Monday, August 23, 2010

Fun Facts About the Insides of an Iranian Embassy in "enemy" land!

I dragged me to the embassy with a cocktail of nausea, grudge, tears, swears, huffs and puffs. I went back and forth over the application and asked myself and my husband: "Is it worth the trouble to renew my passport when I never want to go back?"; "Is it sensible to do what makes me puke, filling a form that needs to bear the permission of my husband or father for me to obtain an Iranian passport?"; and importantly, "Is it morally excusable to walk into the devil's territory without raising a concern about Shiva; about Sakineh, about Saharkhiz & Zeidabadi?" ... "would I become complicit, and accomplice to IRI?", was my dilemma.

At the end I decided to go. I talked myself into "the path to peace passes through compromise"; "you cannot abandon your country and give the occupying goons what they really want: your elimination"; "you will learn from the experience and will be able to blog about it."; "you cannot trust any political stability in the next few years and you better have a passport before the administration of the IRI begins going belly up" and etc.

My "souvenir" from this journey through hell is a few fun(ny) observations:

1) The large pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei on the wall was replaced with large pictures of Iranian landscapes, both natural and cultural. The supreme leaders' pictures were minimized in size and positioned opposite the counters; so that only the employees would be seeing their pictures. The applicants in waiting would be looking at the large TV screen positioned opposite the leader figures!

2) The TV was playing Shajarian's music from a DVD; perpetually. This is strange, and it was noted and joked upon by a few of us. Why?
  • Because it is Ramadan, so technically, "happy" instruments such as daf should not be played during the month of meditation.
  • Because Shajarian has recently been openly attacked by the IRI goons (in Fars News). His Ramadan prayer "rabbana" (which has marked the month since I recall) has been officially (and expressly) banned from the IRIB, because the Ahmadinejadists have established Shajariyan is an anti-revolutionary. The row between maestro Shajarian and IRIB goes back to the beginning of election-coup events; when he was in the US and he sided with the people and stated: "The IRI might be able to contain the situation, but will not be able to sustain governance".
  • Shajarian has objected to IRI playing his music for any motivational or entertainment objective.

3) Not only it was odd to play the "music" (and not the prayer) by Shajarian in Ramadan, but also the background images of the songs were bizarre: Persian miniatures; many of Farshchian's paintings which feature a beautiful women handing wine to an old man (like this); or many beautiful women in some form of "spiritual" orgy (like this)! No matter what spiritualism is assigned to Persian miniature (to rescue it from the religious bigots) images of wine and pretty women in Ramadan is quite unusual!

4) There was an English man who was applying for a visa to visit Iran. He was wearing a silly grin as if expecting us to smile back at him and thank him for his curiosity about our weird country! He was much ignored by all.

5) There was another English man who was married to an Iranian woman with colored blond hair. They had two children and were wishing to go to Iran, but someone had warned them that they had to make sure the consulate issued the right marriage certificates for them, as reportedly Iran was not as welcoming of foreign spouses as it was a couple of years ago. They were haggling to get it done soon so to take advantage of cheap flights!

6) There was entertainment: An Arab driver of Rwanda embassy walked in with an invitation card to a party and his CV!! No one could speak Arabic or French to him; so I volunteered. He had hand delivered the invitation card; and he had his CV in case the Iranian ambassador needed a ride to attend the invitation!!!!!! (he was told that all such invitations should come by mail; and that the ambassador didn't need a ride! I smiled at the naivete of Ahmadinejad's international friends; no wonder he feels himself so popular in the world. We keep ignoring that there exist simpletons in the world who are charmed by A.N.)

At the end, the experience was not as bad as I anticipated. The passport officer was amused by "my having brought my 'master' to give me permission to a passport"; he smiled and said such things were only for women who were residents of Iran and didn't apply to dual citizens like me. The employees were kind, polite, well dressed, more handsome than the last group I had met 4 years ago, and were trying to be efficient. But Iranians are not efficient and it was the customers/applicants who were disorderly, unorganized, uninformed, and unable to understand due procedure had to respected, queues had to be respected, service numbers had to be respected, personal spaces had to be respected ... they kept cluttering around the booths when others were served; kept arguing and haggling about their missing documents; kept jumping in front of the counter to shove their gradually completing documents in ... at the end; this experience reminded me that our people ARE the cause of much of our government's inadequacy and inefficiency.

And it doesn't matter how much we nag at Ahmadinejad, the 15-years long western-dwelling Mr Doctor who could not even sort out his photocopies when he stole my turn at the counter and delayed me by an hour, was responsible for the inefficiency of the service I received.

