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[P]
Some people I met.

By lucius in Op-Ed
Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:00:47 PM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

Late last year I spent a few months in the middle east. Travelling alone, I met many locals, and consider myself fortunate for the vast majority of those encounters.


There was the Hasani family with whom I stayed in Shiraz for a week. Their daughter, Maria, I could have married under different circumstances. I still get letters from Maria; she's studying to be a tour guide at university now. She said once that she needed to go to university in order to be able to speak to boys, so I hope it's working out as she'd hoped it would.

Of course, the three guys who robbed me at knifepoint and tied me up are in Shiraz as well. One of them was, it turned out, an army deserter. I don't hold too much ill will against those guys though; they left me with enough money to catch a taxi home. Besides, the Iranian government has been known to use army deserters for minefield clearance. His life is probably pretty miserable as it stands.

I met an Iraqi Kurd who had been living in Sweden for many years, initially, I suppose, as a refugee from Baathist Iraq, then as a Swedish citizen. He was on his way to "Kurdistan" to see family and friends. I asked him about the situation in Northern Iraq at the time, "Everybody are friends in Kurdistan, Arabs, Kurds, Turcomans, all are friends" he replied.

Syria, in general, was a nice place, but I had to flee Damascus to avoid a Lebanese prostitute named Feras who thought he'd made the first friend of his life who wasn't about to exploit him. Orphaned by the war in Lebanon, he had a humiliated and rejected air about him. Not once did he maintain eye contact for more than a second. His emails to me after I'd left to get to Amman were sickeningly pathetic. This is something I feel bad about, but to be with him was like being in a cancer ward.

In Amman I met another young man who'd been displaced by conflict. Fouad was, in stark contrast to Feras, outgoing and confident. He'd been forced to leave Nablus, in the West Bank, because Israeli restrictions on movement made it impossible for Palestinians to hold down jobs. He was living alone in a hotel in Amman, without his family, without friends. He had been engaged to be married, but he didn't love the girl. Last time I heard from him he was on his way to the UAE to do the bidding of those with the oil money, like many Palestinians and Bangladeshis and Filipinos and so on.

Among the more curious people I met were some blonde, blue-eyed Chechens in As-Zarqa. Their apparent arrogance and superiority was offputting at first, but when they found out my father was part German ("You are Aryan! Like us!"), they invited me to the house of one of their uncles to talk about the war in Chechnya. They were descendents of refugees who fled Chechnya in the 18th century for (then Ottoman) Jordan, so they spoke Chechen and Arabic and English. They had a guest from Chechnya proper with them, but he spoke only Russian and Chechen. He asked me, with the uncle interpreting, to come to Chechnya with some friends and help fight the Russians. I declined politely.

All of these people had been, or may be, affected by war. The Russian Chechen might now be dead, stopped at one of the "filtration points" that Federal troops have set up to terrorise the population. I suppose that the Swedish Kurd would be back in Sweden now, unless at age 60+ he feels up for fighting, or didn't plan ahead sufficiently well to get out of Iraq before the war started.

With Iran shoehorned into the Axis of Evil, I can only hope that the Issues with North Korea smoulder indefinitely and The US doesn't choose to force a regime change there as well. The four sons of the Hasani family would be drafted, and possibly killed. The guys who robbed me, if caught, would die for sure.

So, while I watch this new war, with the idiotic talk show presenters and long retired Lieutenants-Colonel analyzing the battle plan like football, I'll think of the people I know who have been and may become casualties of war.


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Some people I met. | 62 comments (45 topical, 17 editorial, 1 hidden)
Brilliant (4.87 / 8) (#3)
by blackpaw on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:52:18 AM EST

Much needed humanisation of the people directly effected by this madness, FP+1 from me when it gets to voting.

Agreed, +1. (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous 7324 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:31:23 AM EST

also news to me is that our tanks now have ploughs on the side to bury the dead as they move through -- no more inconvenient pictures of dead and dismembered people for the media to bother with: anonymous mass-burial solves everything, you know.

