rumi.

Khayam said the work “for me was more than a professional commission. I personally believe that ‘Kalileh’ shows something deeper of this relation of me as an Iranian with this wonderful orchestra in America. […] I’m always searching for sort of a higher meaning than only notes to listen to. […] The most important ingredient of this collaboration is that fact that it’s happening between two countries who have had years of misunderstanding and years of conflict.”

Khayam has collaborated with Friesen and others through Skype over the past year and visited Duluth for the performances.

All USA-Iran related posts on this blog: The other Iran | USA

About Hooshyar Khayam
Hooshyar Khayam (b. 1978) is an Iranian musician. He is active as a composer, pianist, and conductor. His works are in contemporary classical, contemporary jazz, Persian/world music; and in music for film, animation, dance, and theater.

He is the finalist of the Queen Elisabeth International Composition Competition for his piano concerto Before the Dream is Over (2013), first prize award winner of Franz Schubert and Modern Music International Composition Competition for his trio I Waited for You in Rain (2011), finalist of the Mauricio Kagel International Composition Competition (2013); Winner of Culture and Music Critic’s Prize: Tehran’s best album of the year for Tatari (2007); and 4-star winner Top of the World Albums by Songlines (75th issue) for his album All of You (with Amir Eslami, 2011) as distinctive music of Middle East.

Khayam has BM in Persian Music, University of Art, Tehran; AD in Piano Performance, Trinity College, London; MM and DMA in Composition, College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati. He lives and works in Tehran as an independent artist.

About Warren Friesen
Warren Friesen on Facebook

Further read: Duluth News Tribune | Duluth’s Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra set to bridge cultures with new work

Sources: Minnesota Public Radio News, Hooshyar Khayam | Biography, Duluth Reader | A musical blowout at the end of July 2015

John Speraw, U.S. men’s national volleyball team head coach: “Iranians are wonderful people”

“My first impression was that everyone here has been incredibly hospitable. Everyone has been very nice. They have gone out of their way to make sure that we had really nice experience here. I think we have enjoyed it tremendously.”

“We had the opportunity to get out into the city one day. We went to the [Milad Tower] and learning a little more about Tehran, and I think that is good for us. We went to a nice lunch on the [Darakeh] hills. I think we wanted to do those things because I think we are all aware that the portrait of the relationship between Iran and the United States is inaccurate in the media. Probably on both sides, my guess.”

“What I know and have known from spending time with Iran and the United States both last year and this year is that the relationship between the people is not reflective of the relationship between our governments and that the Iranian people are wonderful people and have treated us kindly.”

“I think we have shown the same because America is a wonderful country with wonderful people too. Yes, it a great place, so the message we would bring back is this: it was a great trip and we look forward to coming here again. And I think we have much better understanding of what the environment is both inside the arena and outside.”

Iran coach Slobodan Kovac added: “I want to say something about this. We want to return this hospitality (Mr. Speraw said about); last year we stayed in the USA for more than fifteen days. Everything was perfect. They gave us the maximum things to prepare for world championship.”

Read all posts on this blog related to USA-Iran here: https://theotheriran.com/category/usa/

IRAN - USA -- USA & Iran national coaches at the press conference before the match

Speraw and Kovac in press conference before the match on June 19 (Photo credit: FIVB)

About John Speraw and Slobodan Kovač
John Speraw is an American volleyball coach. He is the head coach of the United States men’s volleyball team and UCLA. He was the former coach of UC Irvine volleyball program where he led the team to three national titles in six years. Speraw graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a B.S. degree in micro-biology and molecular genetics.

