Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Yesterday I talked to a storekeeper studying English from the Headway Intermediate book. He wants to emigrate to Canada. An hour later I met a guy who owns a watch shop, who also has a file number at the embassy. A bit later between Enqelab and Azadi I saw a badly driven car - the driver had his ~2yo son in his lap, of course neither wearing seatbelts, while his wife sat next to him and smoked.

The "Economist" article of September 5th, "Crushing the reformist pillars" hasn't appeared on the net yet - people are respecting copyright! Amazing. And yet, finally, the real size of the protests in July, hyped by Ledeen and SMCCDI is revealed. "Mr Bush latched on to demonstrations in July as evidence of the popular mobilisation. They were nothing of the sort. Their tiny size, and the disproportionate brutality with which they were put down, came as a reminder that Iranians have rarely been so sullenly apathetic, or the forces of suppression so strong." "I accept that there is a sort of hopelessness in our society" admits Khatami. There's not much understanding of this in the outside world, I don't think... Robert Baer had it right in his PBS Frontline interview. Here's the quote I'm thinking of, from February 22, 2002:

"Do you feel America doesn't know Iran?

No, it doesn't know anything about it. Doesn't know anything about it. I have seen no dialogue in this country, in the press, or in academia to suggest to me that we really know what's going on in Iran. We are dealing with myths, misinformation, a press that has no idea. It boils down to women's rights or wishful thinking about Khatami or misperceptions."

A large proportion of the population doesn't actually care about the country at all. And as I've noted, self-criticism is very rare here. You will not find a leader in Iran who is willing to accept any part of the blame for the parlous state of the country, and the people blame the leaders, elected and unelected, not themselves. What did King Faisal of Iraq say about the Iraqi people... something like: there is no Iraqi people, and they will accept any insult? Perhaps it's the same everywhere in the Middle East. I see fights every day over the most trivial things, like the other day when the bus driver got into a fight with a guy trying to board the bus past the bus stop. Yet people will not fight when it comes to the most important things. (Of course part of the explanation for the trivial fights is the bad political and economic situation and the general stress of everyday life.) If Iranians vote with their feet, will that help the country?

I hope I can write something positive soon so all you readers out there will know that Iran is not all doom and gloom...

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