Like you've said, it's very important to remind people that what are being killed are other human beings with families, goals, ambitions, hopes, not mere statistics. That should strengthen the anti-war cause and help put more pressure on the government to back down...

[ Parent ]

Tanks versus trenches (none / 0) (#43)
by swr on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:49:37 PM EST

also news to me is that our tanks now have ploughs on the side to bury the dead as they move through

This is not new. In the last war with Iraq, Iraqi soldiers were buried in their own trenches, many while they were still alive.

Google: iraq bury trenches



[ Parent ]
Like I said... (none / 0) (#47)
by Anonymous 7324 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:40:56 PM EST

news to me. And yes, the article I read indicated that Abraham tanks employed these ploughs in the Gulf War.

[ Parent ]
Goddamn Leaders (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by anaesthetica on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:55:11 AM EST

Yes. If only there was a way to just kill all our goddamn heads of state. I seriously could live without seeing a Chirac, Bush, Blair, Putin, Saddam, or other self-important clown for the rest of my life. (Studying to go into the Foreign Service probably won't alleviate this aggravation, however.) Like the man in Kurdistan said: everyone who was there got along alright, all friends. I've come from America to study at the LSE and I've met people from all over the world. I can't say that there's any group of people that I haven't gotten along with just fine, even despite me being American. Walking around one night on Regent street with two Iranian friends, one of them turned to me and said "Hey! We're with two people from the axis of evil!" and laughed. When you meet people face to face, there are few problems that cannot be solved by discussion and maybe a good time out on the town. It's the words and sentiments of our leaders, our government experts, etc, that make us see evil in one another. Otherwise, everything would be business as usual.

On the other hand, we may just get along because we are all out of our element, and none of us fit in quite well in our 'homes.' I never felt like I clicked with American culture, especially in college. Hell I hated High School but it was tolerable. But I don't drink, so college is pretty much a non-starter for me socially. My friend Saba doesn't drink either. He's ethnically Iranian, but is not muslim, but rather Bahai. His parents fled Iran after some of his relatives were imprisoned and killed. He grew up in Nigeria, but has spent the last ten years in England. Then there's Gianni (a nickname he uses in place of his real name). Also, Iranian but not muslim. He's Zoroastrian, but didn't flee Iran because of his religion. His father was one of the few publishers to produce copies of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. A fatwah was placed on his family, so they've lived all over Europe. He was the one who made the comment about the 'axis of evil.' So we're all in London, away from our homes, but friends with people we might be demonizing if we were elsewhere.


—I'm the little engine that didn't.
k5: our trolls go to eleven
[A]S FAR AS A PERSON'S ACTIONS ARE CONCERNED, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT NOTHING BUT GOOD COMES FROM GOOD AND NOTHING BUT EVIL COMES FROM EVIL, BUT RATHER QUITE FREQUENTLY THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE. ANYONE WHO DOES NOT REALIZE THIS IS IN FACT A MERE CHILD IN POLITICAL MATTERS. max weber, politics as a vocation


[ Parent ]
I have a lesser tale (4.33 / 6) (#12)
by flo on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 06:53:27 AM EST

I spent a month in Italy nearly three years ago with an interrail ticket. It was really cool. While I was in Salerno I met two Israeli girls. They had just finished school and were touring the world a little bit before joining the army. Yes, military service is compulsory in Israel, for men and women. What gets me every time I think about them, is that this was about two or three months before the intifada started. So often I wonder, are they still alive? What have they seen, what have they gone through? Would they still be so cheerful and smiling if I met them today? I'll probably never know.
---------
"Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by lucius on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:18:04 AM EST

It's sort of a shocking feeling when you realise the instability of life in some places. They  plan careers, take out mortgages and so on, but they might just be dead soon, or their parents, or their siblings.

