Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part Three: Maragheh


In terms of historic events, it was a shame to spend the days just before the election and just after the election in the small town of Maragheh. Everything I heard—first, protests in Tehran; then, several religious leaders backing a revote; 350 arrested; 7 killed—I heard from my family members or from illegally obtained satellite TV (legal and offiial Islamic Republic of Iran News Network broadcast three ticker stories about the perilous Zionists in the five minutes I watched it).

I was amazed over and over again at the power of talk in a small town. Everyone knew the news because they heard it from someone else, but that didn't just apply to the elections. It seemed that every person who came up in conversation was somehow in the orbit of my family, and everyone knew everybody else. As my aunt explained, that makes it fairly easy to compel government compliance by fear. She told me that she stills wears a black chador even though she wants to wear a manteau because the neighbors would notice and talk. When her family gets dressed up to go to a party, neighbors notice; when they don't go to Qur'an readings, neighbors notice. And when, for example, my cousin got a job in the major city of Tabriz about an hour from Maragheh, the prospective employers went to my aunt's neighbors to make sure that she is a "good girl," (i.e. dresses appropriately and is a good Muslim).

Unfortunately, this suzbazlik (Turkish for gossip) also has its roots deep in my family. I won't repeat the shocking and disappointing things that I saw and heard, but the gossip has me feeling deflated and ready to leave. I'm missing my immediate family and thinking about shortening my trip.

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