Tag Archives: Foreigners in Iran

German broadcaster, DW’s Dan Hischfeld, shares his experience in Tehran, Iran

The taxi ride from the airport to the center takes about an hour. The first thing you notice is that something is missing. Even the rush-hour traffic lacks the chaos that we know from Arab countries and from mega-cities such as Bangkok or Mumbai. No weaving cars or pedestrians risking their lives to get to the other side of the street. Everything seems somehow European. […]

Friendly and helpful
Most of the population is under 30. They are not afraid of contact with strangers and welcomed me, the visitor from the West, with an openness and friendliness that would surprise even a well-traveled globetrotter. Strangers on the street invited me for tea. Someone offered me his mobile phone – me, a foreigner who had obviously got lost – so I could call my hotel. He even rang an acquaintance that spoke a smattering of English and might have been able to help me.

Tehran is a modern metropolis where I quickly felt at home. […] But I soon noticed I was in an Islamic country too. The subway carriages are divided by glass doors into male and female compartments – and of course I got in the wrong side! No problem, I just switched to the men’s section. But another passenger told me that hardly anyone paid attention to the segregation of the sexes in the metro anyway and that nobody got upset when someone sat in the “wrong” place. In fact, it’s a sort of protest.

Tradition and progress

There’s also a measure of public protest as far as Islamic dress code is concerned. In public, women in Iran have to wear the “hijab,” a kind of headscarf, or the black “chador,” which covers the entire body – only the face is left exposed. But I saw only a few women all dressed in black. And even the headscarf, which is supposed to cover the entire hair, tends to be worn in the capital as a scarf. If the religious police show up, then they say the wind has just blown it down.

Young women in particular love to wear pink jeans and modern-cut clothing. Tehran is undoubtedly a modern metropolis. And, although it seems quite normal to me as a European to see women sitting behind the wheel of their cars, compared to other Islamic countries, it’s quite progressive. In Saudi Arabia, a woman driving without special permission can be punished by caning.

Propaganda and censorship
Strolling through the city, I was enchanted by the beautiful ornate houses and palaces from the time of ancient Persia. Here I got an idea of how magnificent this country once was. But the people impressed me most. They have a huge interest in world events. Although anti-American propaganda is on walls and billboards everywhere, most people in Tehran think differently and talk openly in the restaurant in the evenings. Thanks to satellite TV (which is actually prohibited, but somehow everyone has it anyway) and the Internet (whose government firewall censorship can be circumvented in just a few clicks), many Iranians now have their own opinions on world events, corruption and politics.

Tourism as an opportunity
This country, where I encountered forests, deserts, beaches and high mountains, is just waiting to be discovered. In Tehran, for example, I took a cable car to more than 4,000 meters above sea level and experienced what climbers call “altitude sickness.” In any case, a week was far too short. For this country, you have to take your time. Or maybe just come back.

Source: DW | A trip to Tehran (Photos in the article)

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

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.

Italian jazz pianist Stefano Battaglia performed in Iran

The two-part rendition by the famous Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia and the renowned German clarinet player Ulrich Drechsler saw music fans fill the hall leaving no vacant seats.

The duet, performed Saturday night, in the international section of the festival at Tehran’s Rudaki Hall, had the audience mesmerized for the high quality musical by the two virtuosos, IRNA reports.

Read more what Ulrich Drechsler said about Iran and Iranians here

Sources: Italian Embassy Tehran, Financial Tribune, IRNA | Photos

 

Austria-based German clarinet virtuoso Ulrich Drechsler: “I like Iranians for their kindness, politeness, and hospitality.”

Austria-based German clarinet virtuoso Ulrich Drechsler attended the 30th Fajr International Music Festival in Iran.

Austria based German clarinet virtuoso Ulrich Drechsler

Austria based German clarinet virtuoso Ulrich Drechsler

“I am addicted to food. When I came to Iran and a friend took me to a restaurant in northern district of Tehran and had kebab with a taste of saffron, I was in high spirits,” Ulrich Drechsler told the Persian service of ISNA on Sunday.
“Pomegranate juice and saffron ice cream, these are incredible and awesome. You make use of a variety of spice and vegetables in your food. I think I would own a restaurant in Iran if I could come back to this world once again,’ he exclaimed.

He continued that this is his second trip to Iran and hoped to return again in spring or summer.

“I have only stayed in Tehran during these days and have got to know only a little part of your culture. My friends have shown beautiful places like the Music Museum of Iran, and I was surprised to see such numbers of Iranian musical instruments,” he stated.

“I must say that the main thing in my life is my family, then food and after that music. I have fallen in love with Iranian life and the Iranian mentality,” he stated.

Drechsler also noted that he has got familiar with Iranian traditional music through works of Kayhan Kalhor, the famous Kamancheh (knee fiddle) player, and is a big fan of his works. He believes that music in Iran comes from the heart of the players so the factor of emotion “is so prominent in it.” Coming for the second time to Iran, he said, “I like Iranians for their kindness, politeness, and hospitality.”

Ulrich Drechsler and Italian jazz pianist Stefano Battaglia have given two performances at the festival, which will come to an end on February 20.

The Iranian audience was highly entertained by a series of lullabies that Ulrich Drechsler performed at his concerts during the festival.

All posts about Music and foreign musicians in Iran on this blog:
https://theotheriran.com/tag/music/

Sources: Financial Tribune, Tehran Times