World class US and European skateboarders skating in Iran

While skateboarding has a firm footing across major cities of the world, Iran certainly isn’t a name you’d associate with skating. Bridging an in-depth skateboarding video with documentary film, Thrasher Magazine and producer Patrik Wallner venture into Iran for an episode of “Visualtraveling.”

Here, they meet MJ, skateboard enthusiast and skate deck craftsman who takes the crew through the country. Running into their fair share of challenges, the crew of skaters find out first hand what it’s like to skate in the Persian region. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, the film is a mind-expanding piece that’s definitely worth your while.

Other USA – Iran related articles: The other Iran | Tag | USA

Source:
HYPEBEAST | Thrasher Magazine travels to Iran for “Visualtraveling: The Persian Version”

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About famous Armenian churches in Iran and Armenian Iranians in general

One of the finest examples of Iranian architecture in the neighborhood is an Armenian chapel, Surp Khatch.

Surp Khatch Chapel - Tehran Iran

Surp Khatch Chapel holds a peculiar significance within Armenian-Iranian life. There are dozens of Armenian churches within Iran, mostly in Tehran and the western provinces. Vank in New Julfa deserves special recognition, of course, for its role as the heart of the Isfahani community, brought to Persia by Shah Abbas I in the 17th century.

Vank Cathedral - New Julfa, Isfahan

The Prelacy – the bureaucratic head of the Armenian Church in Iran – makes its home in Saint Sarkis, a church that dates back to 1970.

Saint Sarkis Apostolic Church - Tehran, Iran

Armenian-Iranian architecture, particularly Surp Khatch, fits comfortably within the Iranian modernist idiom. 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 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 (popular Armenian Iranian football star) crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

The negotiating of political space for religious minorities in an explicitly Islamic Republic is an ongoing political issue that is going strong on its fourth decade. But political concerns hardly frame daily life; Armenians and other religious minorities in Iran generally name their primary concerns as drug use and a rapidly deteriorating economy. The communities’ problems aren’t necessarily their status as minorities, but the general problems that stem from being Iranian. Indeed, minorities in Iran are well-integrated not only socially and culturally but politically as well. There are five Armenians in Parliament (compared to four Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, three Jews, and two Zoroastrians in the 290-seat Majlis). There are also Armenian observers to the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council.

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

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

Italy’s former ambassador to Iran: No, Iranians Don’t Hate You

Roberto Toscano - Italy’s ambassador to Iran, 2003-2008

Roberto Toscano – Italy’s ambassador to Iran, 2003-2008

In 2004, when I was Italy’s ambassador to Iran, I had the occasion to tour the country together with a couple of American friends, at the beginning rather hesitant to come and visit, but then overwhelmed by the hospitality and politeness that are so typically Iranian and even more by the “extra” of both hospitality and politeness that came out when people realized that they were American.

One episode has remained marked in their memory (and in mine too): at the end of a visit to the tomb of the poet Saadi in Shiraz a mullah, who had been listening to the English translation of our guide, and had asked him where those tourists were from, went up to my friend, shook his hand, said (in English) “God bless you” and left.

[…] Most people who have seen the recent movie Argo […] are convinced that what they see is contemporary Iran: still hostile, still radical, still violently and massively anti-American. The truth is rather different. Certainly the regime finds in anti-Americanism a sort of marker of identity […] What is interesting, however, is that anti-American rhetoric is not focused on what America is, but on what America does. […] the 1953 Anglo-American coup against Mossadeq or the support given to Saddam in its 1980 aggression against Iran.

The fact is, however, that this regime narrative, and the hostility toward the U.S., is not really shared by the majority of Iranians. […]

Iran — and this will surprise the average American — is not a closed country, and its citizens can travel abroad, if they get the necessary entry visas, of course. In the second place, educated Iranians (not a narrow minority, differently from other countries in the area) have access to reliable information about the world and also about the U.S., in spite of the attempts of the regime to filter “subversive” material in both TV programs and internet traffic. […]

Actually, I found that in Iran there is a lot of admiration for America: not necessarily for its policy, but for its economy and for its culture, wildly popular especially among Iranian youth. […] A strong proof of the fact that America is not hated by Iranians came with September 11, when thousands of Iranians went spontaneously to the streets for a candlelight vigil in homage and solidarity to the victims of the attack on the Twin Towers.

The lack in Iran of the generalized and often virulent anti-Americanism that characterizes Middle Eastern populations is something that Americans traveling in Iran, even in the present tense political situation, can testify. Not only is there no hostility toward American citizens, but instead we see curiosity and friendship at the same time, though often combined with criticism for specific U.S. policies and behavior.

Definitely crowds chanting ‘marg bar Amrika’ (death to America) are today both very rare and not very much convinced: they tend to be formed by activists bused to the demonstrations. […]

Many, if not most Iranians, may be fed up with the regime, especially in its present incarnation in President Ahmadinejad, but they are a proud, patriotic people. They have problems with their leaders, but not with their country, especially in the event of an external attack.

The full article: The Huffington Post | Roberto Toscano | No, Iranians don’t hate you