I should have mentioned the American student I met there, he was studying Arabic with the stated goal of one day helping out with the Arab-Israeli peace process. He'd still be in Jordan unless he's taken a premature flight home.

I suppose he'd be saying he's from Canada right now.

[ Parent ]

Statistics (none / 0) (#37)
by Peaker on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:13:40 PM EST

If you take a look at the statistics, you see the chances of them dying by the Intifada in Israel are quite slim. And they are probably smiling, if they are having fun.

Life in Israel goes on, and aside for a crappy economy, everything is fine :)

Chances to die in Israel due to the security issues are quite low.

[ Parent ]

Sure, they're probably still alive (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by flo on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:35:05 PM EST

But what have they seen? What have they done, or been forced to do? They're in the army, that means that when shit happens, they can't run for shelter, they have to run towards the shit. Can't be much fun. I wonder if they're still smiling.
---------
"Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
[ Parent ]
Army (none / 0) (#49)
by Peaker on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 06:58:01 AM EST

Few people in the army actually go to combat. Especially of the girls.

[ Parent ]
You're a cruel and heartless man (4.00 / 26) (#13)
by Rogerborg on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:04:20 AM EST

Don't you understand that now that Our Brave Troops are in the field, bravely pushing buttons, that we should express nothing that could effect our determination to prosecute this War Against Badness to its conclusion?

You see, I've recently decided to become pro-war (because Ann Coulter told me to), and it's rather uncomfortable to be reminded that the "regretable but necessary collateral damage" has names and personalities and hopes and dreams and aspirations.  I was just getting nicely aroused by talk of "shock and awe" when you went ahead and got me thinking that might be equivelant to "real people crying and sobbing and puking and pissing themselves in terror".

We're having this War on Badness so that we can save these people, not so that we can learn about them.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

Off-topic, but (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous 7324 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:27:54 AM EST

anyways. The thing with Ann Coulter is that she's such a blatant troll that she's easy to ignore and filter out totally. It's like reading the works of the famous crapflooders only she's slightly more coherent, and then only sometimes.

[ Parent ]
Sure (5.00 / 3) (#17)
by Rogerborg on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 07:44:18 AM EST

Thank the invisible giant who lives in the sky that we don't live in a world where people are dumb enough to give credence to crackpots like Ann, or to wacky revisionism like that Hussein was personally involved in September 11th.

Yes, it's sure lucky that the majority of the US electorate isn't easily swayed by wild allegations and unsupported assertions.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Saddam's father (5.00 / 2) (#19)
by dalinian on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:04:33 AM EST

wacky revisionism like that Hussein was personally involved in September 11th
Most likely Hussein was already dead at that time. He was Saddam's father, you know.

Unless you want to call Mr. Blair "Mr. Tony", Mr. Hu "Mr. Jintao", and Mr. Bush "Mr. George" or "Mr. W". Names are not just interchangeable labels, no matter what nominalists claim. Ignoring the cultural conventions of other people while respecting your own makes you look silly.

Please don't be harsh. This is my first ever grammar nazi post.

[ Parent ]

Nice catch (none / 0) (#28)
by Rogerborg on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:19:47 AM EST

That reminds me, I need to go back to saying "Mr Tony Blair" or "Mr The Prime Minister".

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Isn't it... (none / 0) (#52)
by Gully Foyle on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 10:52:13 AM EST

...Mr Tony?

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Pushing Button (5.00 / 3) (#27)
by farmgeek on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:06:10 AM EST

I'm not pro-war by any stretch, having served in the Army for eight years, I can tell you that for the majority of troops, there's a hell of a lot more to it than pushing buttons.

War sucks, it's not pretty, and this one in my opinion, is not justified.  Don't make an ass of yourself by denigrating the job of a soldier to pushing buttons though.  There will be more than enough blood shed on both sides before this thing is over.

