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Archive for the ‘Iran-People’ Category

“From little acorns big oaks grow” is a traditional saying and I am hoping that my series of musings about my travels in Iran which are now being published in our little village magazine will go some way to illustrating an Iran much removed from the politics and sanctions dominating the news,  instead focussing on the “real” Iran and its wonderful people.

I never fail to be amazed by comments I receive about my writing however mundane I feel it is. It is important to describe and explain how people live in Iran even if my observations are based on a small rural/urban population around Esfahan. I cannot and will not pretend that my experiences of traveling in Iran are representative of the population. They cannot possibly be so with a country the size of Iran but I hope that I can give comfort to readers that Iranian people are just like us. They have families, jobs, go on holiday, eat and drink, enjoy themselves. They are not all extreme political or religious animals. They are normal. Just like us.

Let’s hope that by writing about my experiences, more people will begin to understand and appreciate the Iran not publicised by the western media.

Fingers crossed.

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(Continued)

As well as enjoying the sunshine and appreciating the history and grandeur of Sarteep House, we soon learned that there were connections between the House and Feri’s family which Feri did not know about.  

Some Ashrafi family background will help to explain the connections.

Heidar Ali Ashrafi (19xx-1980)

Feri’s father Heidar Ali Ashrafi, started his working life in management at a sugar factory in Esfahan. Keen to help his local community and passionate about politics it wasn’t long before he was elected Councillor, a member of the Anjoman-e Shar, (Town Council) in Sede, his home town. He was subsequently elected Mayor and served three terms in Sede. He was also the Mayor of Tiran, Rehnan and Mubarakhe and we still have the orders from the Ministry of the Interior commanding him to take up his Mayorships.  

Heidar was determined to improve the living and working conditions for the people of Sede and he was renowned for being a very active  and “hands-on” Mayor. During his Mayorship, irrigation systems through the town to the local orchards were vastly improved and proper sewerage systems were introduced; the main roads were tarmaced for the first time and he created two town squares at each end of town to welcome people into Sede from Esfahan and Tehran. These works are still in evidence today and are an amazing legacy for the community.

Heidar was still in office as Mayor in February 1979 when the Revolution took place but was deposed soon after and put under House Arrest. Sadly, he died in unexplained circumstances some 9 months later.

 Heidar Ashrafi is still remembered by the community with a great deal of respect and fondness for his vision, passion and generosity and we never visit the town without someone, somewhere taking time to tell us.

Feri’s grandfather, Mohamad Ashrafi, was a very experienced theologian and lawyer and became the Head of the Ministry of Justice of Esfahan Province. This was in the days before jury’s were introduced and he was responsible for passing judgement and sentences on those brought before him who had committed less serious crimes. If he was faced with a murder case or more serious crime, he would call upon the Council of Guardians of the town who would meet at Sarteep’s House for deliberation and final judgement.

 

This is the same room in which those meetings took place and we stood quietly thinking about Feri’s grandfather sitting on these steps deliberating with his fellow judges all those years ago. Feri had never seen this room before and didn’t know that his grandfather had been there before him but hopefully it has spurred him on to find out more about his fascinating family history.

Feri came to the UK to study when he was 19 years old. His father and his two elder brothers died during this period and he did not return to Iran for the next 22 years.  There are still gaps in his knowledge and understanding about what happened to his family but we are gradually finding the missing pieces which we hope will complete the jigsaw.

Dr Amini 

 

During our visit we saw three other visitors at the house. Two were walking round with filming equipment and the third walked towards us. The guide introduced Feri to Dr Amini. Feri didn’t flinch but clearly recognising the Ashrafi name and after asking a couple of questions about Feri’s father, Dr Amini introduced himself as Feri’s junior school teacher. It was a particularly emotional moment and I was quite choked as the two men embraced.

Dr Amini spoke very highly of Heider Ashrafi, remembering much about his achievements whilst Mayor of Sede. He turned to Sethari, Feri’s niece and told her how proud she should be of her grandfather and her ancestry as well as the legacies he left for the town.  I know that she is proud of her family roots and she appreciates the respect and warmth which clearly still exists for her grandfather, but to hear this from an eminent historian now working for the equivalent of UK’s National Trust was quite overwhelming and it brought home to me what the Ashrafi name still stands for in Sede and in many ways why I have been made so welcome in the town.

When Feri and Dr Amini finished talking, Dr Amini left for an interview with a local TV station about Sarteep House, and we completed our tour of the house somewhat subdued and stunned by the morning’s events. Before we left, the guide explained that the Trustees of Sarteep House want to add a model of Feri’s father to their collection along with his Biography and would we be able to help with putting something together.

I’m sure that we can, but I have said that we will commission the “Madame Tussaud’s” model…….

 

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If you haven’t already come across Hila Sadeghi, the young Iranian poet, you are about to. Great poetry has been written by great Persian poets in the past and the rhythm and musicality of the language makes it perfect for this medium.

Written and spoken with passion, angst, disappointment and anger, Hila’s poems come alive as she delivers them to the receptive audience and she gets the recognition and applause she deserves for her talent, openness and bravery.

I’m not proficient enough in Farsi to really appreciate Persian poetry past or present-it is  difficult to translate poems from and into any language without losing some of the inferred meaning but even if you don’t speak the lingo, there is no doubting the meaning and passion behind Hila’s poems. She speaks from the heart. A brave thing to do.

