Iran Today

 

Our guest speaker in April was Linda Heiden, an American teacher who has lived for some years in Iran.She has formed a love for the place and its people that draws her back on regular visits.Her talk was illustrated by lots of photos of smiling families, and showed that the black all-concealing garment worn by women, the chador, is no longer obligatory in the streets of Tehran. There were only about twelve of us at the meeting, which was a pity, as Iím sure many of our members, while not accepting for a moment President Bushís denunciation of Iran as part of an axis of evil, would have appreciated this briefing of the real country.

Iran is a diverse country of 70 million people, with five main religions, and seven languages.It is the site of perhaps the earliest recorded civilisation. Ancient cuneiform writings show a concern for human rights and record abolition of slavery thousands of years ago.In more modern times, a constitution was passed in 1905 -7 to set up a parliament.Linda described how prime minister Mossadegh nationalised the countryís oil, a move that was not tolerated by the West.In 1953 a coup planned by the CIA with Churchillís connivance overthrew the government and installed a compliant Shah dictator.Then followed the 1979 revolution that deposed the Shah and installed ayatollah Khomeini.Linda was in Tehran at the time, shortly thereafter, during the strange episode of the hostage crisis, when an attempted rescue of Americans taken hostage at the embassy failed, which led in turn to the sad exit of Jimmy Carter, perhaps the U Sís best-ever president.The next year came the West-sponsored invasion by Iraq.A terrible 8-year war followed.

There have been some dark episodes in modern Iran, such as the recent infamous hanging of two young homosexual men, which Linda did not gloss over.There is some censorship, but yet much debate and criticism of all policies is allowed in the press.As for womenís rights, 63% of university students today are women Ė a telling statistic. For the last 20 years there have been regular elections at all levels in society.The US-imposed sanctions are causing suffering, which is having the effect that sanctions always have, of uniting the country, nurturing nationalism, encouraging corruption and consolidating those in power.

H. D.