Thursday, December 8, 2011

Post #107 - Dispatch from the Other Side

One could easily imagine that no one from our country goes to Iran these days.  It is, unfortunately, a nearly accurate statement.  But there are a few who make it.  This is a recent letter from one of them, a professor at the University of Minnesota [Full disclosure:  I was born in Minneapolis and both my parents attended the U of MN.]:

William O. Beeman, PhD
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2011 04:24:20 -0500

I just arrived in Iran for an academic conference, and have found the situation in Tehran after a year's absence to be most interesting. Some random observations may be of interest to G2K members:

The Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt was full to the brim with about 1/3 of the passengers Europeans coming to Iran for various purposes: A Polish doctor living in Sweden coming for a series of lectures on liver cancer in Tehran and Isfahan: "Iran is two years in advance of many places in Europe in treatment." An Italian tour group, German engineers (Germany is now Iran's principal EU Trade partner.). Several Swedish artists coming for an art festival (Intl. Art Festival of Resistance). I was the only traveler traveling on an American passport causing some curiosity at immigration. No landing cards.

Flights now go everywhere from the Imam Khomeni International Airport, including several Chinese locations. Nonstop flights to Kiev start next month. The airport is full of passengers on a Wednesday.

Tehran is booming with commercial activity and construction everywhere. There are many cultural events going on in Tehran. Aside from the arts festival, there is a music festival, a conference on the Shahnameh, and a book festival.

The big international news is condemnation of the "spin" on the recent IAEA report, and denunciation of increased economic sanctions. Featured is the condemnation of the sanctions by Russia. Still the recent IAEA "Resolution" is seen by the press as a victory for Iran, because it was so very weak. The events in Egypt also occupy a fair amount of interest in the press.

Petrochemical exports are up 11% in weight and 34% in value over last year, according to the petroleum ministry. The rising price of crude oil in the wake of the increased sanctions is also noted as a financial gain for Iran.

One curious item: the newspaper "Iran" was published with a blank front page headline to protest the "arrest and injury" of its staff. A large number of journalists were injured and teargassed. The reports don't identify the attackers, but the managing director of the paper, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, is also President Ahmadinejad's Media Adviser. He was found guilty for publishing some photographs in a story about hejab and the Islamic dress code in Iran and was sentenced to a year in prison and a three-year ban from journalistic activities.

My hotel is full of tourists from Asia. Many, many Chinese, Koreans, some Japanese and a smattering of Europeans. I was told by the front desk that I am the only American here in a 500 room facility. When I checked in, two Iranian businessmen from Isfahan were also there. One pointedly said: "Iranians are a peace-seeking people."

William O. Beeman
University of Minnesota 

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