by Anastasia Maniglio
Close your eyes for a moment.
Just imagine the desert sand that flows in your hands, the houses in the mountains overlooking the sea, the snow, the scorching sun, the roast, the wind filling the clothes, the dance of the veils, the colors of spices, the mystical music, the singing of the muezzin, poetry, calligraphy…
I do not know if in my head and in yours these words evoke the same feelings, but surely, who has already been in Iran knows what I’m talking about.
People around me think I go to war, I am courageous, indeed irresponsible. Yes, irresponsible is the right word. Maybe they do not tell me it loudly, because it is a bit rude, but it emerges from the look of incredulity in response to my “I’m spending the summer there.”
I take this opportunity to let you know that, if the information on which you base your negative reactions as soon as that country is mentioned depend only on what you read in Western newspapers, sorry, but you will never have true arguments nor effective to defert me from this thirst for Persia.
If I went there, if I go back, study, write, if I dedicate my strength and my work to it, there will be reasons that go beyond the ignorance that makes all of us say random words like Islam, Shiism, burqa, terrorism, the status of women.
In Iran, I’m fine. There are great problems that have little to do with what you turn up your nose for, but I do not deny it and I continue to claim I am fine there.
Is it spirit of contradiction? It may be, but not entirely. There are too many beautiful things, and it is spoken too bad about Iran. All Iranian friends that I know, who offered me something to drink and eat, make me a discount in beauty salons, invite me into their home despite not knowing me, give me mountains of books and offer a ride by taxi only for the few words I mumble in their language, do not deserve a bad treatment.
My relationship with Iran has started translating, in high school, the Greek versions on the battles between Greeks and Persians. Growing up, I met wonderful Iranians, who taught me so much, including how to decipher the extraordinary images behind the verses of poets such as Hafez and Rumi. But my true love for this culture was born once I spent a month in Ghazvin, in northern Iran…
Like all kinds of love, it is unconditional and able to cancel from my memory sporadic bad episodes that, unfortunately, I lived there.
The aspect that most interests me and pushes me to research about it, is the huge difference between private life and public life (if you follow me, I will publish my dissertation on this topic, next year).
You land in Iran and around you are colored hijabs, black chadors, unintelligible sounds interspersed in something that you understand, like “Befarmayeed…” (please…), “Khosh omadi” (welcome), “khoobi?” (All right?), “Safaret chetowr bood?” (how was your trip?)…
All the people to welcome you in the best possible way, to make you feel at home in a completely different place from the one you are accustomed to. And they succeed.
On the street, everything is orderly: bus divided between the part reserved for women and the one for men; the black color of chador predominates; engaged couples can not hold hands; you cannot speak loudly; when you eat, you have to do it in a certain way, with a formality that is not present in any Western country and that sometimes scares.
The same formality of a few minutes earlier, is lost in an instant, crossing the threshold of the house: women take “blankets” in which were wrapped or the veil off, take off their shoes, sit on carpets or sofas, drink “doogh” (a kind of yogurt with mint) and “abe anar” (pomegranate juice), eat “Chelow kabab” (rice and meat) and “pesteh” (pistachio), discussing any subject…
Then, they give a party whose dress code consists in necklines, legs in exhibition, heavy makeup; and then alcohol, disco music, dances where finally women and men have fun together. In spite of the Islamic Republic.
Inside the houses, the Iranians demonstrate to have their own passions, their own feelings, desires, knowledge of the world, enthusiasm, kindness, sportsmanship…
In the name of these two sides they are forced to have, against which the new post-revolution generations are fighting, I write on Iran. I fight with them. With their domestic authenticity. Using a medium that Internet gives us, regardless of where we live: freedom.