Letter from Tehran/Vienna – Epilogue, 4 July 2009

Dear all,

We’re out. On 3 July, at 4.05 in the morning, we caught the plane to Vienna and landed shattered at 6.00 am. Shattered, because we had to get up at 1.00 am to catch the plane three hours later, as is the usual practice in Tehran – nearly all flights start at night, and you have to be there 2 hours in advance, plus one hour to get through the city to the airport. The drive to Imam Khomeini Airport leads you past the overwhelming Imam Khomeini memorial, which sports four oversized Islamic towers at all corners and an enormous building in the middle that houses practically nothing else but his shrine. It is space enough to host millions, and that usually happens once a year, on the day of Khomeini’s death, or demise as it is being referred to regularly in Iran.

Our exit was surprisingly swift and pain-free, unlike at other times. We had no overweight, there was no problem with our passports or visas, and we even didn’t have to wait much at either of the two security check-ups. Shoes stayed on, and my full-metal old-style film camera did not raise any eye-brows. We felt as if we were supposed to leave, but this is rubbish of course. No statement whatsoever was made in reference to the United Nations during the last weeks, at least not in a critical or negative sense. Rather, the Foreign Minister, during his lecture to the international organisations and embassies some weeks ago, referred to the positive record Iran believes to have with the UN, overall. After all, there are 19 different UN agencies in Iran.

It is somewhat strange to be back in the West, after several months in a stretch in Iran. We spent two days with the packers, who put our household into exactly 176 boxes – 27 cube metres – and told us that it would arrive in 2-3 months in Copenhagen. The dispatch is done by sea, excitingly past the pirates that plague the sea between the Arabian peninsula and Africa. We have bought insurance. It felt quite a relief to have all the stuff out of the house and live like campers in our 400 square metre house – campers with style, since the pool was still full and heated. The daily routing of “Allahu Akbars” has not changed and we felt that it has even gained some intensity since it is the only thing they are allowed to do.

My staff, who was overwhelming in their hospitality and friendship over the last days, shared the last titbits of information with me, before I was to be cut off of all news from Iran, like all the rest of you. For one, the feeling of having had their votes stolen persists with all of them, and they are not satisfied with what has so far been offered to them. I am quite sure that it will not take four more years before these feelings break out into the open again. In fact, the youthful protesters among the Iranians I know told me that they now planned a low intensity campaign to not make the last weeks forgotten and lost. They want to spray paint a huge number of walls green in the city; they also sent out a request to everyone they knew to write “Where is our vote?”  on all bank notes everyone gets into their fingers. This is a huge feat because the high inflation in the country (official economic data: roundabout 25%; Ahmadinejad during a pre-electoral TV debate: 15%) everyone regularly handles dozens of notes in cash every day.

In Vienna, a protest march is planned for tomorrow. It seems a bit delayed of the real events in Iran, but clearly the Iranians abroad want to be part of the movement no matter what. I am, however, not sure if the motivation for all those marches is very savoury and in the spirit of the original groups in Iran, given that so many Iranians have been unable (or unwilling, given the political situation there) to go back to the country for many years. I gather that there is a huge disconnect between the Iranian community in Los Angeles and Iran, for instance – the former having left the country shortly after the Shah fled.

I have been walking around town while Georgina has been trying to get back on her feet after she again had a bit of a dizziness attack. It now appears – she saw an Austrian doctor yesterday – that it is much more likely a stress- and burnout syndrome than anything directly related to the balance organ or iron deficiency. Hence, she is trying to take it easy. Anyway, when I was walking around I ran into an Iran-contrast programme; several hundred demonstrators walked up the Viennese city centre, loud pop from the 80’s providing the background music. You guessed it – the Gay Pride parade. I somewhat expected something else after kids held Mousawi-green balloons in their hands, but now – the predominant colour was rainbow, meaning all colours as on the flags for the peace movement.

So, life goes on. On one day walking around the city on a hot summer’s day, you encounter more skin than in Iran in a whole year, and it feels strangely relaxing to be back in a “normal” place. Yet, I would not want to miss the experience – having been to Iran, I mean. I will try to keep contact with Iran, and if there is something interesting to share, I will send you some more news. But for now – we are preparing for two weeks of holidays; I have booked a little Middle Eastern experience for us, of the other kind. On Monday, we’re off to Israel. Shalom!

Best to you all,

The Nitzsche Creatures

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