Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Esfahan Encounter

By Andrea and Justin McMahan
June 17, 2009

ESFAHAN, Iran - This morning, we climbed the Fire Temple for a better view of this city in which Iranians take so much pride. At the top, a man (pictured, right) asked where we were from, and was delighted to hear that we are from the States. Turns out he is a dual citizen who lives most of the time in Portland, Oregon, where he works as an engineer at Intel. Like us, he was touring the sites with his two nephews (also pictured). Without prompting, he spoke passionately about his love for America and his belief in the value of Iranians and Americans getting to know each other better. He is pleased that two of his Iranian family members are marrying Americans, but concerned about the ability of the American guests to keep up on the dance floor.

Our chance encounter was yet another example of a people who hold moderate positions, have nothing against Israel and resent their President, Mr Ahmadinejad, whose bellicose rhetoric, they say, is hardly representative of their views. Granted, a dual citizen is more likely than your average Iranian to support the opposition, but we have struggled to pinpoint the source of the supposed support for the current President. Some say it comes from the villages and rural areas, but yesterday we drove through much of the country on our way from Shiraz to Esfahan, and we can attest...there ain't no villages. The vast stretch of land in the center of the country is desert, with a smattering of wheat farmers and goat herders, hardly the rural masses that the government says came out in droves to vote for Mr Ahmadinejad.

Former PM and opposition leader Mousavi has decreed that tomorrow (Thursday) will be a day of mourning in honor of the protesters who were shot and killed in Tehran. That mourning will morph into protests is likely.

We are still unable to access facebook, twitter, BBC and many other media sites. Text messaging has not yet been turned on, though our local mobile phone (+98 937 96 39 523) is now, mercifully, working.

Today, the government issued a warning to anyone photographing protests. This will make it difficult for even Iranian citizens, well known for documenting the protests, from capturing the images that you have seen during the past five days. The government also said they will be cracking down on website and blogs. Fortunately, ours is just a touring blog.

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