Slobodan Kovač is a Serbian former volleyball player and current coach. He is coaching Iran men’s national volleyball team until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Previously competing for Yugoslavia, he won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and won his first gold medal with the Yugoslav team at Sydney at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Source: FIVB | World League 2015 | News, Wikipedia | John Speraw, Wikipedia | Slobodan Kovač, TPA | US national volleyball team visited Milad Tower, Tasnim News | Photos

Interview with US Jazz saxophonist Bob Belden (first American musician to perform in Iran after 35 years)

Before the New York-based multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Bob Belden brought his band ANIMATION to Tehran, Iran, last month, it had been more than 35 years since American musicians had performed in the Middle Eastern country. Belden and his group performed to a sold-out, ecstatic audience of appreciative fans at Tehran’s Vahdat Auditorium and also got the chance to see parts of the country and meet with local residents.

Here parts of the Interview with the bands lead Bob Belden:

Did you have any resistance or other challenges from either American or Iranian officials?
BB: We never met nor saw any American officials and the Iranians officials we met and worked with were fantastic; a beautiful sense of humor, visionary, erudite and very open about our music. No challenges at any point during our stay in Iran. None! Smooth sailing from day one till we left on day nine, excepting some logistical issues beyond our control (huge traffic jams and the lingering effects of jet lag). Actually the only real challenge we had was eating all of the food that was laid out before us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The city of Isfahan gave us credit to purchase gifts to take back home.

Where did you perform and what was the venue and the audience like?
BB: We had three gigs, only one with ANIMATION. The first “gig” was at a private school in Isfahan where young kids (ages 6-14) learn classical Iranian music. We listened to them perform and then jammed with them at the end of the informal concert. The second gig was only myself and Pete Clagett on trumpet and we performed at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran during the World Greco-Roman Championships. What was significant about that gig was the group we played with: eight Iranian musicians including three women in the group. We performed the traditional Iranian national anthem (“Ey Iran”) but what made this moment special was the inclusion of women at a sporting event in a Muslim country. Never happened before. Our final gig, the gig that was our purpose for being in Iran, was held at the old Tehran Opera House now named Vahdat Hall. A classical opera house by German design, the acoustics and the sound system were perfect. The stage crew was first-rate all the way. Great gear and a fantastic Iranian-American engineer Hamidreza Maleki recorded the event.

Were the Iranian people welcoming to American musicians?
BB: Incredibly welcoming. Everywhere we went the people we met we very happy to see us and then astounded that we were musicians and then euphoric that we played jazz. The word jazz means a lot to people outside the U.S. And we did come in contact with a lot of Iranians from all walks of life. We hung out at a Starbucks in Isfahan and met a lot of younger Iranians and we ended up posing for a lot of photos with those at the cafe. The Starbucks is not official but a personal note to Starbucks in the U.S.: huge market in Iran for your coffee and brand! (I don’t drink coffee but the cafe also had tea!).

There’s a photo of the audience giving the band a standing ovation. What did the people you spoke to there say about the music?
BB: The applause spoke for everyone at the concert. We got a lot of hits on Facebook from Iran and even people from the audience posting photos and sending pictures to the guys in the band. We did not go there to find exacting understanding of what we played (this does not exist in the U.S. either) but to find a common need for expression. Everyone in the audience at the hall just enjoyed the music outright and, most important, the Ministers of Culture and Guidance were in the front row applauding not only our concert but their effort to bring us there. We all made the gig!!

What was your perception of the Iranian people’s understanding of and appreciation for jazz?
BB: There has been a gap of information as to the specific development and nature of jazz in the U.S. since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Mostly the Iranians have been exposed to Europeans as the travel restrictions were not as difficult for musicians from Europe. That is why in Europe what we did is not deemed so important. I can’t speak for an entire country’s understanding of any music so I have no real idea of their appreciation of what anyone in the U.S. calls “jazz.” But it did not matter as the music culture in Iran is very deep and is thousands of years old. So they could relate to us based on pure musicianship, beyond the contextually limited language of jazz.

Did you get a chance to interact with Iranian musicians, and if so, what did they tell you?
BB: We interacted with some kids in Isfahan and also some classical musicians in Tehran. As this was an expeditionary trip we could not meet with musicians en masse. We did play with Iranian musicians at the Azadi Sports Complex. We did meet some Iranian musicians backstage at our concerts with the promise of returning to work with and record with Iranian musicians.

