I have decided to start my blog with my favourite story that I usually tell people during a wine session (any drinking session that involves at least one person drinking wine – usually me). Nobody really believes it and thinks of it as a joke. Well – it is a true story actually. I can’t share some of the details as I still want to live a bit longer.
I went to Iran when I was a teenager. It was just after the election when Mr Ahmadinejad got himself elected. Obviously, there was a revolution after this memorable event which lead a lot of young people go to the streets of Tehran wearing green ribbons to protest. Green was the colour of the opposition and was highly prosecuted. As a result, a lot of people were beaten to death, a lot of people were arrested and who knows what else was happening to the other protestors.
Luckily for me I went there for a competition (some school related stuff) which was quite political there and they had a lot of political events for the contestants. There was one event where they wanted us to have dinner and take pictures with their current minister of foreign affairs which couldn’t really speak English, or maybe – didn’t want to. Either way – an interesting strategy for the international event. That event was quite alright, I gave some interviews for the national press while wearing my favourite green scarf – I couldn’t show my perfect hair there as it would obviously attract too much men attention and this is what the country would not tolerate – fair enough.
The highlight however was the great news announced by the organisers of the competition – “We will be meeting our president tomorrow!!!”. And then they gave us a lecture about the rules that we can’t obey. Especially for girls – like our visit wouldn’t be complicated already. So, the main rule – no hand shaking, no touching Mr Ahmadinejad or any other man. Like I would be dying to shake his hand. Other rules were just general rules for not wearing anything green, having our hair covered and no open skin shown. Well, showing face is OK for foreigners – Mahmoud is an open liberal man.
And guess what. I thought – F**K IT! I won’t be meeting that man who elects himself as a president after killing and torturing thousands of people. However, the rules are a bit more complicated there. I couldn’t just tell one of the organisers that I won’t meet Mahmoud because he’s a bad man that I don’t approve. I mean, of course they would say that it is up to me but the future wouldn’t be as predictable after that. I needed to come up with the plan. I decided to fake a food poisoning. Sounds good, right? I thought so too.
When the day has come and it was the time for my act, I told one of the organisers that I can’t go anywhere as I had a food poisoning. So, they sent me a doctor to check me. The doctor did his thing and told me that he knew I was pretending and that I should be careful. Fortunately for me he was in the opposition and understood my reasons for not meeting Mr President. Or maybe he just said that to me. Either way, I started panicking. It got even worse when they sent one more doctor to analyse the situation. That guy was rude. He closed his eyes and couldn’t open them until I put my scarf on. Then he covered me with some material so that he wouldn’t touch my skin or whatever. And he obviously understood that I was faking everything – didn’t say a word and left.
That was the scariest moment of my life so far. I had no idea what was going to happen. I got no calls, no more visits – nothing. I got a present though – a traditional hand made Iranian art plate from His Excellency. Thanks, Mahmoud, if you are reading this! (Hopefully not). Anyways, after a while, I decided to leave my room and there was a lot of security around and they were “discreetly” following me. Then it got even scarier – one of the organisers who was some guy from the government approached me politely and invited me to his office for a cup of tea. He asked me a lot of questions about what I thought about the country, it’s politics, the president. He wanted to see the pictures I have taken and all the usual stuff. Well, could happen to anyone, right? At the end of the meeting, the guy told me that I would be asked not to come back to the country. Well, I think it’s kind of reasonable – you can’t come back to the country if you fake food poisoning so you wouldn’t need to meet a president.
And after that, I left his office, spent one more day there and flew back to my home country. For the first time in my life, I actually felt safe in my home town. I guess the standards change after experiences like that.
Would I do the same thing again? Absolutely not.
P.S. Regardless of what I said about the politics, Iran is a beautiful country with amazing people and I really enjoyed my time there.