Saturday, November 22, 2008

Medea's Blog Day #1 Iran Citizen Diplomacy

Medea Benjamin November 22, 2008

DAY ONE in Tehran
What an extraordinary day! After arriving at our hotel in the middle of the night, I woke up early raring to go. Our hotel is in a great location downtown, and I took some time before our meetings to buy some beautiful crafts in the nearby stores and chat with the storeowners. After a hearty Iranian breakfast that included delicious tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh eggs, cheese, yoghurt, flat bread and mouth-watering olives, the “work day” began for the three of us—myself, CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans and Col. Ann Wright.

Our first meeting was with our dear friend Rostam Pourzal, who works with the anti-sanctions group CASMI. Rostam used to live in Washington DC, but moved back to Iran recently. Thank goodness he came to greet us, because it turned out that the government person who was supposed to set up our schedule today didn’t show up. So Rostam filled in the day for us with an amazing variety of activities and meetings.

First, he brought over a filmmaker, Habib Ahmadzadeh, who works on films that deal with the Iran-Iraq war. Habib took us out to a delicious lunch in a typical, old Persian restaurant where we ate scrumptious lamb, eggplant and kabobs. Then we went to his office, but along the way he stopped to show us the old, abandoned U.S. Embassy. It is now surrounded by murals with anti-American slogans—a stark reminder of the harsh rhetoric emanating from both governments.

In a screening room at his office, Habib showed us one of his beautiful films called Night Bus. It chronicled a fictionalized story that reflected Habib’s own odyssey as a teenage soldier during that war. An 18-year-old Iranian soldier ends up being in charge of transporting 38 Iraqi prisoners of war from the battlefield to an Iranian base. During the adventure-packed ride full of agony, betrayal and bonding, the Iraqi and Iranian men discover their common humanity. We were all weeping when the lights came on, and had a long discussion afterwards about the futility of war. Habib also showed us a short docudrama about the 20-year anniversary of the July 3 downing of an Iranian commercial airline by a US navy ship in which over 200 people died—a terrible tragedy for which the U.S. government has never apologized. There are so many sad pieces of our history that most Americans are unaware of, but that make us seem so callous in the eyes of the victims…

From there we went to a refreshing artists’ park, replete with a beautiful sculpture exhibit, art stores, and a café/vegetarian restaurant inside. Most of the people milling around looked like—and were—painters, writers, playwrights, filmmakers and poets. It was a cultural oasis, with conversations buzzing inside and outside. We added to the animated atmosphere by having a table full of people coming and going to meet and greet us. Most were called by Rostam, but a few—like a nuclear engineer Jodie met—just came by out of curiosity (yes, the pink does stand out). Among those joining us for tea was a famous woman filmmaker named Rakhshan Banietemad, a woman who runs an eco-tourism company, a producer of plays, and several women who work for peace.

We were so thrilled by the conversation that we asked if any of them would be willing to be filmed. We decided that it would be great to ask Iranians from all walks of life to comment on what they would say to Barack Obama if they had the chance. Some of the women were afraid to be videoed, but Rakhshan, who was in a more secure position because of her prominence, agreed. So with the help of Habib as cameraman, I interviewed Rakhshan about US-Iranian relations and what could be done to move our countries toward a more peaceful path. With so many incredible connections being made, our tea turned into dinner (which the Iranians refused to let us pay for) and we didn’t get back to the hotel until about 9:30 pm.


But it turned out that the day was not yet over. At about 10:30pm, while I was checking email at the internet café, two of our dear young friends from the group Miles for Peace showed up. It was great to reunite after our time together in Washington DC. They are so bubbly, so hopeful, so creative, so loving. We heard about some of their upcoming ideas for youth exchanges with the US—soccer matches, swimming the Persian Gulf (!), a bike trip through Iran with 50 Iranian-Americans. All such terrific ideas. We will meet with the larger Miles for Peace group tomorrow evening.


Reflecting on the days’ events, I was struck by how much more open Iran is than I had thought. Yes, we have to wear headscarves and long coats, but that seems so unimportant --although I must say that I feel very claustrophobic covering my head all day. (During lunch at the restaurant, Rostam told me I could take the scarf off, but about 20 minutes later some men came to complain.) I have been comparing the atmosphere here to that of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and here it is very different. People in Iraq were afraid to speak out against Saddam, people in Iran aren’t. We heard criticism of the government while we were still on the plane. Then in customs, when an official asked our guide why we had come to Iran and she replied “trying to make peace,” he laughed and said, “Not with this terrible government of ours.” The taxi drivers complain; western-educated elites complain, businessmen complain. While most wouldn’t want to be filmed venting against their government, they talk to us in an amazingly open fashion, barely looking over their shoulders to see if anyone is listening. I suppose I shouldn’t jump to conclusions after one day, but the atmosphere is much more open than I thought it would be, and that in itself is reason for hope.

