Saturday, September 17, 2005

CHN | Americans Welcomed by Iranian People

CHN | News: "Pacifist Americans Welcomed by Iranian People

Tehran, 17 September 2005(CHN) -- On the anniversary of September 11, an anti-war delegation of American academics and intellectuals entered Iran to seek ways for preventing clashes between the two countries.

In an anti-war movement, a delegation of 14 pacifist professors from American universities has traveled to Iran on September 11 this year to manifest their opposition against the warlike behavior of US government.

Bearing the motto of friendship, this delegation, which is headed by James Jenning, university professor and an expert in Middle East studies, comprises scholars and academicians from 9 different American universities. They are also going to visit Syria after Iran and their program over there too consists of several conferences and seminars.

Stephen Bronner, a professor of Political Science from New Jersey and a member of the delegation, who was visiting the National Museum of Iran late last week, described such interactions and dialogues between the people of the two countries as not being harmful and said, “The more exchanges there are [between the two nations], the better people understand each other, and the more they can attain a real image of the other country.”

Bronner, who has been to Iran two years ago to attend a human rights conference at Mofid University, continued about how to prevent a war and added, “It is possible for us to try. I don’t think there would be a war at all but it is very important to try building an image of Iran, and put a human face. Even, I would like to say that the way we have been treated here by the Iranians is probably better than the way in which, especially most recently, we treat Iranians.”

Janet Amighi from Montgomery University in Pennsylvania, who is also accompanying the tour, though reluctantly, admitted the negative attitude towards Iranians in the US and said, “America is a democratic country, and unfortunately Americans can not distinguish between the governments and their people. So they say well if Iranian government trains terrorists so every Iranian may possibly be a terrorist and when they see people talking either Arabic or Persian, they look at them the other way. But if they knew them, that would be different.”

Professor Bronner, however, denied such approach towards Middle East people among American intellectuals and scholars and indicated, “When you talk about America, you should bear in mind that American society is very split, very divided. It is divided between cities, countries, and countrysides. Of course, cities are more sophisticated, while countrysides are less so.”

Confirming the same issue, Amighi also noted, “In America cities and villages are drastically different. For example, in big cities, most of people vote for Democrats, however, in small towns and villages they normally vote for Republicans. In big cities People from different countries and cultures mix easily together and thus can understand if you wear hijab, it is not a big deal. But in small towns and villages, people are not accustomed to see foreigners. They know little about them but have big fears. This is embarrassing that universities mainly reach people in cities. I think we should go out of cities and try to be more influential.”

Considering the possibility of a clash between Iran and America, Bronner indicated, “Millions of Americans would be upset and would demonstrate in the streets if another war began with Iran.”

Amighi also rejected the probability of another outbreak of war and expressed the
sympathy of American people with Iranians by emphasizing that, “Do not forget that at least half of the Americans did not vote for George Bush.”

To better the situation and dissolve the current undesirable image of Iranian people she proposed that big boards on which it is written “Down with USA” be changed. She said, “These boards are continuously shown in US television and it is propagated that Iranians always go to demonstrations and chant slogans against Americans. So Americans feel as if Iranians do not like them.” She emphasized, “If you had written “Down with American Government”, that would have been quite better.”

However, Bronner put forward another solution to reduce enmity created unjustly among these nations and suggested, “We hope that you can provide the possibility for American people to come to Iran because it is too difficult [now]. I think it would help the matter a great deal (if Americans get to know Iran more easily).”

Another member of the tour, Lawrence Davidson, professor of Middle East history at Westchester University in Pennsylvania, doubted the outcome of such activities and interactions and said, “When I get back to the US, I will give out papers and conduct several speeches, but unfortunately the present American government doesn’t listen to me very much. But no matter, we would try to present a more accurate picture of Iran and its people to Americans.”

Appreciating Iranians’ graciousness just like his other companions, Davidson denounced the false image cast by western media and went on, “I teach Middle East history at university in the US and I had traveled to the region before I came to Iran. Actually I have been to Jordan, Syria, Turkey and occupied territories in Palestine and I know the people of the region and so I know the image that American media and American government put is not true.” But apparently the propaganda system of western media has worked out as he made an example of his own mother, who had gasped and almost been fainting when she had learnt of his son traveling to Iran.

Davidson also mentioned their meeting with Khatami, ex-president of Islamic Republic of Iran, as the most important event of their trip to Iran.

Interestingly enough there seemed to be a consensus over some issues among these pacifist professors. For instance they were bewailing the bureaucracy in Iran and the traffic condition in Tehran, and complaining about the high prices of Persian carpets.
Beside Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz are other cities included in the itinerary of the tour, of which Isfahan seems to be the hot favorite as appeared by a simple opinion poll, while Shiraz and Persepolis are still major attractions for them.

Bronner, who had been to Isfahan, Kashan, Shiraz, and of course Persepolis before said, “Persepolis is the most amazing ruins I’ve got to see, as dramatic as Rome, or Pompeii, or anything like that.”

He, who was dazzled by the rich history and culture of Iran upon his visit to Iran National Museum, commented, “I am actually more impressed with the older works because in New York we have also wonderful museums even on Islamic art, but there is a sense here of time that you experience. In America if something is 300 years old, that is very old. In Europe when something is 1000 or 1500 years old is very old, but here it doesn’t even get interest when something is one thousand years old and that is remarkable.”"

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