What would you like Americans, many of whom have been taught that Iran is not a U.S.-friendly nation, to know about the country and its people now that you’ve seen it first-hand?
BB: Perception is easy to create. Misperception is hard to break. In the U.S., for the most part since the Iranian Revolution, Iran has been subjected to a political and cultural analysis that is always shone in a negative light. It was as if thousands of years of history were negated to a footnote and the only history we intend to maintain in the U.S. is from 1979 onwards. This myopic view is not based on logic but composed of a systemic ignorance of global culture that is enabled by a weak education system in the U.S. and intense partisan calibrations meant to maintain a dark cloak of intrigue about Iran by people or entities that have agendas not expressed in their public statements. But a country is also made up of people, actual human beings, and this is what is most important for American citizens to understand. At the human level Iranians are the same as Americans. They eat food, they drink water, they have children and send them to schools. The parents fret over their kids just as parents here. People work for a living, they go to the movies, watch TV, ride the subways or buses to get to and from work. Young women scream at rock concerts for their favorite band. The traffic is similar to Los Angeles. English is spoken openly and quite well. Street signs are in Farsi and English. Magazines are in English and there are English newspapers. They have their own Burger Kings (called King Burger!), KFCs and pizza joints mixed with traditional Iranian food. And we ate at a truck stop that was emblazoned with the words FAST FOOD. For jazz musicians the words Truck Stop and Fast Food make you homesick!!

We could not sum up an entire country’s psyche in a week’s experience inside the country. Iran is a glorious and complicated country that lives in many different worlds at the same time, from the ancient to the modern. The people we met and worked with are beautiful people by any cultural definition. Sincere charm, subtle elegance and a very cosmopolitan demeanor were common in many of the people we met. Iran possesses a graceful and pastoral understanding of Islam. What we understood from being in an Islamic country is that if you use common sense and display an open respect for others then there is no problem at all reconciling the two views.

Source: Jazz Times | Bringing cultures together in peace

Video: Impressions of US musician Bob Belden on Iran

The audience members in Tehran’s Vahdat concert hall rose from their seats, clapping wildly as the frontman Bob Belden, a fun-loving New Yorker with a predilection for loud shirts, rested his soprano saxophone on a nearby stand.

“We love you Bob!” someone shouted in English from the balcony after Mr. Belden, 58, finished his third song of the night. A Grammy Award-winning producer, composer and jazz performer, he smiled broadly. “It is an utter honor to be here in Iran,” Mr. Belden said, drawing even more cheers.

The concert last Friday was the first by an American musician in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

View Bob’s impressions on Video (Playlist: 4 short videos – keep on watching):

Officials from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance sat in the front row, nodding their heads to renditions of tunes by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Mr. Belden’s own compositions. The Iranians who filled the 1,200-seat theater clapped and cheered. They recorded video with their mobile phones of Mr. Belden and his four bandmates, who did little to suppress their own enthusiasm, waving, smiling and taking their own pictures of the audience.

The Tehran gig was the end of a short, wild tour through a country that officially considers the United States its enemy, but where people go out of their way to please guests, especially when they are American.

“This guy comes up to me, an Iranian; asks me where I’m from. I say, ‘America!’ He says, ‘I love you!’ ”

Mr. Belden said before Friday’s concert. “I tell him I’m a jazz musician. He says, ‘I love jazz!’ ”. “Everybody is nice to us here,” he added.

Source: The New York Times | Rebirth of the cool: American music makes a return to Iran

Interview with Thomas Erdbrink a New York Times Journalist working in Iran

Erdbrink, Thomas and van Broekhoven, Roel - Onze Man in Teheran

Thomas Erdbrink and Roel van Broekhoven in Iran

Thomas Erdbrink and Roel van Broekhoven, the director of the series on the Dutch television channel VPRO, answered some of your questions about living and reporting in Iran.

