Saturday, December 10, 2011

Post #113 - Postcard No. 4

Another installment of Professor Beeman's trip to Tehran [my photo added]:

Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2011 14:58:09 -0500

I leave Tehran tonight after several enlightening days. Our conference on Human Rights turned out to be a serious academic conference. Surely it is not a bad thing to have human rights debated in Iran. As I had said in an earlier missive, the Iranian students were most impressive. Today we had papers dealing with children's rights, rights in educating children, and a spirited defense of social security that could have put our US politicians to shame in terms of the thoroughness of the research and articulateness of the argument. Many of the other papers dealt with tricky topics such as the balance of rights between immigrants and residents in any given nation.

This was a happy conference. The high quality of the offerings and the good will of the participants made it memorable. The first-timers took in the palaces and the bazaar and came back with obvious delight at their experiences.

Sartorial: The young men are well groomed, but the old days of semi-mandatory beards is gone. Most of the men are clean shaven, or with goatees and trimmed mustaches. They would be in place in any Salon in Europe.

Last night I had a late-night session with a young Iranian-American working as a journalist. He is doing quite well as a freelancer, but does tours on the side with a business partner. He told me that the tour business from the U.S. is picking up. Last year he had three times as many U.S. visitors as the year before. They inevitably come away with a complete reversal of the impressions with which they entered the country.

Wall painting, Chahel Sotun, Isfahan
More questions from our Iranian friends: Why is President Obama going back on his word to improve U.S.-Iranian relations? Why don't Americans realize how much we have to gain by cooperating instead of fighting each other? Will some Republican president attack Iran? All good questions.

I have been bombarded with presents, requests to return, and I am blind from being photographed with every Iranian I meet. The hospitality and kindness here is overwhelming, and I leave with a heavy heart as always, because it is always too soon.

William O. Beeman
University of Minnesota

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