Iran is famous for its checkered history with the US. The 1970s and 80s, when I was growing up, seemed to be full of kidnappings, embassy sieges, aeroplane hijackings, and the like. Of course these didn’t always involve Iran but, for me, flying into Tehran had a real frisson of excitement and I was curious to know whether my experience of Iran would bear any resemblance to all those old news reports. Obviously I had no wish to be kidnapped, nor for my plane to be shot down, but I couldn’t help wondering how Iranians would respond to British tourists.
No need to worry. Iranians are fantastically warm, welcoming and friendly, and the people I met seemed genuinely delighted to see tourists visiting their country. They couldn’t have been nicer.
What is really fascinating is the difference between this warm welcome and the highly visible propaganda that can be seen on walls, billboards, posters and even on stamps. Some of this propaganda is pretty harsh so I’d like to just say right now that ordinary Iranians didn’t once express any of the sentiments seen in the propaganda.
With that in mind, please don’t allow these images to negatively impact on your views of ordinary Iranians.
On the walls and on the sides of buildings of Tehran, you can see some of the famous anti-USA propaganda writ large. Here’s one I spotted from the bus.
And at the main junction at Valiasr Square this giant poster is a skit on the famous image of US troops raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The dead and dying people are Palestinians.
On my way to the Reza Abbasi museum, I spotted a whole bank of posters in the metro station.
You can even access some more anti-Israel and ‘Down with USA’ action by scanning this handy QR code. There’s a whole website http://dw-usa.com/
And although some of the restrictions on women in Iran are very obvious and public, their very important role in the Islamic Revolution is memorialized along with the men’s.
In Yazd, one of the wind towers had been sprayed with the ‘Down with USA’ motif.
Whoever did this obviously had a stencil because there were loads of these on the walls just around the wind tower.
In the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz is a small shop which sells bits and bobs and nice things, and the shopkeeper also has a file of collectible stamps for sale. Now I’m not a stamp collector, but I couldn’t resist having a little look at this ephemera, and I was in luck. He had quite a few propaganda stamps, illustrating controversial and even shocking events from the 1980s.
This last one is pretty harsh, even compared to what has gone before.
By the side of the road at the entrance to the tourist site of Parsagadae, just near the ‘Welcome to Parsagadae World Heritage Site’ sign is this:
I make no comment.