To obtain an Iranian passport cost me close to 250 dollars! Other Iranians were also counting how much it had cost them to travel, to eat, to pay for the forms and etc. People all talked together and although complained; but had fun! Complaining is the seasoning to Iranian taste!

But I appreciated the fact that they played Shajarian, that they provided nice/fresh espresso; that they had removed the omniframes of Khamenei and Khomeini from the walls; that they were polite, courteous, humorous, hard working, civilized. I observed people who wanted to drink coffee stayed in the little coffee corner; and did not defy Ramadan openly--although I doubt anyone in that room was fasting. It is because of this implicit respect for other's belief, that I believe, the most fanatic of the governments will only succeed in annoying us with a few of their trained criminals for a short period of time ... until they too, learn to respect ... in that room, packed together with some 50 Iranians, I sighed pleased: "my country will NOT succumb to fascist war mongers ... we are too fun-loving to take anything really too seriously!"

I am happy I adhered to the principle of "measured compromise"; and I am happy to have a passport again.


Anonymous said...

Naj, was this in the UK?

My two sisters and I recently had a similar time at the Interests Section in DC. It was right after Nowruz.

The clerks were hospitable and very helpful. They showed us how to save hundreds of dollars on your many forms.

One of my sisters, by the way, had a dreadful time with her head scarf. I'd go so far as to say she was helpless. My other sister had practiced, and she performed well.

It's been 5 months and the Nat. IDs have yet to show up. I've no idea how long to expect this to take place, or whether it will take place at all. I had to surrender my 35 year old docs in the process, which was a bummer. (I was sure a lot better looking as a 15 year old!)

Anyway, we had a good time there. My Aunt told me the reason they treated us so well was because we were non-Iranian. This, while we're updating our National IDs! We're a funny sort- aren't we?

-M. Pyruz

Naj said...

Pyruz; the national IDs take for eternity.
The way women dress themselves up in these embassies is a SUCH a slap in the face of the IRI ... the farce of it ... I wish the IRI smartened up and lifted this phony hijab law at the embassies at least ... it's just ridiculous!

Pedestrian said...

Naj, I LOVED reading this. And I'm so glad you have a passport now! :D

Tori said...

Naj, This was really funny. The last time I was in the embassy was with a friend who was getting her passport for the first time since leaving Iran. They were showing women's track and field on the TV. She looked up and said, "What's next? Porn?"

Anonymous said...

Hail to the Cooks ! We smell the sweet cakes in the oven.You KNOW you're " going back".Ms. Naj.
That passport is your ticket to the Victory party.God speed the day

Naj said...

Ped a passport yes, a ticket no! And no desire there either!

Tori; it seems like they want to sugar coat their image to get more of us naive expats in the same foto-op with the boob-stealing president lulu!

btl: i'm in no preparation for any victory party :)

an average patriot said...

All in all you survived and it wasn't a bad experience well maybe it was but what would the alternative be? Life without a country? permanent green card status? Become a citizen here maybe? Canada? Geesh!

Id it is said...

I liked the coinage "measured compromise" : )
Wish more of us say-it-as-we-see-it individuals could adopt that mind set of 'measured compromise'...I for sure am going to try it out.

nunya said...

$250? Wow, and I was complaining about coughing up $50 for the now needed passport to cross the southern border into Mexico (only 45 minutes from me, and only necessary because Bush was an asshole).

ddmmyyyy said...

I renewed my Iranian passport here in Iran for the first time, this was just over a year ago now and still I'm shocked at the efficiency of things. My British Passport took I think one day longer to get to me upon renewal with just as much initial running around.

So mobarake on your booby prize (that's how it feels like for me).

The concept of queuing here, as you refer to there, is the bane of my life. I always wish to look at its possible inception with comparisons to war and England. But still, with daily reminders, I curse. Admittedly it has dramatically changed since my arriving here 5-years ago; probably helped with rapid changes in bank-customer relations to name one. Yet still I will be pushed in front of or even interrupted while being served. Weddings are the most humorous of cases: mothers with 5-plates retrieving meat from the buffets and supplying a family chain in wait. I hardly ever get to eat meat in weddings.

I guess these things are like a person standing up at the front of a theatre; nobody, ideally would stand for the duration of the performance but they are all forced to if they want to see anything. In my experience here, if you don't trample on those ahead, you very rapidly get left behind.

There's a chapter missing in the SAS survival book.