Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tehran a paradox of rich and poor

It is true enough, as one of the speakers in this article, that Americans don’t understand Iranians, but what strikes me is how the old dichotomy between north Tehran and south Tehran is still so evident. Evidently the rich have not faired badly under the current clergy-managed regime. It was that difference that Khomeini and his followers exploited in the revolution against the Shah in 1978-1979. It is hard to conceive such a revolution – or rebellion – as that was could take place today. All the more reason to wonder what the Bush administration thinks it is doing if it actually does attack strategic sites in Iran, as some Neocons are recommending.
[Click on the title above for the whole article.]

Associated Press
"TEHRAN, Iran - The shops are full of Western pop music and movies — the latest Harry Potter film, even "The Simpsons." Young women stroll the streets in skinny jeans and short coats, their heads barely covered, arm-in-arm with boys in muscle shirts and spiky hair."
"This is affluent north Tehran, where clerics are rare, lifestyles are relatively liberal and Iran's growing isolation from the world is a source of deep anxiety."
"Not far to the south, though, in a dilapidated bureaucratic building near the city's government center, and farther to the south in Tehran's sprawling poorer neighborhoods, things are different."
"It is the paradox of Tehran today — a city and people surprisingly cosmopolitan and far different from Western stereotypes, paired with an ultraconservative government working to consolidate its power and at sharp odds with the West."
"Yet, whether modern or strictly traditional, many Iranians share one thing: A strong national pride and desire for respect from the outside world, sharpened by their sense of being under siege"
"The bulk of protests and street fighting surrounding the revolution occurred in the city's center, especially around Tehran University and the long boulevard now called Vali Asr, but supporters of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini recruited many of their 'foot soldiers' from Tehran's southern neighborhoods. And Khomeini, on his return to the country from exile, based his headquarters there."
"the northern neighborhoods have remained something of a haven for the more liberal and well-off _ with modern freeways, new and often graceful high-rise apartment buildings and green parks."
"Only miles to the south, however, many women still wear the long, enveloping black chador as they go out to shop or take children to school"
"And hard-line figures like Hossein Shariatmadari, close to Khamenei, cast Iran's differences with the United States as an unending ideological struggle between their Islamic theocracy and a plundering, arrogant America."
" 'We simply want to control our own resources, run our own affairs,' he said. 'The mistake that the U.S. administration makes is to threaten Iran ... They don't understand the Iranian nation'."

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