[ Parent ]

My interpretation (5.00 / 3) (#29)
by Miniluv on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 11:32:22 AM EST

He wasn't so much denigrating the role of the troops, as the presentation of that role by the media.

CNN, amongst others, would have you believe that every troop is out dodging bullets and every Iraqi is lighting the fuse on an oil well, when it simply isn't true on either side.

While I'm staunchly agains the war, I still support the men and women of our armed forces. I also thank the Universe every night that my cousin won't be out of the naval training center for 6 more months and maybe, just maybe, this shit'll be over before he'd ever face the prospect of sailing to the Gulf.

"Too much wasabi and you'll be crying like you did at the last ten minutes of The Terminator" - Alton Brown
[ Parent ]

You're right. (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by farmgeek on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:17:34 PM EST

Should have seen it.

I'm blaming my nerves, I've still got lots of buddies in the service, and quite a few of my neighbors are in the reserves (deployed).

And they wondered why I didn't go into the reserves when I got out.  I spent enough time away from my family while I was in thank you, and I remember how many reservist were deployed for a long time after GW1.

Anyway, my apologies to the parent commentor.

[ Parent ]

Dr. Rogerborg (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by forii on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 04:08:02 PM EST

We're having this War on Badness so that we can save these people, not so that we can learn about them.

Assuming that you think this is the wrong way to do things, all I have to say is that I hope you aren't a Doctor:

Nurse: Dr. Rogerborg, the patient is in Cardiac Arrest! What do we do?
Dr. Rogerborg: First, we must understand why the patient's heart has stopped. Let me go to the Medical library and do some research. The I shall call for a conference with the other doctors and we shall discuss various causes and possible diagnoses. After this, I will then write and submit a paper to the appropriate journals, describing the case, and explaining our treatment plan. Once that has been done, then maybe we will consider starting the heart again.
Patient: *glurg* [dies]


Proud member of the ACLU, the NRA, and the EFF.
[ Parent ]

Less ranting, more human-interest stuff is good. (4.25 / 4) (#21)
by davidmb on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:44:48 AM EST

No amount of shouting will make any difference to people's views of this war. Anyone can assemble a political screed from various news sources, but few of us can give first-person insight into these issues. Great article, simply for being a bit of a refreshing change.
־‮־
To those of us who have seen war (5.00 / 4) (#32)
by asad on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:39:12 PM EST

I feel like I have been here before, when I lost a friend who was shot for no reason in new brunswick cananda.  Looking beyond the political reasons I can't understand the people who like to write happy messages about how the iraqi people will now be free.  Iraqis like any other people have a lot of pride, and while you will some happy video footage on CNN about happy iraqis trust me, no govt setup in post iraq will be credible to the irqi people.  I simply hope that the rest of the world continues to make a distinction between americans and american govt.  Lots of people disagree with or hate the US govt but that doesn't usually extend to Americans.  I fear that this maybe about to change.

Pride and Iraqis? (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by br284 on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:11:02 PM EST

How are the Iraqis any more proud than the Japanese following WWII. Looks to me like the Japanese took just fine to the post-Empire gov't.

Why should the Iraqis be any different?

-Chris

[ Parent ]

Divisions within (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by NFW on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:34:37 PM EST

Was Japan home to three factions that had been at war with each other for decades? Centuries?

I wonder how bad will be the civil war that will follow Saddam's regime. Ideally of course there wouldn't be one, but I fear that may be unreasonably optimistic.

I'm about to give you a 5 anyway, because I wish I could believe that it is as simple as you make it out to be.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

well let's see (4.33 / 3) (#40)
by asad on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 04:52:58 PM EST

they are not japanese
they didn't attack the US they got attacked
they are surrounded by countries that wouldn't mind expanding their territories a bit (Iran and Turkey).
Did I mention that they are Arab not japanese ?

