Parisa is a journalism graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently a MA candidate at the School of International Service at American University. She began writing about her native country, Iran, at her personal blog IranStories.com to share everything she loves about Iran and Iranians, minus all the politics (if that's possible). Tired of being asked the most basic questions about Iran, all based on stereotypes and lies, Parisa ust wanted to provide a pure image of what life is like in Iran...what is it like to be an Iranian woman.
Now, Parisa brings her I Heart Iran section from IranStories.com exclusively to Aslan Media.
Follow Parisa on Twitter Contact Her Via Email At: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years ago, when I came across the reality show, Googoosh Academy of Music, I was immediately hooked. The Iranian icon of pop music Googoosh, in a high quality and professional voice competition, was cooperating with two other musicians to produce an exciting and entertaining program much like America's "The Voice". This TV "reality" series is produced by banned - and now operating in the West- media outlet "Manoto" (which means "Me and You"), and broadcasts to Iranians all over the world via satellite. It films in the UK.
In the wake of Spring and President Obama’s Persian New Year message to Iranians, I took my boyfriend to Canada for a weekend of celebration with relatives. It was his first Nourooz party and I was worried how he will react to a house full of loud, dancing, slightly drunk and exquisitely happy Iranians.
But of course it went well. The famous Iranian hospitality took us in with open arms, fed us well and made sure we were comfortable. In front of him, they whispered in Farsi, “He is cute.” And behind him, they constantly asked me to look after him to make sure he has everything he needs.
His white skin and blue eyes were a major hit as some praised the Aryan blood and rejoiced that my boyfriend is “one of us.” We both rolled our eyes of course, as we’ve had many conversations about Iranians’ obsession with “Aryans” and the notorious “Persian Pride” separating them from other nations in the region specially Arabs, Afghans and Turks.
Can you imagine a Christmas without candy canes? Valentine’s Day without the chocolate? How would you feel about a Fourth of July BBQ without the hot dogs? What about a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration without the booze?
Imagine that all these essential holiday items run scarce because the prices are so high you can’t afford them, or better, are so ridiculously high, you decide to do without them.
As some of you might know, tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20th is Nourooz. The first day of spring marks the Persian New Year for man Persians, Kurds, Tajiks, Afghans, around the world. In Iran, Nourooz is a thirteen-day period of house-cleanings, celebrations, visiting family and friends, consuming a lot of sweets and nuts as well as giving money to the young (like exchanging gifts for holidays.)
Not surprisingly, there is something wrong with this year’s Iranian Nourooz. Pistachios! As mixed nuts are essential to the Iranian did-o-bazdid or New Year visits, dearth of pistachio has created a dilemma among Iranians in Iran, who can't afford the new high prices. As everything else in the country at the moment, finding a reason for the high price and scarcity of pistachios have become the hot topic of this season.
Officials who always have an "answer," offered a long list of reasons (or, shall I say, excuses):
1- The head of the Pistachio Association (didn’t know there is such a thing) Mohsen Jalalpour, blames the currency market. According to him, pistachio is a major export produce for Iran, and since dollar exchange rate is currently very high, the price of pistachio automatically has been skyrocketing.
2- Asgaroladi, also known as Iran’s King of Pistachio, blames the farmers for setting high prices and claims since everything in Iran is expensive, pistachios are not any different
3- Head of Council of Trades, Farahani, blames the self-interested tradesmen and shopkeepers who hoard and save pistachios in order to make benefit later on.
But thank God we have humor in Iran; so for those who don’t have an answer, there's these:
Pestaminophen (Pesteh meaning pistachio) is a new pill Iranian humor is prescribing for the new pistachio crisis. The medicines info reads: Three pistachios a day, Keep in a locked safe. For showing-off purposes only.
What makes an Iranian girl happy these days.
A cartoon by Abbas Goodarzi: This bag of pistachios is equipped with camera technology.
Another cartoon shows the window of a jewelry which announces the new arrival of a pistachio set.
Every time, I’m putting pieces for I Heart Iran together, indeed I have fun, but when laughter ends, (at moments like this,) I realize how grim the economical situation is getting in Iran that something as innate as pistachios for New Years celebrations raise such buzz.
On that note, (pistachio-less) Nourooz Mobarak and Happy New Year to you from me.
“When I die, do not touch my mother,” says Iran’s Supreme Leader in this imaginary conversation with the Iranian president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who (once again) has raised many eyebrows for his unconventional musings.
