For days I sit in front of a blank “sheet of paper”, if I open the computer at all.
Thoughts rush through, scraps of words, images, coupled with feelings that rarely have a calming effect, on the contrary. I dream my Iran reports, but in the morning I can hardly grasp them and certainly not put them on paper. My memory of Iran.
Although an AI (artificial intelligence) could not fix everything, there would be a chance that I could fix some things with the help of the AI. And so, perhaps, could my brain. An AI that stores my thoughts and puts them together to a meaningful something. Then I would also know that you understand my words and if something is not sufficiently explained, an AI would recognize that.
But there is no such thing. So I can only wish that you understand my “language” and get an idea of which pothole we have rumbled through.
When you ride your bicycle, you try to avoid every pothole, but sometimes you don’t succeed and you crash through at full speed.
That can hurt, and not just your bicycle. Iran was such a pothole. And it should become a big one. On our way to India! Out of Armenia, into Iran. I wanted to get involved in the adventure after all.
Actually, Iran was just in the way on our way to India.
Still in Armenia we met Manuel from the Netherland, another globetrotter, on the way with the bicycle. He was amazed at how clearly I could say: „Well, Iran is just in the way, so we’re going through”. There was no question of “wanting”, interest in the country, or anticipation.
But he also confessed that this country probably only works for us travelers if we block out the regime and its supporters in the country.
Yes, certainly the people there are nice. But I didn’t feel like ignoring the messed up regime and the people behind it. Without their many supporters, they would have ceased to function long ago.
Two days before, two lesbian activists had been arrested in Iran.
No, I didn’t have a good feeling about Iran and even the much praised hospitality couldn’t make me really want to change my mind. But I had decided to go for it. There had to be something that would excite me. I desperately wanted to find. We crossed the border with appropriate clothing and were now in Iran.
Our first night: an old ruffian did not want us on the edge of his property. He made that very clear and so we took the tent down again and pitched it somewhere else. The second night. Again we asked an older gentleman if we could pitch the tent on his property. We had problems, as in the night before, that we needed places that would protect us from the strong storm.
He also sent us away, after all with the hint: there in the desert in front, there you can stand.
The next day the heat was unbelievable again. We looked out for a small park in a small city. With the bicycle there was no entrance to find. A resident brought us to the main entrance, but also he could not cause the security man to open the barrier for us. So we stay sitting on the wall at the edge of the park and wait out the heat.
We go on and finally reach Tabriz and with it a small oasis, a hostel where I am allowed to be without disguise. The first demonstration took place
Some “potholes” we passed through and the injuries were still superficial. Of course, there were also these wonderful people who helped us with all our difficulties and questions.
Not without my bicycle! Not without my camera!
Who knows me knows: Not without my bicycle and for sure not without my camera!
Of course you can travel a country without taking pictures. But that is senseless. 🙂 Apart from the fact that I didn’t dare to go out on the street alone. I understood that the poor old men in this country are completely overwhelmed when they see a woman. There are no woman or at least recognizable as such. I went off with Klaus, always with this strange feeling, with this far too many and far too warm clothes, the scarf permanently hanging around and sliding somewhere on my head, and I took photos.
When I remember those hours back, I could puke. There was no chance, I had to get through every pothole. And there were more and more.
Pothole density increases!
We want to continue by train. So we drive to the station, try to get a ticket. Does not work. Our host tries 2 days later again. Doesn’t work either (why would remain speculation). Bus tickets are not available either. Several travelers are stuck in Tabriz. The demonstrations are getting louder.
The only solution to get to Tehran quickly seems to be to hitchhike. This works. A truck driver picked us up. 12 hours later, we are in Teheran. There Saeid, a fellow cyclist, picks us up and we spend the first days with him.
Tehran: The demonstrations are getting louder! A giant pothole opens up!
We feel tear gas for the first time. In front of Saeid’s apartment on the streets riots are going on. There is shooting.
We change to another accommodation. When we leave the apartment in the morning, there is no sign of the riots during the night. We are told more and more clearly that we should not take pictures, that we should better stay in the accommodation in the evening. Those are only recommendations, but you can feel the unrest, the uncertainty.
