Ararat Armenian Sports Club and it’s stars

the Ararat Armenian Sports Club. Vanak is home to a high concentration of Armenians; half of the approximately 80,000 Armenians in Iran live in Tehran, and most of those Tehrani Armenians live within Vanak and its orbit.

The Ararat Armenian Sports Club predates the Revolution and predates Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The Sports Club is home to FC Ararat Tehran, a borderline-defunct soccer club that produced two heroes of Iranians, Armenians, and of course Armenian-Iranians. Andranik Eskandarian played for two years at Ararat before moving onto Taj (now Esteghlal due to yet another Revolution-necessitated makeover) as a stalwart defender. His national teams won the 1968, ‘72, and ‘76 and went to the country’s first World Cup in 1978. Andranik would later move to the United States to play for a legendary New York Cosmos side. A generation later, Andranik Teymourian would play youth ball for Ararat before moving on to Bolton in the English Premier League and one of the most iconic images from the 2006 World Cup: Teymourian collapes after Iran’s game against Angola

Someone like Teymourian can be a hero for Iranians of all religions without a hint of conflict.

The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off work that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

Unfortunately, these days Ararat FC is far from its glory days. The team last competed in Iran’s top league in the 1995-1996 season.

http://ajammc.com/2012/12/01/towards-an-armenian-iranian-modern-tehran-church-architecture-post-revolutionary-soccer-culture/

Jewish Australian Ben Winsor: Truth about Iran – Facts that may surprise westerners

mosque in iran

Isfahan Iran, Naghsh-e Jahan Square

Since the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis of 1979, Iran has had antagonistic relations with the U.S. and other Western nations, with little official communication between heads of state, fierce rhetoric on opposing sides, and increasing sanctions.

Given this history, it’s not surprising that many Westerners fail to appreciate ways in which Iran is a relatively advanced and even liberal state.

It certainly took me by surprise when I traveled there last year.

A Positive Opinion Of Westerners

Opinion polls show the majority of Iranians hold a favorable opinion of Americans, making Iran second only to Israel as the most supportive country in the Middle East.

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, use VPN software to hack past their regime’s ban on Facebook, and watch American TV shows and movies online.

As reported in The Atlantic, a clear majority of Iranians want the current Iranian–U.S. nuclear talks to succeed. If talks fail, however, many expect that moderates like the current president would lose power to religious hardliners.
[…]
Related articles: http://theotheriran.com/tag/foreigners-in-iran/

Better Gender Equality Than Some Countries

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, women in Iran have the right to vote, drive, and travel alone. Women have served in parliament and in cabinet, though they are banned from running in presidential elections, and they attend universities, though some have restricted them from taking certain courses.

The issue of women’s rights highlights the conflict between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — who is on the more moderate end of the country’s religious-conservative ruling clique — and the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On International Women’s Day in April, Rouhani spoke live on television and criticized those who consider women a threat, saying Iran had “a long way to go” and that he “will not accept the culture of sexual discrimination.”

Iranian mother, daughter and some christmas trees

Iranian mother, daughter and some christmas trees

Articles on Iranian women: http://theotheriran.com/tag/women/

Birth Control

After the Iran–Iraq war, when focus shifted from conflict to the economy in 1988, the same Ayatollah who legalized sex-changes issued a ruling making birth control free and widely available. He was convinced a high birth-rate would be bad for 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. More than 60% of Iranian university students are now women, with numbers even higher in some science and engineering courses, the BBC reported.

An American Ally?

Iran has found itself partially aligned with the West in fighting groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and jihadists 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 regime, having fought a brutal war against Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Backed by the Reagan Administration at the time, Hussein used sarin gas and other chemical weapons  on thousands of Iranian soldiers.

The dynamic changed in 2013, however, when Iranians elected President Rouhani, a reformist who has staked his presidency on mending ties with America.

Iranian policy in Iraq has now also refocused with the rise of Sunni ISIS jihadists. Iran worries that ISIS is destabilizing the region and jeopardizing the current pro-Iranian governments in Iraq and Syria.

Kurds battling ISIS in northern Iraq report that Iran was the first country to respond when they requested support.

Related articles: http://theotheriran.com/tag/usa/

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-truth-about-iran-2014-9#ixzz3GW9CEQAj

Series: An American Couple in Iran

Audrey and Dan at Persepolis

Audrey spoke to IranWire about how the country defied all her expectations:

What was your overriding impression of the country and its people?
We felt very welcome in Iran and were impressed by the level of hospitality shown by ordinary Iranians that we met on the streets, in markets, anywhere. Additionally, the ancient sites, the architecture and the deep history. […]

Where did you visit during your trip to Iran?
We spent the first two weeks on a small group tour with G Adventures where we visited Tehran, Hamadan, Kermanshah, Ahvaz and Susa, Shiraz (and Persepolis), Yazd, Esfahan, Abyaneh and back to Tehran. Then we had a private guide for a week where we visited Rasht, Massouleh, Ardabil, Tabriz, Kandovan and the St. Stephanos Church near Jolfa. […]

