Sunday, 4 December 2011

Iran in the news

Iran has been in the headlines again this week. Firstly because of the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, and then because of the Iranian diplomats in Britain being given 24 hours to leave the country. The attack on the embassy in Tehran seems to have been a terrifying ordeal for those inside. They say the police stood by and allowed the 'students' to carry out the attack. If the police were standing by does this mean the attack was condoned (or even instigated) by the government? The Iranian foreign secretary (I think) did apologise, but how genuine was this apology?

Britain sending the Iranian diplomats back to their country seems a bit tit for tat (though in a much nicer and less terifying way). Yes, we're making a point, but what is it really going to achieve? It just seems to me that the situation could be much more easily resolved in our favour if we kept them here. For starters, if Iran is such a threat then surely we need people on the ground there to keep an eye on things for us. How is that going to happen, if we have no ambassador or other embassy personnel there? If we allowed the Iranian officials to remain here, the path of safely returning diplomats to Iran would be much simpler and quicker.

When I went to Russia in the mid-1980s it was the time of the cold war and Russia was the most misunderstood and least known country on the planet. Everyone thought they knew all kinds of things about the USSR, but as most of their knowledge and perceptions came from American spy films and propaganda, much of what they thought was wrong. When I told people where I was going their reaction would either be one of disbelief or one of fear and paranoia. "But what if they don't let you out?" was a question I was asked all too often.

These days it seems like Iran is the new Soviet Union. Most people have never met anyone from there or anyone who has been there, let alone thought of going there themselves. The presiding image of Iran in most people's minds is of crowds chanting "Death to America" whilst burning American flags. When I mention to people that it is one of the countries I would most like to go to, and indeed when I told people I was actually booked on a trip to travel around Iran (it was cancelled as there weren't enough people on it, so I never actually got to go) their reaction is similar to what the reaction was back in the '80s when I went to Russia. Yet whenever I speak to anyone who has travelled there, or read of anyone's travels through Iran they always speak so highly of the country and its people, saying it's one of the friendliest most welcoming places they have been. As usual it seems to be the politicians who are setting the international tone for their country and doing their own people a great injustice by creating such a negative perception of them.

My dream of going to Iran could be further away than ever now as I doubt there'll be many visas issued to British passport holders for the forseeable future.

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