Monday, June 15, 2009

Shiraz Protests a Shadow of Events in Tehran

June 15, 2009
By Justin McMahan

SHIRAZ, Iran – Early this morning, we caught a flight to the Iranian city of Shiraz. Throughout most of the day, all was calm in this sleepy southern city. At lunch, two boys (pictured at right) wandered over to our table and asked to have their picture taken with us. Other locals stopped us on the street just to say hello, ask us where we are from and welcome us to their country.

This evening, we browsed the local souq, snapping pictures of local merchants, many of whom held up the peace sign, which has come to signify support for former Prime Minister Mousavi. A few minutes after we purchased a locally made scarf, a merchant said something in Farsi to Ahmed, our guide. The message: get the foreigners out of here. Something is going to go down. Within a span of two minutes, the market transformed from a scene of casual shopping for fabric, nuts and other sundries to a frenzied attempt to put goods away and close up shop. Ahmed ushered us down a side alley. Soon we were outside, and everything appeared fine, save for a taxi driver who told Ahmed to be careful with us. We made it back to the hotel no problem.

On the way to dinner, the troops were again out in force, anticipating another protest. Like many of the youth here, many just looked bored. One overweight officer was lounging against a tree. Other men were standing around, some staring at their feet.

On the way back to the hotel, they had closed the main road, which seemed to do the trick. One thing is for sure: the reaction to the election in Shiraz is nothing like what it is happening in Tehran.
On another note, if there is one thing I have learned during my time in this country, it is that Iranians love Americans. During my first days here, I identified myself as English, which I am, technically. But I soon realized that I get much more mileage out of my American identity. Britain and Iran have a troubled history. In the eyes of Iranians, Britain embodies imperialism. That may be one reason why the government is trying to purchase the second UK embassy up in the hills near the palace of Shah Pahlavi. The Brits also have a huge compound right in the center of town.

But there is more to it than that. Ahmed, our guide, explained that Iranians appreciate the warmth and openness that Americans show to others who they hardly know. Maybe that it because Iranians are much the same way. Either way, it makes me proud to be an American.


  1. Great reporting, please be safe!!!

  2. hope you guys are ok, was really worried about you. take care of yourselves and each other. Thanks for the great updates!