When you continued your travels, and eventually went back to the U.S., what was the most commonly asked question about your time in Iran?
“Was it safe for you?” Many Americans only see Iranians when they appear on the news, and this is usually during demonstrations or political speeches. They don’t realize that there is a whole other Iranian world outside of this. So we would surprise American friends and family when we joked that Iran was the place that we felt most like rock stars because of the kindness and attention we felt. We told stories of being invited to tea by strangers or people buying us gifts. […]

What was your favorite place in Iran? Do you have one memory that stands out for you?
Our top three places: Shiraz: Beautiful mosques and sights, and we found the people to be incredibly friendly and warm; Persepolis: Impressed not only by the engravings and ruins, but also the history and multiculturalism of the Persian Empire that we learned about while there; Northwestern Iran, especially Tabriz and the Armenian Monastery.

Continue to read the full article: IranWire | An American Couple in Iran

American athletes get star treatment in Iran: “USA, USA” chants for US athletes

“People look at me like I have two heads,” said James Ravannack, describing the reaction he gets when he explains to people what a fabulous time he had in Iran. Ravannack, president of USA Wrestling, told Al-Monitor that he “can’t wait to go back” and wants to take his family along to stay for a month. […]

For Americans, who tend to view Iran through the lens of the 1979 hostage crisis or President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech, going to Iran and actually meeting its people can be mind-blowing.

Robby Smith, 27, the number one US heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler, told Al-Monitor that the reception he got from Iranian fans was “the most incredible I’ve ever experienced.” […]

The Iranians kept chanting, “ ‘R. Smith’ and ‘USA, USA!’ ” Smith said. The same thing happened after he came from behind against an Armenian wrestler and when he returned, in plain clothes, toward the end of the event. “Thousands of Iranians chanting ‘USA!’” […] Fraser, who estimates that he has visited 50 countries in 19 years with USA Wrestling, said, “Iran was, if not the top, then at the top” of all of them. He added, “[Iranians] are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They treated us like royalty.” […]

This reporter was present in 1998 when US wrestlers returned to Iran for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The US flag was displayed in Tehran’s Azadi stadium — not burned as usual in an anti-American demonstration — and Iranian fans cheered as much or more for the Americans as they did for their own team. […]

A unique feature of the recent trip to Iran by the US wrestlers is that their current team leader — a Minneapolis wrestling enthusiast named Christina “Kiki” Kelley — is a woman. […] Kelley, who like the other members of the US delegation, had expected a grim, strict Islamic state, came prepared with ultra-conservative black clothes — which elicited giggles, she said, from many Iranians. Asked to participate in the opening ceremonies for the competition, she changed into red, white and blue.

“I kept my head bowed until we were two-thirds of the way around, when I realized that men were standing and that they were not booing, they were cheering,” […]

Kelley was invited by her Iranian hosts to stay an extra six days, which gave her a chance to travel to Isfahan and to go to schools, an orphanage and numerous cultural sites, including a private art collection at the parliament in Tehran. She, like Ravannack, said she wants to go back with her family and is also considering becoming a sports and cultural ambassador to Iran if the US government decides to appoint one.

Source: Al-Monitor | US athletes get star treatment in Iran, Facebook | Steven H Fraser | Photos, Muftah | Iran and the United States Wrestle with Love

Blog recommendation: American woman backpacking in Iran

Read the blog and enjoy Silvia’s descriptions and pictures. Here are the links to the posts on Iran:

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/backpacking-solo-through-iran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/kafka-cigarettes-tehran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/isfahan-iran/

If you are lazy just read some quotes here and go to the links to enjoy the pictures:

“I mean, Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, hosts thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and boasts beautiful landscapes stretching from dense rain forests to snowcapped mountains to desert basins. Plus, so many travelers whom I met in Central Asia absolutely raved about Iran. The hospitable people, delicious food and historic sites – how could I not add Iran to my travel itinerary?”

“My first Couchsurfing hosts in Tehran, a young Ph.D. student and her roommate, said they were so excited to be hosting an American girl, and that they hope more tourists will start to come to Iran. They were incredibly warm and welcoming hosts, cooking delicious Persian food and asking me countless questions about Norway and the U.S. and foreigners’ impressions of Iran.”

“The thing is, I haven’t felt alone once since I landed in Iran. The receptionist at my first hotel took me in as her daughter, accompanying me to breakfast and lunch and suggesting sites for me to visit, my Couchsurfing hosts were like cool older sisters, chatting with me about religion and politics as well as the plot twists of Lost and J-Lo’s divorce (I’m so out of touch), and Rana truly has adopted me as her sister, with an invitation to lunch turning into a trip to visit Esfahan and then several days with her family in Tehran.”

“So far my experience in Iran has only been one of warmth and hospitality, and really, really amazing food! Though, in a few hours Rana and I are heading to Marivan, a small Kurdish city on the border to Iraq. So you know, maybe I’ll have some more eventful things to share from there! (Kidding, family, Kurdistan is of course totally safe.)”

