Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Post #116 - Citizen Diplomacy

One of the groups working the "back-channel" -- trying to achieve diplomatic successes through unofficial means and methods -- is the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy [see:  www.uscenterforcitizendiplomacy.org].  Here is a report from one "citizen diplomat," Audrey Scott, who went to Iran with her husband [text and photos from USCCD site]:

"When most people in the United States think about Iran, the first images that usually come to mind are those from traditional media - rallies with people holding signs (conveniently in English) saying "Down with USA" or more recently supposed "students" storming the British Embassy.

Audrey with new Iranian friends
"But the story that mainstream media usually doesn't tell is that these Iranian people are the outliers, not the norm. The majority of Iranians are not marching with anti-American slogans. In fact, my experiences throughout Iran show that they are surprisingly positive about America and want engagement with the rest of the world.
"There is nothing like travel and first hand experiences to turn stereotypes and assumptions upside down.
"During the three weeks that my husband and I (both American citizens) spent in Iran - from small mountain villages to big city Tehran - we found a very different Iranian storyline. We were warmly welcomed everywhere, to the point of receiving hugs, gifts and sometimes invitations to homes.
Around a tea kettle in Masuleh
Iranians know that their image around the world is not very positive; this pains them as they want interaction with the rest of the world, especially the United States.
"On the train from Iran to Turkey, I met Simin. She asked me to share the story of the "real" Iran and Iranians when I return home to the United States. To do this, I share her story and a note she wrote me with her favorite poem that she thought described Iranian people.
"During the month of December 2011, we are also sharing the story of ordinary Iranians through a photo series called Iranian Faces. Check out the "Uncornered Market" FaceBook page for a new photo and story from Iran every day.
"I hope that by sharing these stories of ordinary Iranians I can help fulfill Simin's wishes and share an alternative view of Iran and Iranians."

(About the author: Audrey Scott is one half of the husband-and-wife storytelling and photography team behind the around-the-world travek blog, Uncornered Market.  For the last five years, they have been traveling the world, taking on the role of citizen diplomats. Not only do they share their home country with the ordinary people they meet abroad, but they bring the story of the people and places they visit back home through their blog, photography and presentations.)

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