Hila remembers Neda Agha Soltan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWAM7C3Q8vk

The Class is Empty without Your Presence

By: Hila Sedighi

It is a rainy autumn day.
The sky is about to burst
into tears
as if a cloud
is kneeling to pray
to the summer’s heat.

The school smells of the alphabet
The bells ring loud to declare our first recess

Our unsanctioned laughter and our naive joy
was met with constant rage and slander
These were our youth days!

It is autumn and the school re-opens.
I am filled with moments and memories in this classroom where you are no more.
I sit there at your desk that is topped with perished flower petals.

It is autumn and I am so full of rain
It is autumn and I am so full of rain
I am imprisoned by my own rage.

What a beautiful tomorrow we dreamed of
It is all in vain now.

What great times and what dreams we passed
searching for a re-awakening.

Me and you!
We were the generation that was not allowed to fly.

Me and you!
We were the generation that could not fly!

Enslaved in the claws of the falcon-
the same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes with its sharp claws!
The same falcon who shot you in front of my eyes with its sharp claws!

All our dreams died
and separated our hands of friendship.

You drank the poison of death,
and you left me suddenly.

I now swear to to the tears that roll down a mother’s face
And I swear to our eternal ideas
And I swear to each drop of blood of love
And I swear to the burning hearts in chains
My heart shattered in a hundred pieces and fell to the ground
The sorrow had cut my heart.

Tell me
Tell me if you are happy where you are.

Are you free in the other world?
Do yo still remember our younger years?
Do you still love your country?

Tell me, are there no perverts where you are?
Is the fate of trees indebted to axes?
Do they not steal your conscious over there?
Do they not rape your pride over there?

Are there signs of unknown graves where you are?
Do you hear the cries of the mothers?

Recite with me, recite with me
We shared our pains, our generation, and our way
Recite my poem with sorrow and sigh

Again,
it is the beginning of autumn
The sky is about to burst into tears

I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
I am left with an empty chair where you used to sit
And the perished flowers on your desk.

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On a previous visit to Iran we were lucky enough to be invited round to tea by our next-door-neighbours. This was no ordinary tea-time though as the point of the invitation was to show me the extremely old samovar and charcoal burner that is the traditional Iranian way to prepare tea. I forget now just how old the samovar is but I think it is at least 70 years old.

We sat on a takht, covered in a Persian carpet and drank tea as it should be drunk! Calmly with friends. 🙂

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Still roaming round the private apartments at Sarteep’s House I was intrigued by many of the exhibits displayed behind the glass cabinets. Unfortunately, the sun was pouring in just at the wrong angle which meant photography was difficult but I did manage some recognisable pictures.

Wedding attire, hair conditioner resembling Octopus legs, tooth extractors, kohl-liners (Surmehdan) and even a chain-link suit of armour mixed with other household memorabilia to make a fascinating exhibition of life in those times. History at school was so boring….social history is something else.

  

My favourite exhibit, although with very sad connotations, was the Zangouleh-paa-Taboot (literally meaning “the bell that accompanies the coffin”.) I had previously walked passed ignoring this exhibit not understanding its significance but when we had been talking to the guide for a while and he understood how genuinely interested I am in Persian/Iranian culture and everyday traditions, he took us back to the room where the exhibit was and made a point of explaining what this item meant. I found it very sad at the time, and remembering it now I still do. For some reason I was and am very touched by this old tradition but I understand that it is a concept still alive and kicking in modern day Iran. (See below*)

Zangouleh-paa-Taboot-then

It was explained to us that in days gone by when a less-affluent man had a child late in life and died whilst the child was still young the child would walk in front of/beside the coffin carrying this item to signify he was an orphan and needed “help”. I found it sad to think that children were expected to demonstrate their need so openly but perhaps as part of the culture it is an accepted practice and there is no stigma attached to this. I hope so.     

*Zangouleh-paa-Taboot-now

The phrase is still used in Iran now to signify the status of a child born of an elderly father so, as I tease Feri, should by some miracle he has a child at this late stage in life (he’s 57 this year) I would say “Oh Feri! You don’t want a “Zangouleh-paa-Taboot!”………..  

Do you?

To be continued……

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Many of our friends and family in Sede have a family orchard which has been passed down the generations and where we go to spend a day together once a week. Our family orchard is set up perfectly for a day out and is totally self-contained. The orchard is in the old part of town which means that we have to negotiate narrow and bumpy roads which get progressively narrower as we near the orchard gates and car wing-mirrors have to be folded back tightly so we can get by safely.

      

A day in the family orchard in the spring/ordibehesht is a very different day from a day spent picking fruit and fighting off the wasps in late summer/early autumn.

The Orchard in October

At this time of year the fruit trees are in leaf and the blossom is only just turning into what become the apples, pears, apricots and cherries that we return to pick later in the year. Harvesting the fruit keeps us busy, so what do we do when there is no fruit to pick?

We make our own entertainment of course, or to be more precise, “the boys” entertain us admirably. My knitting and reading was soon abandoned as I watched wheelbarrow races and in the general mayhem that followed they formed a “band” comprising Mammad on the watering-can, Amir playing the tin box, Feri blowing away on a makeshift trumpet and Mansour banging two metal plates together. Ali joined in later to demonstrate his musical prowess and natural rhythm and so “Bonkers” was born.

Introducing “Bonkers”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wb72mYMNyE

     

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