How is life like when you live in a country where you cannot express yourself fully? When the leaders who have the power surpress their people with their ideology? Where sanctions and restrictions prevent you from being able to enjoy your life to the fullest? I went to Iran for a month and met many amazing people on the way. This is my account of what I saw there.
When I arrived in Teheran, the first person I met was a woman in her mid 20s. She explained to me that she wanted to travel to other places, but because of visa restrictions she was unable to do so. As such, she couldn´t leave.
When I traveled to Esfahan I worked in a cafe for a week and met a lot of young people. Almost everybody there wanted to study in Germany. They told me there are no chances in Iran, there is a lot of religious dogma and corruption, and no good jobs around. In their minds, Germany presented the solution. Here they would be able to study and find a good job. The ones that didn´t want to leave for Germany wanted to go to Teheran, the capital, as all the opportunities in Iran are there.
I met with a gay person who expressed his frustration, as he had a boyfriend for six years but could not tell anybody, because when the government will find out they will kill him.
When I went to Shiraz I was invited to some house parties. I was told that it had to be in secret as alcohol is not allowed. People call a courier where they can get alcohol from. It is common practice to smoke shisha, in the house but also outside, where it is not legal but in some places it is condoned.
I took a taxi and had a conversation with the driver. He serves in the army where he gets paid a very low wage. Because of this he needs to supplement his income by using his car as a taxi. He works seven days a week. Moreover he seemed to hold a grudge against the women in the city, as he was convinced he is alone because he is a poor man and has no money.
What striked me the most was the seperation between boys and girls. Touching in public is not legal in most places, only a handshake. Boys and girls go to seperate schools, sit seperately in the bus and girls have to wear a headscarf in public. In my opinion this is one of the biggest issues in Iran, because you often see that in places where the gender gap is biggest that problems arise. If we want to make this a better world we have to focus on what we have in common, and not about what is different.
Of course there are also a lot of positive things in Iran. Because clubs and bars do not exist, and many things on the internet like Facebook or computer games are forbidden and/or hard to come by, people have to find other activities to enjoy. Hiking is very popular, as well as mountainbiking and games like pantomime, backgammon and chess. This is a notable difference from people in the west where the most popular activities outside work or school are all online.
I truly hope (and believe) that the people of Iran, from whichever ethnicity, religion, race, gender, sexual preference etc. will find common ground and make the changes needed, as it is a very special place and Iran deserves a more positive image.