This time, in Venezuela, during the funeral of Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad displayed some plainly un-Islamic and un-Iranian behavior.
First, upon hearing the news of Chavez's death, Ahmadinejad announced a national day of mourning. Then, he called him a “martyr.” A loving way of remembering a friend, you might think, but no. Don't be surprised when I tell you this remark has enraged even the religious hardliners who might praise Chavez's stance against the US.
In the Islamic tradition — especially the Shia' tradition — martyrdom is the holiest and most prestigious achievement for a Muslim. It's a privilege reserved for the soldiers of wars and victims of acts of terror against Muslims. Dying of cancer, though tragic, is certainly not a reason to earn this "blessing."
One of the greatest misfortunes (or fortunes?) of living under a despotic regime is that no matter who or what you are, your life is going to be affected by propaganda and schemes that are designed to guarantee the stability and security of the establishment.
For example, in Iran, if you are a monkey, and if you are the lucky, chosen monkey, you will be used to demonstrate the scientific achievement of the Islamic Republic in the aerospace field.
Meet the squished, gray monkey tightly strapped to a rocket called Peeshgam (meaning pioneer, also the name of an Iranian-made missile.) He was sent to space according to the Iranian Defense Department to check it out for the Iranian astronauts that plan to follow suit.
As it is always the case with Iran’s politics and state projects, the results were miraculous; the monkey came back a different monkey; his visible, large mole had vanished and his gray fur turned orange.
Last year, for the month of Muharam, I wrote a piece about how the clash of modernity and tradition in Iran shows itself around the ninth and the tenth of the month, when Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of the 3rd Imam, Hussein.
This year, as I was on the look-out for witty and humorous cases to discuss the significance of Muharam, I noticed the criticism and mockery of this old tradition evolved around its economic aspects; meaning extravagant celebrations for this religious holiday while the country is struggling with financial troubles. Critics of the lavish ceremonies came together with religious critics, and what we've seen is all kinds of satire in Iran.
It is not very easy to tell the tale of being questioned by the Basij in Isfahan, Iran, two years ago. Almost immediately, I can see the confusing look by those who can't grasp the idea of police interfering in one’s personal space. I have to make sure I set the tone and the background first.
Terms such as "dictatorship," "theocracy" or "the government wants you to live based on proper Islamic behavior" always help. Then, I give a few example of growing up in Isfahan where shopping centers were frequented by men and women who stopped the shoppers at the door and asked them to fix their scarf, clean their make up or take off visible jewelry (for men.)
(Non-fiction) stories are a great way of showing what life is like in Iran, but there is also the magic of images. For Iran, a country characterized by hypocrisy and force — a country where speaking your mind against the regime is not welcomed, being brief could have a deeper effect than being outspoken and verbose.
This week, I saw two images that help me further explain what’s like to live under control where every aspect of your life is dictated.
Have you noticed that I haven’t written in two months? I was struggling with a terrible "I Heart Iran" identity crisis. Questions crawled in and out of my mind like poisonous ivy plants making me doubt my writing. “What am I achieving by making fun of people?” I asked over and over, but the only answer I got was “nothing.” I knew that I had chosen to write in order to be a voice for the voiceless and I was certain that I had chosen humor because it’s a tool Iranians use to cope with their situation, yet I wondered why I don’t see the impact of my writing?
Jigar, meaning liver, is a term of endearment in Farsi. Think about it, can you live without your liver? So, it’s very common to hear this word exchanged between friends and lovers. Khar, meaning donkey, on the other hand is a belittling term that indicates ignorance and incivility.
The holy Muslim month of Ramadan came and went. Muslims from around the world celebrated the end of the month-long fast by praying, feeding the poor, feeding themselves with delicious foods and sweets, and sending Eid greetings. Muslims rejoiced having the ability and opportunity to finish a physically demanding and mentally disciplined task in their own ways. And of course, “in their own ways” may mean in their own “ironic” ways.
About the Columnist: Parisa Saranj
Parisa is a journalism graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently a MFA Creative non-Fiction writing candidate at Goucher College. She began writing about her native country, Iran, at her personal blog IranStories.com to share everything she loves about Iran and Iranians, minus all the politics (if that's possible).
Tired of being asked the most basic questions about Iran, all based on stereotypes and lies, Parisa just wanted to provide a pure image of what life is like in Iran...what is it like to be an Iranian woman. Now, Parisa brings her I Heart Iran section from IranStories.com exclusively to Aslan Media.