Monday, 9 November 2009

Couple of Iranian bits I didn't bother posting whilst there

Definitely playing catch up with the blog here, in no small part because the internet is quite restricted by the government in Iran. Speeds are deliberately throttled, a lot of sites blocked and some webmail can be shut down, as my Yahoo based account was last week, during anti-government protests.

This will be kind of a condensed what I've been up to and one or two things I didn't really feel comfortable talking about in Iran: not because the Iranian govt have got a super hot cyber team but just, well, because you know. Sometimes a bit of paranoia can be healthy. The first little thing, which seems laughable now, is not getting fingerprinted when entering the country. I was emphatically told while going through entry formalities that the police would take my dabs (OK, whatever) but somehow managed to wander through three sets of officials without this little formality taking place. Nobody had wanted to take them. OK, fair enough. But then with the long hours on the bike with no one to talk to but myself I began to get a little paranoid. The official who'd told me I needed to be fingerprinted had beem pretty damn insistent about it. What if they were to be carried in the passport as some countries insist you do with things like currency declarations? Could be a problem at police checkpoints or leaving the country and the last thing I wanted was trouble with the authorities in Iran. In the end I spoke to the tourist information chap in Tabriz who just laughed and said yes, they were fingerprinting Brits but don't worry about, it's just low level harassment and the prints were filed in the bin! Well that's alright then.

Second thing that got the rampant high level paranoia going was potentially more serious. I was in a hotel chilling with a pot of tea one evening when a gentleman engaged me in conversation. Usual stuff to start with, where are you from, do you like Iran, what do you think of the government. Then it started getting a little bit too heavy for my tastes. The guy claimed to be an engineer. Hypothetically, he asked, hypothetically, if someone knew the location of a secret nuclear installation and went to the American Embassy in Ankara or Delhi, did I think the American government would help this person and his family get out of Iran and relocate them to the USA? To which my response was "Uh... WHAT?!? I do not want to have this conversation. If we did have this conversation I would say this man is a suicidal fool, the Americans probably know about the site anyway and would mess him around. Now, I think I have to be going." Wouldn't let me get straight away but insisted on inviting me up to a mountain village for a few days or at least dinner at his house. As they say I made my excuses and left. Kids, never discuss nuclear secrets in a paranoid messed up theocracy with the occasional tendency to look foreigners up as Israeli spies. It could be a set up (don't laugh, stuff like that happens), it could be genuine... which is potentially just as bad! Walk away, just walk away.


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