Maybe i am being cynical but the life of the Afghan people doesn't seemd that improved to me.  I think we can all agree that we want this conflict ended as soon as possible but I for one thinks this is just the first stop.  What's next, N. korea ?  Saudi Arabia ?  Iran ?  ....

[ Parent ]

Who is next? (none / 0) (#51)
by Viliam Bur on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:56:14 AM EST

Well, that would be an interesting poll!

[ Parent ]
Japanese (none / 0) (#53)
by TristanThorn on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 11:34:49 AM EST

Also as well, prior to the events of the World War II, Japan had made absolutely huge attempts at westernizing itself in order to catch up to the imperialistic powers of the time. This started with the overthrow of the Bakufu which rushed Japan into the Meji Period. That said... I don't exactly see Iraq having done this rapid adoptation of western ideals and so forth... Nor did we actually see a huge land war in Japan and/or the same type of social and political systems employed in Iraq as where employed in japan.

[ Parent ]
A History of Lives (4.66 / 3) (#33)
by xs euriah on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 02:42:56 PM EST

Thank you for posting this piece. Perhaps in the future, do not hesitate to post details - I could read more of those whom you met throughout your trip for many more paragraphs.

Yeah I might do that (4.50 / 2) (#48)
by lucius on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 12:41:44 AM EST

there were a few guys who didn't really fit into the story who were really interesting.

I also met a number of other refugees, some lovely and some slightly sinister, but most of them were far more human than people I generally meet in Australia. I don't really know what it is, but I think being a foreigner (and Australian) people saw me as a non-threatening curiosity, so their guards were a bit lower I guess.

[ Parent ]

You want more? (5.00 / 5) (#35)
by fate on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:27:49 PM EST

I'm an Arab from a Gulf state who was back there a couple of weeks ago visiting family. I have a lot of relatives living in Iraq who I have not seen in more than a decade. When back home, there were a number of Iraqis who were still travelling back and forth (mostly professionals, doctors and the like), and it was heartbreaking speaking to these people. These are the lucky ones, that ones who aren't forced to become taxi drivers and street vendors selling black market goods (such as eggs or tissue paper).

One of them for example had tried to move his family outside of Baghdad to another country. His in-laws however didn't like it, and refused to move out of Iraq. His family is now back in Baghdad, trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. He told me with bemusement about how the Iraqi government tried to give professionals like him gas masks and special permissions so that they do not get killed and have special shelters to flee to. He however noted that one gas mask is not enough for an entire family, and told of how he and many of his colleagues took a stand in the university in Baghdad and demanded masks for their whole family. In the end his family chose his youngest son to wear the mask, reasoning that he had the most life to live.

The pervailing mood is one of utter despair. Speaking to relatives there, a common sentiment is 'let them just hurry up and kill us, we're dying either way'. It's heartbreaking seeing how such a noble and proud people have fallen so low.

Amazingly enough, a number of people also insisted in all seriousness that Saddam is in fact a US agent. The proof they offered in support of this theory was simple, 'why else would he like killing us so much?'

Gee...I Wonder... (1.33 / 3) (#36)
by The Turd Report on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 03:53:27 PM EST

'why else would he like killing us so much?'

It is because he is a FUCKING PSYCHO?

[ Parent ]

Perhaps so. (none / 0) (#50)
by Viliam Bur on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 09:53:50 AM EST

But does it contradict the "theory"?

[ Parent ]
Are Bush's words coming out of your ears and eyes? (none / 0) (#56)
by mhandis on Sat Mar 22, 2003 at 09:59:54 PM EST

You sound like part of a statistic that most Americans I talk to are ashamed of.

[ Parent ]
So... (none / 0) (#57)
by The Turd Report on Sun Mar 23, 2003 at 01:48:01 PM EST

is he an upright guy in your book? Would you want him leading your country? And, as far as your 'statistic' goes, I am against the war, but I think that guy is a fucking nut. So, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

[ Parent ]
Why him? (none / 0) (#58)
by mhandis on Mon Mar 24, 2003 at 10:29:28 AM EST

What about the other dictators in the region, such as the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabic, Syria... Are they upright guys who you'd want leading your country? They've killed and tortured many of their own citizens, just like Saddam.