33 comments:

CODEPINK said...

How I would love to be there!! My mouth is watering after reading your descriptions of the meals there.

Is it cold?? I brought home an Iranian film that was depressing called "Leila". Ask your Iranian acquaintances what they think of it.

Zahra Sharifi said...

Medea Benjamin, you're one pathetic sociopath. You want to hate your own stupid country so much, you go right ahead but mess around with Iran and Iranian? I don't think so. Haven't we had enough of Ramsey Clark where now, you, his whore puppets are in there fluffing up the Mullahs? Who the hell do you cultural imperialist cow think you are? You want real hospitality? You ain't seen nothing until you get a full frontal view of what the Mullahs do to us Iranian women you spoiled twat. Meanwhile, you won't mind if we broadcast some of your photos to our friends and family in Iran so that they can come to spit in your face, in Tehran, would you? I mean since you stole the photo of innocent Iranian women and changed the image around, photoshopped some lies on there and shamelessly put it up...I think the women in Iran deserve to know who is aiding and abetting their oppressors, don't you? I mean, hey, if you scream for transparency in your own country, then you damn well better want the same in ours...but you won't because you WANT to keep our women downtrodden because that's what colonialists like you do.

Takekaze said...

Congrats Code Pink

Just when I thought you folks can't get any lower I'm proven the opposite. Wonderful.

Just for the notes:
The Iranian regime has been executing people because they are homosexual. Such "criminals" are usually hung from a crane without the mercy of what's called the "long drop" (which breaks the convicts neck within a split second).

The Iranian "justice" system has passed the death penalty to a woman who killed a man who wanted to rape her in self defense.

The Iranian regime allows a penalty called stoning, which is usually used on women and usually for "crimes" such as adultry (it has to be noted that getting raped also counts as adultry and if the rape victim fails to produce several male witnesses who confirm her story, then she is subject to execution by stoning as well, that's how islamic "law" deals with it.)

The Iranian regime doesn't allow free speech.

The Iranian regime doesn't allow real democracy.

The Iranian regime, which came to be under Khomeini many years ago, doesn't allow religious freedom (just like all the other islamic countries.)

The Iranian regime has supported terrorists in the past and still supports them

The Iranian regime wants to start a new Holocaust by wiping Israel off the map.

Khomeinei, the "great revolution leader" who is still worshipped by the regime, once wrote that a man can have sexual pleasure even from a baby.

That's the people Code Pink enjoys consorting with.

Congrats.

By the way. Citizen diplomacy?`I'm sorry, but I have to crush your bubble. The Iranian regime won't give a damn about what you do. And it's quite easy to figure out why:

1) you are infidels
2) you are women
3) you are Americans

So, summing this up, you're pretty much the worst creatures on earth for a "good" muslim. As an infidel you have no rights, as a woman you have no rights, and as American you're pretty much Satan anyway.

Has anyone of you ever read the koran or the haditha? It's all in there. Kill all infidels. Don't trust infidels. Don't take infidels as friends. Woman is an acre. Etc, etc.

Again, congrats. Congrats for falling even lower than you've already been.

PS: and no, Islam doesn't mean "peace", translated it actually meas "submission" and inside the "Islamic Sphere" peace is only available for muslims. All the others are called "dhimmis", and that status brings higher taxes and lesser rights. In front of a sharia court my word is only worth half of the word of a muslim, since I'm an infidel.

Lovely friends you have, Code Pink.

DMartyr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
HipsterVacuum said...

Zahra, good for you. Medea is a worthless attention starved whore who never met a tyranny she didn't want to suck off and serve as a useful idiot. Her and the whole Code Pink lot are a deranged bunch of fascist-loving pigs. Whores all of you, Code Pink! Praise and admiration to Zahra Sharifi!

Elric66 said...

Did you get to see any homosexual executions while you were there?

Winston said...

stay in Iran. Don't ever come back you imbeciles. You idiots will love it for the couple days u r there. Otherwise you would hate it if they made you to stay there. But I say you should stay there for a year and feel how terrible it is to live in Iran. God, I hate you Code Pinkies.

Winston said...

when many Iranians can get a full meal, these idiots eat off the people's oil money and rant against the country that has given the freedom to travel and be idiots. How sad! Code Pink makes me puke

What is "Occupation" said...

Please enjoy your trip...

Don't tell them you are friends of Israelis or Zionists...

They will hang you after gang raping and torturing you.

You are IN Iran... congrats..

The President? A historic mass murderer..

Think of that fact when you meet with him...

How many 10's of thousands of children did he personally send to be human mine sweepers?

I doubt you care...

But please don't ask about Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi you could care less....

Please enjoy your hosts....