Q. What do you think Americans and Iranians would be most surprised to learn about each other if we could sit down for dinner in each other’s homes?
A. For starters, the Americans would learn that crisp rice from the bottom of the pot in which it is cooked is a delicacy here. In fact, Iranians love it so much that whole families fight over it during lunch, the main meal of the day in Iran.

Around the dinner table it’s all about family in Iran. Relatives come together often, especially these weeks, as Iranians celebrate their new year, which started on March 21. If they were to visit America, they’d expect food courts in shopping malls. These have also sprouted up in Tehran and other cities.

I guess what they’d learn is that, across the world, families are really not that different. They all like to sit down together, eat and talk. — Thomas Erdbrink

Q. Is there a Sunni population there or other minorities? How are they treated?
A. My mother-in-law, who taught me to speak Persian, is an Iranian Kurd. She is a proud and strong woman, loves Iranian Kurdistan just as much as she loves Iran. Kurds are Sunni, but not like Arab Sunnis. Her husband is Shia. They have been happily married for almost 38 years.

Now while there are issues for religious minorities, such as Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews, they are in much better positions compared with minorities in other countries in the region.

In Iran, those minorities have their own members of Parliament and are granted their places of worship. There are dozens of synagogues in Tehran, and thousands of Jews here — the most in the region after Israel. — T.E.

Q. How does an average Iranian feel about Jews and Israel?
A. Iran’s leaders often call for the end of Israel, calling the country a “tumor” that needs to be removed. They are against Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. But Iran’s leaders almost never speak out against Jews.

Why would they, as Iran is home to the largest population of Jews in the Middle East after Israel? Where Jews have left most other countries, thousands have remained in Iran, where they are not persecuted. Ordinary Iranians have no specific ideas about Jews, though some Iranians might have the same prejudice you would hear elsewhere in the world.
Continue reading the main story

The policies of Israel are, however, widely despised here. Many Iranians might not feel drawn to Arab issues, but last summer’s war in Gaza turned many moderate Iranians against Israel. The speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress also made many Iranians angry, as they heard him trying to undermine the nuclear deal that so many people here are hoping will happen. — T.E.

Q. You try to bring perspective in our view about Iran. How do Iranians look at our Western society? Is there any perspective, despite the government-controlled media?
A. Over the past decade, riding a wave of technological changes such as the wider availability of the Internet and satellite television, and inexpensive travel, Iranians have become more in tune with the world. Many Iranians in the cities are up-to-date on the news, the latest music and trends. Generally, Iranians know that in the West, contrary to what many here believed in the past, the streets are not paved with gold. Still, state television is the largest medium in the country and has the widest reach. Its broadcasts are often anti-Western and highly ideological. — T.E.

Q. Have these reports been vetted/censored in any way by the Iranian authorities?
A. No, there was no censorship, nor were the films vetted or seen before they were first broadcast on Dutch television.

We worked with a local production company. They organized permission for us to visit the places and people we were interested in. Sometimes they told us some locations or people they didn’t want us to come and film, or it was impossible to visit.

On the whole, we were pretty free to film whatever we wanted. There was no demand to see what we did film, or to show them the edited material in advance. Of course, Thomas has been living there long enough to judge what stories we could tell. — Roel van Broekhoven

Q. Are you free to discuss anything you want with friends and acquaintances? Do they share their views on politics, government, society, religion freely with you, or is there a culture of fear?
A. Step into a shared taxi here in Tehran and your fellow passengers will start talking about everything, from the weather to the effect of the sanctions to their opinion of the president. People talk very freely here, in small groups. There is no culture of fear. But that definitely doesn’t mean that everything can be said, all the time, not only politically, also culturally. — T.E.

Q. Is there a start-up or tech community in Tehran? What are entrepreneurs like?
A. Yes. There is the Tehran start-up weekend, which brings together tech entrepreneurs. Iran has a large number of highly educated engineers, some of whom are doing quite well in tech. Iran’s Amazon is called Digikala. There is Fidelio, a restaurant guide, and many more. — T.E.