Why aren't they being attacked? Oh wait, the Saudis are submissive, and the others don't have oil..

My point is that Saddam is a "Bad Guy", but he is not any worse than other dictators in the world today. It is only the US press that villifies him.

Personally I think that Bush is much worse. He is responsible for much more death and disorder in other countries in the past, and in years to come. He is much closer to Hitler and Goebbels than Saddam could ever be.

[ Parent ]

Question (3.50 / 6) (#41)
by Actifish on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 05:26:25 PM EST

I've heard from someone that used to live in Iran that most of it is far safer than any US city. Is this true?
--
Vivez sans temps mort!
I'd have to agree (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by lucius on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 09:07:32 PM EST

The only place that I found at all dodgy was the Afghan ghetto and surrounding areas in Shiraz. The day after I got robbed I met two other guys who got robbed while hiking, and we heard about another guy who fought off three attackers.

The ghetto was pretty fucking cool though, you're walking along and all of a sudden the faces you see go from Caucasiod to Mongoloid, with all these Hazaras hanging around and spice markets and guys selling hunting knives on the street.

I went back there with the head of the detetive branch to find the guys and he was too scared to ask anyone any questions - it seems the authority of the police force doesn't extend to south Shiraz.

But other than that, people were kinder and more welcoming than anything you'd see in the west.

[ Parent ]

Safety in middle east (none / 0) (#61)
by blue0 on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 05:18:33 PM EST

Been travelling thru Iran and Turkey last year. It was much safer than Europe, and I can tell you Europe is safer than the states.
Meet wonderful people: A Zorostrean girl in Yazd, a nice guy in Kermat, the nicest place to stay in Bam, a true gentleman in Dogubayazit, and some friends in Istambul in election time.
Traveled as a foreigner everywhere: camera, money, backpack... no trouble anywhere. People came to me to ask me if I was lost when I looked lost. People wanted to chat about me, about them, about what they thought of me, what I thought of them...
It doesn't matter where you travel in the middle east: You're the most precious guest everywhere.

[ Parent ]
Where did you stay in Bam? (none / 0) (#62)
by lucius on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 11:27:56 PM EST

Was it at Ali Amiri's?

Did you meet the young guy who runs the bicycle shop on the main street in town?

And what did you think of Kerman?

[ Parent ]

Interesting Spin on things (2.00 / 2) (#44)
by scrantic on Thu Mar 20, 2003 at 08:33:23 PM EST

This article is an interesting spin on the aspects and reasoning behind the war... Well worth a read.

http://www.core.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=comments&sid=1974& tid=2986&mode=&order=&thold=

Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Pakistan (5.00 / 4) (#54)
by Chakotay on Fri Mar 21, 2003 at 01:01:10 PM EST

That's the trajectory that my sister followed, a year and a half ago (summer 2001), while she and her boyfriend were on a tour of Asia. (After the mentioned countries, they passed through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia, before flying home from Bali, 11 months after having started their trip from Istanbul)

Turkey, she found, was a great country. If you want to see archeological sites from the Greek civilization, you should not go to Greece, but to Turkey. The Greek temples and other remains were absolutely astonishing. Going east, obviously, (ancient) civilization diminished, as they went into more and more inhospitable terrain.

They also visited the "capital" of Turkish Kurdistan, where Öcalan's headquarters used to be. Though everything was calm, there were armed men on every street corner. The people were very friendly and hospitable, but nonetheless they were intimidated by all the arms around...