“My stay in Tehran was far too short and left much of the city unexplored, but I did leave with an overwhelming crush on a city so full of life and passion. Shopkeepers greeted me with warmth (if also a degree of surprise), and the discussions I had with people there were always filled with genuine interest and reflection. ”

“While now a bustling modern city, Isfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world as it sat on a major intersection of the main north-south and east-west  routes crossing Iran. We seemed to stumble on reminders of Isfahan’s past glory around every corner, from impressive squares and tree-lined boulevards to covered bridges, palaces and mosques.”

“Moreover, while Isfahan might be dominated by Islamic architecture, the city is also home to important Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian sites. Rana and I visited the Church of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, built by an Armenian community that settled in Isfahan in the early 1600s.”

Ok if you read so far, just make sure to visit the links above

Series American couple in Iran: Traveling to Iran as Americans

Audrey hanging with a group of Iranian women in Masouleh.

Audrey hanging with a group of Iranian women in Masouleh.

Traveling to Iran as an American citizen may sound complicated and dangerous. It’s not. We’re here to dispel the myths and answer the questions piling up in our inbox based on our visit to Iran just a few weeks ago.

Our aim in the following Q&A is to answer actual reader queries and to help demystify the process of traveling to Iran.

Are American citizens legally allowed to visit Iran?
Although the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran, there are currently no restrictions on American citizens visiting Iran as tourists. Currently, about 1,000-1,500 Americans visit Iran each year.

[…]

As an American, how will Iranians treat me?
Iranian people were often shocked to discover that we were American and that we were able to get a visa to their country. Once this fact set in, they often went over the top in welcoming us — everything from cordial greetings, to smiles, hugs, gifts and invitations to homes — especially when our guide was out of sight. We joke that it’s the closest we’ve felt to being rock stars.

Iranian University Students - Esfahan, Iran

Read the whole article if interested in details about getting a visa and organizing the trip:
Uncornered Market – Travel and Life Adventure | Traveling to Iran as Americans

Anyhow the blog is just great: Uncornered Market – Travel and Life Adventure | Travel | Iran

Photos: The 28th International Book Fair kicked off in Tehran!

The event started on Wednesday May 6, in a 120,000 square meter venue at Tehran’s Grand Mosalla, and will continue until May 16, 2015.

Over 2800 publishers from Iran and 65 other countries have presented their latest publications at the fair. 300,000 Iranian books and 160,000 non-Iranian books were presented this year. The foreign publishers substantially offer their materials in English or Arabic however titles in French, German, Chinese, Korean or Japanese are also available.

Millions of visitors inspect the fair every year, including thousands of university students, scholars and families. It is currently the most significant cultural event in Iran as well as one of the most significant events of its kind in Asia and the Middle East. Heads of international book fairs from Oman, this year’s special guest, Paris, Bologna, Moscow, and other places are attending the 28th edition of TIBF.

Hundreds of cultural projects are carried out during the event as sidelines activities, including book review sessions, face-to-face meetings with Iranian authors, lecture sessions, and writing workshops.

Monday May 11, 2015 has been designated as Day of Africa  at the 28th TIBF. To mark the day, African exhibitors will hold an array of cultural programs. As part of the programs, a panel discussion will be staged in the TIBF section of Men of Letters’ House on existing cultural exchanges between Iran and African nations, sponsored by friendship associations established among Iran and a number of African nations, namely Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Comoros.

The works of illustrators participating at the 52nd Bologna International Children Book Fair will be displayed in an exhibition titled “Tehran-Bologna 2015”. According to IBNA (Iran’s Book News Agency), the illustrations which participated in the latest Bologna Children Book Fair as well as the illustrations by Roger Mellow, the winner of 2014 Hans Christian Anderson Award, will be showcased. Moreover, the works of the Iranian illustrators whose works have participated in the editions of Bologna Fair during the last 10 years are going to be put on public display in this event.

Tehran Metro and the public bus service boosted their cooperation during the 28th TIBF to facilitate the transportation of the visitors. Extra trains are being used and the arrival times of the trains is also reduced to 5 minutes at the weekends. The subway is deploying its maximum manpower particularly at the Beheshti and Mosalla stations, said Mohsen Nayebi, Head of Tehran urban and suburban Railway Operation Company. Public buses, dedicated particularly to transportation of the Book Fair visitors, are plying between the venue and the city’s main squares.

Sources: TIBF on Instagram, TIBF Official Site | News 1, TIBF Official Site | News 2, Tasnim News Agency| Tehran International Book Fair, Press TV | Tehran International Book Fair, irib.ir | Photogalleries, Tehran Municipality | News 1, Tehran Municipality | News 2,Expo Road | Tehran International Book Fair, Mehr News Agency | Photos by H. Razaqnejad , Tasnim News | Photos by M. Hassanzadeh, IRNA | Photos 1IRNA | Photos 2, ISNA | Photos by A. Khosroshahi