We are busy with the visa applications for India and Pakistan, the extension of the Iran visa and cycle for it across the city. Again and again there are highways in the way, the traffic is catastrophic and bicycles are not a common means of transportation. It is exhausting. After each tour I am completely exhausted and happy: we have survived once again.
But we don’t want to let this little piece of freedom be taken away from us. I get to feel a little more than Klaus how unwanted I am. I am a woman and I ride a bicycle. In addition to the dress code, the ban on women singing and dancing in public, they are also forbidden to ride bicycles.
The pothole Iran is developing into a crater!
At this point I still believe that everything will be all right again. But it won’t. It is getting worse. In some stores I am simply not served. No chance. I withdraw more and more. I become smaller and smaller, don’t look at anyone anymore, the camera stays in the bag. Only moving on the bicycle awakens the spirits and my fighting spirit. You can kiss my ass. I curse so loudly before me, that feels good. Klaus wonders what kind of swear words I know. I have to go somewhere with all this anger.
Finally, a few rays of sunshine appear, a real smile in this dark land. We visit some of the coffee shops where men and women are allowed to meet, to look each other in the eye, to touch each other carefully.
Nevertheless, when certain men enter these places I immediately feel the insecurity. Headscarves are pulled back up or adjusted. It is a temporary freedom.
And yet, we spend a lot of time in these places. And listen to how they are doing with all this. Most of all, it’s sadness that’s in their words. But a sadness that does not paralyze, but mobilizes, gives strength, enrages and gives them the courage they need to demonstrate in the streets.
Death to the dictator!
Every evening at 9 p.m., above the rooftops of Tehran, young man and woman join in a “chant” throughout the city: Death to the dictator! Before walking the streets and risking their lives.
And we are right in the middle of it! It seems to become more and more dangerous for us, too. The arbitrariness increases! Still we think that we leave the country over the border to Pakistan and again we try to get tickets for train or bus. In vain. We have missed the point where traveling by bicycle is still justifiable for tourists.
Since the demonstrations began, the mood against foreigners has clearly turned negative. We are not helping the young men and women who are fighting for freedom by traveling around the country. On the contrary. We are agitators for the government. They accuse the foreigners of incitement. We cyclists are no longer the little harmless tourists. We are the perfect victims for their accusations and arrests. And that’s what happens. My selfishness says: pah, I don’t care, I have the right to be here and ride my bicycle. But of course I don’t. If we want to support the struggle, then we should stop riding around this country for our own pleasure.
We approached the German Embassy with these thoughts. We could have left directly, but our passports were still at the Indian Embassy. A staff member took us in for a few days and made sure that we got our passports back quickly.
For Nima, another cycling friend, it became too dangerous to host tourists and we left his place as well. After we got our plane tickets, got back our passports, and our friend Saeid brings boxes and helps us to pack the bicycles, we left the pothole Iran.
We left the cage Iran after 6 weeks. It hurts. What remains?
A cage is created from lack of education, pseudo-religious archaic rites and customs, as well as inherited and brutally enforced oppression. Religion against freedom! Oppression against courage! Darkness against light.
You mullah-douchebags, you’re going to lose. One way or another. History will throw you off the throne and you will be nothing.
And in the memory perhaps only a pothole, which had to be filled.
Self-Sacrificing hospitality of the Iranian people!
How does this famous self-sacrificing hospitality fit into the picture? The one that everyone talks about and that you can’t praise highly enough as a traveler and we are only too happy to report about when we’ve experienced it too. We travelers seem to be addicted to it and are therefore rather reluctant to talk about the other side. Perhaps the word “hospitality” is simply a misnomer in these contexts.
Iran is a thoroughly repressive country that only reveals its closed nature at second glance. Hospitality, an attempt to overcome this?
P.s.: Cat pictures always come good on the net 🙂 Even if the internet is switched off every day in the afternoon and at the other times almost nothing works without VPN, Persians, and also Persian cats, don’t let themselves be helped. They want to go their own way against the regime. Not even Klaus can help 🙂