Rules and Revolutions

by tkos on August 13, 2012

‘When we’re in Iran, I have to walk ten paces behind you, because you are the man.’ Kimmi insists. I’m not sure that is going to be strictly true, I think to myself. How would we keep an eye on our women if they are behind us? I give Kimmi a look of doubt.

‘It’s true! I swear! It even says so in Lonely Planet!’

‘Oh, then it must be true.’ And I decide not to push the point.

It’s fair to say, that Iran is a place a much mystery. It is the one place that freaked most people out, when we told them about this cycle trip, but nobody could really say why.  It is the one place that everybody warned us about, without any reason. And it is the first place that Kimmi and I were filled with nervous excitement about.

A great book we both read was ‘Iran Awakening’ by Shirin Ebadi. To learn that Iran was one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East came to quite a shock for the both of us, where women had the same rights as men, not only in theory but in practice. Women were found not only as lawyers, but quite commonly as judges. Women were free to wear what they wanted and were rarely found with the ‘hejab’. It was life as we commonly know it today in the West, but it was prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Basically, in a nutshell, Iran was run by a Monarch government, under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi until he was overthrown by the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who still holds power today. So the people of Iran, students mainly, got a little sick of having a King and not having a democratic society. They threw their toys about and put their weight behind Khomeni. Now they have a democracy, but all parties need to be approved by Khomeni, so he is untouchable. So it is a little like it was before, but now they have a much stricter ‘Dad’ looking after the country. And he has decided to change a few things, such as:

  • No music, in any way shape or form. This means no concerts, traditional or otherwise, no CD’s, no radio, no songs, no internet based music sites. If there is a performance with sound, the crowd are monitored for any excessive rhythmic swaying. Seriously.
  • No gatherings greater than ten in any one place. Even in your home. If you are caught in a gathering, you can go to jail. Parties can not be a lot of fun, especially with no music.
  • No adultery. If a wife has an affair, she can be stoned to death. This actually still happens. She is buried alive in the ground up to her neck with her head sticking out and rocks are thrown at her face until she is dead. If the husband has an affair, he is buried up to his waist and stoned to death. If the woman escapes, she is recaptured and shot to death, if the man escapes, he is deemed free.
  • The death penalty exists but with a twist. If you murder somebody, the penalty is death by hanging but the family of the victim must kick the chair out from underneath you. If they refuse to do so, you live. If you like, you can offer them some money to refuse or basically pay for the blood of their family.
  • You cannot have sex without marriage, but you can buy a temporary marriage licence anywhere from two hours to 99 years. Kind of like a lease hold instead of a free hold I suppose. Unmarried sex is 100 lashes.
  • No alcohol. If you get caught, you get 80 lashes. The second time you get caught, you get another 80 lashes. If you are stupid enough to get caught a third time, you get a public death by firing squad.
  • Women’s rights can only legally be discussed by religious men.
  • If women (Muslim or otherwise) don’t wear a hejab in public, it is 74 lashes. Sorry Kimmi.
  • A wife needs approval from her husband to obtain a passport. A husband can ban his wife from a technical profession and divorce his wife whenever he wants without reason or advance notice.
  • If you talk about the government, you go missing.

There are many, many things that we learnt in Iran and the above are just some examples. I certainly have written this blog long after leaving Iran as it is not something that I wanted to get found on my lap top in some military check.

Although the above seems pretty barbaric, it’s important to note that we didn’t see any public executions or notice anything really out of the ordinary from most countries. We took in the culture and the atmosphere through the wonderful, welcoming and friendly people that we met all over the country.

And we did it, walking and cycling right next to each other, every step of the way.



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