We are just back from a fantastic day. Memories of our first days in Iraq almost 6 years ago strike us as we walk the streets. Medea and I share a tiny room with twin beds, also similar to our Baghdad hotel, but no call to prayer at 4 in the morning outside our window.
I came down from the bedroom this morning for breakfast and we were swept away and now just returning at 10pm. It began when Rostam Pourzal arrived to learn what we wanted from our trip. Immediately he was on the phone with friends. Habib Ahmadzadeh soon arrived. A filmmaker who tells the story of war.
He told us we were too literal when we hear “Death to America or death to Israel”, that they are really calling for an end to the policies of the US Gov’t or Israeli Gov’t that seem very much like apartheid in South Africa. He said that a majority of Iranians are anti-war, he repeated what I have heard so many times from Iranians, “We aren’t warlike, we don’t invade people, we only defend ourselves.” He talked about his mother’s heartache for the American Soldiers who died in Iraq, she lost a son in the war and can feel the grief of those mothers. We asked him about Obama and he responded, “He is a walnut, inside a shell and unknown. But history has taught us how little an individual can do, and that we need to learn how to rely on ourselves.” Medea asked him about Afghanistan, and said that US Ambassador James Dobson, at a recent seminar in Congress, said Iran was funding the Taliban. Both Habib and Rostam laughed, “Taliban are the worst enemy of Iran, worse than the US. The say that if you kill 7 shi’ia you go to heaven.” We went to his offices and watched a powerful film about the cost of war to everyone, The Night Bus. It takes place during the Iran/Iraq war. I was in tears almost through out, he unflinchingly exposes the costs of war to heart, mind, spirit and soul...nothing heroic or beautiful about war. Very different from American war films. He says there is a movement in Iran to turn weapons into pens, or ways to communicate. That is why he makes films. He then showed us a short about the USS Vincente shooting down the Iranian Airliner with 266 people including many women and children, 8 below the age of 2. We never apologized. He works to heal the wounds on both sides. Powerful worker for Peace. He was in the military for many years and suffers from wounds of chemical weapons until today, so he also works with a group against the use of chemical weapons and the support of those who are in need and suffering from their effects. What a big hearted wise man. In his attempts to show us his films there were technical difficulties and he laughed that Americans thought Iranians could have nuclear weapons, they can’t even get high speed internet or get video equipment that works.
At 7pm we were off to a beautifully manicured Park, full of women and college age students with a café called the house of the artists. The café was rich with conversation and everyone looked as if they were a poet or an artist. A nuclear engineer came over to find out who we were; exclaiming that he was educated at Cal State LA. I asked him how close they were to a bomb. He laughed. Said it would be a very long time.
Soon our table was full of amazing women. Women who work for peace, most were about our age, had grown children, had suffered in someway for being outspoken but still fearless. Their faces were full of joy and life and the conversation was at a pitch for hours. We began to work on our project of asking Iranians what they would like to tell Obama. The filmmaker Rakhashan Bani-Etemad sat in the garden with Medea for about 15 minutes of filming with the camera in the hands of Habib. The generosity of everyone is overwhelming, their time, their stories, their passion....we can’t even pay for a meal. Tonight the students from Miles for Peace who bicycled across the US came at about 11:00 to beg Medea for time to take her to see their Iran. They also told us about their plans for a friend to swim the Persian Gulf for peace, and an agreement they have for the US Soccor team to play the Iranian soccor team in April and then 50 Iranian/Americans to come to Iran and bicycle across Iran as they had done across the US.
There is so much more but I am exhausted. Sending love,Jodie