The great "shock" came in Iran, though. When they passed from Turkey to Iran, they had expected lots and lots of baggage checks and all sorts of other inconveniences. My sister had even bought a Burka (a "scarf" covering the entire body, as worn by women in some Muslim countries) just in case she would be "requested" to wear one, but in reality they passed the border without any problems. No baggage checks. No body searches. A simple headscarf was enough. And her identity papers, having photographs without headscarf, were accepted without any problems. When they asked a border guard, it turned out that he didn't even know that in Iran all women must wear headscarves. He thought foreign (non-Muslim) women were free to not wear a scarf. Go figure.

The people in Iran were again extremely friendly. Left and right they were invited to breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, to stay the night. When they entered a village, they would immediately be the centre of attention, and everybody wanted to know about life in the West.

In Iran, there are two favourite pastimes: picknicking, and driving. The first, because there is nothing interesting to do, most diversions being illegal, so Iranians spend the entire evening and a large part of the night in public parcs and on squares, eating, drinking (no alcohol ofcourse - at least not in the open), talking, telling stories. Or they take their car or their motor cycle and go drive around in the desert. Gas being only 2 cents a litre, the general state of the vehicles being rather doubtful, and any traffic regulations being only very loosely applied, if at all, traffic is cause of death numer one...

Everywhere one can see traces of anti-Americanism. Drawings on walls depict the graceful Iranian deer being chased by fierce American bloodhounds. Anti-Americanism is ever-present in their world - but not in their minds. The younger generation, those who will be in power in a decade or so, are in fact very pro-Western, very pro-American. All the young people dream to go to the United States, to study, to live the American Dream. My sister (an anthropologist) very quickly came to the conclusion that, in 10 years, Iran could be the most pro-Western country in the Middle-East!

Totally astonishing, a picture they took from the top of a foothill, looking down on a vast city, in the middle of a desert. If you knew no better, you would say that you were looking down on a city in one of Amerca's desert states - Arizona, Texas, California... But no, this all-American skyline is indeed situated in Iran...

Leaving Iran behind, they entered Pakistan. They travelled north, and arrived in Peshawar, close to Afghanistan's border, right inbetween Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) and Khabul (capital of Afghanistan) ...

... on the 11th of September, 2001.

They came to their hotel, to find everybody immediately bombarding them with questions. But they knew even less than the locals did... The following days, when they met people, they immediately asked if they were American, and were actually disappointed when it turned out they were "only" Dutch.

When Pakistan announced that they would support the US in its war against the Taliban, all of Peshawar was out in the streets, celebrating that fact.

But on CNN, and all other western news sources for that matter, all we see of Peshawar, is a handful of Taliban-supporters demonstrating against the US.

My sister and her boyfriend were torn. They wanted to take the time to visit Pakistan, but was it not now too dangerous, with Afghanistan only a few miles away? All the Pakistani they met tried to convince them to stay. But finally, the Dutch embassy called them, in the middle of the night, at their hotel, and told them that they should get out of the country as soon as possible.

And so, with pain in their hearts, and promising to return to finish their visit, they took the night train to India. (To be baggage- and body-searched twice while passing the border)

--
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

Train to Pakistan. (none / 0) (#59)
by Akshay on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 01:12:30 PM EST

When was this? The Samjauta Express, which used to run between Lahore and Attari on the Indo-Pak border (later extending to, I suppose, Delhi) has been stopped since last June I think, when hostilities increased between India and Pakistan.

I am, of course wistful about all this; pretty sure it should be fun to backpack across Pakistan, despite being a (Hindu) Indian. Loads of friends out there.

[ Parent ]

Marry Maria! (none / 0) (#60)
by xeoatthermopylae on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 04:50:19 PM EST

Why don't you do the right thing: ask her to marry or ask her father for her hand in marriage? Be persistent. If they accept, you will never regret it. She's probably in love with you and you are certainly struck by her. Your life together will be full of wonders and travel. You will have many beautifulchildren, most wonderful of all.

Go for it; you only live once.

Some people I met. | 62 comments (45 topical, 17 editorial, 1 hidden)
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