The persian people HATE the government of Iran even more than you hate Buh....

We have a word for you all...

useful idiots...

Michael said...

You don't just hurt the prospect of peace, but you feed the propaganda of Iran against its own people who suffer, while you get to go back to the wealthy, freedom filled, equal opportunity country you hate that defends hypocrites like yourself.

My wish is that we could trade three Iranians for the three of you. Then you could spend of you lives in Iran as subjects of that regime.

tweedburst said...

Benjamin, Evans and Wright are living, breathing examples of the banality of evil. Utterly brain dead, selfish monsters.

Blazer said...

Wow ! The hypocrisy of leftist idiots never ceases to amaze me.

You dingbats scream that America is evil and fascist, Bush is taking all of your freedoms away, and then you jet off to go blow every third world dictator, despot or murderous thug you can get your wrinkly old lips around.

How about keeping it real for once, while your there Medea and protest an actual murderous regime that oppresses its people for real and holds them in bondage?

Yea, that's what I thought.

You wrinkled old tratorous gas bags don't have the spine or the gumption to do anyhing of any actual worth or relevance.

Morally and spiritually bankrupt and totally divorced from reality the whole lot of you.

David C Beach said...

Code pink is children playing, they have no idea what they are doing but they love the attention. In the end when there actions have led to the death of many like Jane Fonda they will accept no blame and just walk away. Leftists only learn by repeated ass kickings.
David C Beach

chautauqua said...

Diplomats and other international experts encourage the spread of a peaceful world by coming to know the people in countries where we have poor or no relationship.

Reading the comments so far, it appears the crazies are coming out of the wall. If these three women can manage to go to Iran and learn from the Iranian people directly what their life is like, what they think about their government, and what they think about our people and our government then I'm very interested in reading their full reports. All three of these women are well travelled, well read, and know lots of sophisticated professionals. They represent an outspoken, activist group of antiwar women and, in Col. Wright, an experienced, courageous diplomat who has provided continuous support to a long list of American military struggling for fair treatment from our government.

So I want to hear everything they have to report. And the personal slams against them diminish those who use them including any opinion they manage to convey. The threats against them are outrageous. These three women carry a message of peace. I cannot respect the actions of any government that abuses its people. The three women, strong human rights advocates all, will likely find multiple ways to make their opinions known to Iranians.

Americans do business with loads of countries with governments with human rights abuses (China). As we become more of a presence there, pressure grows to reduce the abuses because they're out in the open far more.

Let's keep a dialog going here and keep it reasonable.

David C Beach said...

I have talked to the code pink girls and I assure you they are not helping anything other than themselves. As for crazies coming out of the wall your the only one. Dialog that!

LaFajita said...

Apparently the Shah still has a fan club somewhere.

What is it about peace and social justice that brings out the worst in some people?

Love your country like a child, and your country will behave like a child.

Love your country like an adult, and perhaps - just perhaps - it will behave like an adult.

Zahra Sharifi said...

LaFajita, you only get to offer opinion when you've experienced what Iranians experience you fascist westerner. Screw the Shah and Khomeini and YOU whose mind is so small and chip on her shoulder is so large. If you don't know WHAT THE HELL you're talking about and just want to support the Code Punk then you go ahead but don't you get all socio-political chesty with us about something you know nothing about you twit. Peace? In Iran? When we have 11 million hungry workers, women being sent to jail for speaking out against injustices of a bunch of archaic-minded old pricks, homosexuals are PUBLICLY hung for being gay, students who want to live in a SECULAR society are expelled from school and and and.
And Miss. Didactic LaFajita being adult means NOT BEING COGNITIVELY DISSONANT...people like you don't even stand a chance to talk in Iran AND let me ask you this: IF you call yourself a leftist or a liberal then what are you doing supporting a bunch of rich cows like Jodi and Medea who kiss the asses of religionist MEN? Hypocrite loudmouth.

Lutz said...

Code Stink kisses terrorists butt.
Why are the Homos not protesting here? Because US churches are more convenient targets.
What a bunch of hypocrites and cowards.

Winston said...

oh f... off LaFajita (sounds like burrito to me)! What the hell do you know about the Iranian politics other than the garbage you've been spoon-fed by your Communist media and academia? Get a life moron

S.B. said...

I was gonna post something, but I can see that any response has already been placed.

And you just KNOW they are reading these comments and think that WE are the moonbats...

Airedale said...

DO they really hang gays in Tehran? You should go down to the gay bars and ask around if it's true or not. I don't think they do and I bet gay marriage is allowed also by the theocracy.

Incognito said...

how sad and pathetically stupid and naive you women are...

DMartyr said...

did you remove my comment? All I'd written was for Iranian Zahra Sharifi above to "Stay safe."

Did it offend you for me to imply women aren't always safe in Iran?

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