A return to Iran
Published Apr 22, 2006 12:02 AM
WW photo: John Catalinotto
The following is based on a talk April 14 by Ardeshir Ommani,
who had just returned from a 25-day-long visit to Iran. It was his
first visit to the country of his birth in 25
Iran today “is a work in progress.” In the
city of Esfahan, for example, with a population of 4 million and about 2 million
Iranian tourists from other parts of the country, visiting during the Iranian
New Year (Norooz) at the start of Spring, one could feel the tremendous energy
and vigorous economic activities in such sectors as housing construction, road
building, tourism, transportation, entertainment and trade. The huge number of
private cars, taxis, and buses made traffic almost unmanageable.
more than 50 years of the Pahlavi Dynasty—father and son—that was
ended by the 1979 Revolution, more than 50 percent of the Iranian families did
not enjoy the taste of running water in their homes. This lack gave rise to a
multitude of diseases, including diarrhea and trachoma. In our recent journey, I
found out that throughout the entire country, including the most remote
villages, families had running water at home and most homes are connected to the
city sewer system.
The same with electricity: the streets of all cities
and the main roads are brightly lit. The light poles of the electric lines run
everywhere. Traveling along the highway between Esfahan and Shiraz, we were
surprised to see workers with water trucks busily cleaning the dust and soot off
the road signs and light reflectors to ensure safety of the travelers. What a
change from 25 years ago!
Each family in the smaller rural farming village
of Saman has a refrigerator. Some have clothes washers and dryers. Almost all
have televisions. The living space per person seemed greater than in some New
York apartments. What was very pleasant to see were the clean streets and
sidewalks, especially in Esfahan and Shiraz. Even in Tehran, a city known for
its crowdedness (with a population about 10 million) the main streets were swept
cleaner than many streets in the crowded cities in the U.S.
impressive quality that cannot be purchased at any price was the hospitality and
the kindness of the people of Iran.
produces 300,000 cars annually, with 12 different models completely manufactured
and assembled inside Iran, for both domestic consumption and export to
neighboring countries. The country also produces trucks, and construction
equipment, including flatbeds for moving heavy equipment.
The road network
is extensive, with more than 31,800 miles of paved roads and motorways. The two
highways, the A1 and A2, link the Iraqi and Pakistani borders and Afghan and
Turkish frontiers. Iran Air runs services to Ahwaz, Esfahan, Kish, Mashhad,
Shiraz, Tabriz, Tehran, and Zahedan and other major cities. Bus service is
widespread, inexpensive and comfortable.
In comparison to the period
before the 1979 Revolution, the roads were greatly extended across the country
into 50,000 villages and are wide, smooth and well constructed.
subway system, called the Metro, is under construction in Esfahan (to be
operational in two years). Railway services are expanding to link Esfahan,
Shiraz, Teheran and other cities. Huge openings in the face of the mountains,
with earthmoving equipment parked outside, were signs of this
Impact of U.S. threats
You may want to know the
kind of impact the U.S. government and its European allies’ dual
strategy—threat of regime change and calling for referral of Iran to the
United Nations Security Council—has had on the attitudes of the general
population inside Iran, especially with regard to Iran’s right to research
and development of nuclear energy.
The threats of bombing Iran’s
nuclear facilities and its relevant infrastructure by the U.S. and/or Israel
and/or invading the country, along with the illegitimate opposition’s call
for “regime change” drive the general population closer to the
position of the Iranian government. It also has forced the opposition in the
U.S. to the Iranian government to announce that it too is against the U.S.
agenda of de-stabilizing Iran through the use of sanctions, embargo or
dismemberment of the country.
Voice of America and Radio Farda programming
is primarily directed at youth, depicting life in America with worry-free love
songs, long-haired, scantily clad women being wooed by handsome Iranian men,
imaged in very Western cultural garb. Its aim is clearly to seduce the
youngsters into believing this fantasy life of love, sexy dancing, flashy cars,
clubs and “freedom” American-style is what life is like outside of
Naturally, among the factors influencing the quality of life, the
order of priorities varies among different social classes. For a great majority
of working class women and men, the issues of healthcare, education and
employment take priorities over dress codes.
Education, literacy and
Dr. Hadi Azadpour, whose roots are in the Ghashghaee tribe
in Fars Province and who now is a general physician working in the main hospital
of Movdasht, was eager to point out that many members of his own family and the
other tribal communities in that area have achieved higher education degrees.
Furthermore, they hold leadership positions in the schools and healthcare
The national policies are aimed at preventing illiteracy,
promoting basic education, developing continuing education, and establishing
adult educational programs. These policies are to serve the continuing promotion
of education and quality of the labor force.
According to UNESCO’s
Institute for Statistics, the National Literacy Policy goals of the Islamic
Republic of Iran (IRI) for the year 2005 are to obtain a total adult literacy
rate of 85.2 percent, up from the 2000 figure of 76.0 percent; for women, the
goal is 82.5 percent and for men 87.7 percent.
The most recent statistics
show that in 2004-2005, some 15 million students are enrolled in the Iranian
schools. Out of this total, 7.4 million were female, and 7.9 million were
According to statistics available for the year 2004, the level of
enrollment in universities reached 2.1 million students, of whom 54 percent were
women. This figure strongly challenges the notion put forward by some opposition
groups that the women of Iran are debilitated in their educational performance
and social status in Iran.
Healthcare is provided to all children,
pre-natal care to pregnant women and care to senior citizens, all at no cost.
Teams of nurses and doctors and primary healthcare personnel regularly visit the
rural clinics, ensuring that the local municipalities properly provide services.
Last, but not the least important, the government gives subsidies towards
some of the essential food items, such as milk, rice and flour.
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