Q. Can Iranians have Gmail accounts? Can artists do business w/Americans?
A. Google still blocks its business email accounts in Iran, as part of American-imposed sanctions. The answer to this question is written on such an account, which I can only access using software that makes it look as if I — an employee of an American news organization — am actually online in San Jose, Calif. For artists, there are no restrictions, but credit cards are blocked under U.S. sanctions, as are international bank transfers. — T.E.

Sources: New York Times, Nrc.nl, Image: VPRO | Programmas | Onze Man in Teheran

Meet Our Man in Tehran : Dutch New York Times Journalist in Iran

Erdbrink, Thomas - www.lindanieuws.nl (image)Dossier: Thomas Erdbrink
Date of birth: Jan. 27, 1976
Hometown: Leiderdorp, Netherlands
Lives: Tehran
Education: B.A. in journalism, Hogeschool of Utrecht
Employment: Tehran bureau chief, The New York Times

Life Experience: I moved to Iran in 2002 and I’ve been married since 2003 to Newsha Tavakolian, a well-known Iranian photographer and artist. In 2008, I became the bureau chief for The Washington Post, where I was succeeded in 2012 by Jason Rezaian, my colleague who has been jailed without charge since July.

When I tell people that I have lived in Iran for 13 years, they’re often shocked. How, they ask, can one live in a country where angry mobs roam the streets denouncing Westerners, burning flags and shouting “Death to America”? Are you not afraid?

No. I am not.

Iran is more modern, livable and friendly than some portrayals would have you believe. The country’s modernity goes beyond symbols, such as the number of skyscrapers in Tehran, or the fact that Porsche sells more cars here than anywhere else in the Middle East.

Dutch New York Times Journalist Thomas Erdbrink - Iranian photo journalist Newsha Tavakolian

Dutch New York Times Journalist Thomas Erdbrink – Iranian photo journalist Newsha Tavakolian

In the time I’ve been living and working here, Iranian society, under the influence of the Internet, satellite television and inexpensive transportation, has undergone fundamental changes: Iran became an urban country, with 70 percent of its people living in or near cities. Illiteracy has been almost wiped out. More than 60 percent of university students are women. More than 150,000 highly educated Iranians leave the country each year. The Internet, though censored, is widely available, as is software to get around those censors.

I live here with my wife and our cat in a three-bedroom apartment in a 26-floor residential building, constructed before the 1979 revolution by an American company. Newsha has been my guide to this complex society, and she continues to be my most important critic. I have made many Iranian friends and I learned to speak Persian, which makes it easy for me to get around in this city of 12 million. And though I am married to an Iranian woman, I am a Dutch citizen and my visa is good for only six months at a time.

I am an accepted foreigner, but I am a lonely foreigner, too. Iran is a very isolated country and there are only a handful of Westerners living here.

After four years of requests to the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture, the same office that allows me to work here as a correspondent, I received a special permit to film for five weeks a documentary series with the Dutch director Roel van Broekhoven for the VPRO network in the Netherlands. The reaction to the series in the Netherlands, a small, liberal European country whose citizens enjoy looking beyond its borders, was overwhelmingly positive.

Iranians are used to foreign media portraying their country as sinister — from the movie based on Betty Mahmoudi’s book “Not Without My Daughter” after the 1979 revolution, to Ben Affleck’s Academy Award-winning film “Argo.” People here — especially those in power — would rather showcase the country’s natural beauty, ancient culture, hospitality and great food.

“Why doesn’t the West understand how nice we are?” one Iranian official asked me. “If only they see our beauties they will love Iran.”

Iran has some very impressive sights, but for me the real attraction is its people. You will meet some of them in this series as we examine together complicated issues that illustrate how Iran is slowly changing.

Related article: The other Iran | Newsha Tavakolian – Iranian photojournalist

Sources: The New York Times | Meet our man in Tehran, Thomas Erdbrink’s Photo: Linda.