People, Travel

Things That May Surprise Westerners

Things That May  Surprise WesternersThings That May  Surprise Westerners

Many Westerners fail to appreciate ways in which Iran is an advanced and even liberal state, Ben Winsor, writes in Business Insider of Sep 5:

“I observed some of these incongruities when I traveled to Iran myself in 2013 from my native Australia.” Excerpts of the article follow:

 Positive Opinion

The warm feelings most Iranians have for Westerners may come as a surprise. To travel as a Westerner in Iran is to be routinely stopped on the street and welcomed by curious and generous strangers. You will be given cool drinks, invited to parties, and offered free tours of anything nearby.

Young Iranians get their hands on iPhones despite the sanctions, and watch American TV shows and movies online.

As reported in The Atlantic, a clear majority of Iranians want the current Iranian–US nuclear talks to succeed.


 Gender Equality

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, women in Iran have the right to vote, drive, and travel alone. Women have served in parliament and in cabinet, and they attend universities. More than 60% of Iranian university students are now women, with numbers even higher in some science and engineering courses, the BBC reported.

On International Women’s Day in April, President Hassan Rouhani spoke live on television and said he “will not accept the culture of sexual discrimination.”

“According to the Islamic rules, man is not the stronger sex and woman is not the weaker one,” he said.


 Birth Control

After the Iran–Iraq war, when focus shifted from conflict to the economy in 1988, the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini issued a ruling making birth control free and widely available. He was convinced a high birth-rate would harm the economy.

With family planning sessions provided to all newlyweds, the birth-rate fell more than half, allowing parents to invest more in their children’s education and giving women the chance to gain ground in the workforce.  The measures have been too successful for some. However, two months ago the parliament prohibited vasectomies and contraception advertising in an effort to boost population growth.

 Actions against Terrorism

Iran has found itself, the report says, partially aligned with the West in fighting against Saddam Hossein’s regime in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and militants in Iraq and Syria.

After 9/11, Iran supported overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan and assisted NATO with strategy and the formation of a new government.

Iran also had no great love for Iraq’s Sunni regime, having fought a brutal war against Saddam Hossein in the 1980s. Backed by the Reagan Administration at the time, Hossein used sarin gas and other chemical weapons on thousands of Iranian soldiers.

Iranian policy in Iraq has now refocused with the rise of Sunni ISIS jihadists. Iran worries that ISIS is destabilizing the region. Kurds battling ISIS in northern Iraq report that Iran was the first country to respond when they requested support.