April 21, 2005
We have been here about 16 hours, but it feels like a week. Ten of us spent the day discovering Tehran and surrounds. Our afternoon was spent driving down a tree-lined street that led to the snow covered mountain (Mt. Albers) we could see from our hotel. It is the newer, wealthier part of the city, North Tehran.
We wind up the narrow streets, (passing the graffiti on the buildings, one has an American flag with skulls and rockets, scrawled across it is "Down with America") until the road ends at terraces of outdoor cafes with the river running through them.
Young couples lounging on rich red carpets; touching, talking, eating ice cream and smoking the hooka. We climb for an hour, it is endless, a stream of Iranians climb with us or pass us on their way down. Men and boys holding hands, laughter, curiosity, and the standard raincoat that everyone must wear is much tighter on these girls than we think is allowed. We have come to a place where clothing police are missing. Quite different from the airport, the plane landed and EVERY woman pulled out her scarf and tied it around her neck...not one had worn it on the flight, the atmosphere felt the seriousness. A woman we met today told us: "Iran is a lawless country with too many restrictions."
The CODEPINK button drew attention at the airport and we have our new acquaintances coming to visit us at dinner tonight, anxious to tell us their stories. What we heard today was very depressing. The city itself is very depressing, you can see it was once beautiful, but now no one seems to care, the streets are full of trash, as was that poor river. A city of 14 million in the day and 10 million at night, people pour into the city for work clogging the traffic so badly that we crawl through the city. The smog is dense and my eyes burn and we are all melting under our manteau's and scarves...wondering how they can bear it. Welcome to Tehran.