A Letter From Iran
17 May 2006
I am the sole British representative
on the American Fellowship of Reconciliation peacemaking delegation
At the moment we are in Isfahan, an
important industrial city in the middle of the country. At the
heart of the city is a World Heritage site of stunning beauty
- ancient Persian mosques and palaces are laid out in a Garden
In fact all over Isfahan are gardens
of paradise - the streets are like green corridors of sycamore
and mulberry and cypresses and the scent ofthousands of rosesdrift
through the warm air.
You can tell that this is an ancient
civilization because they have had three thousand odd years to
make cities work. The pavements and roads are polished and smooth,
clean drinking water is available from public fountains and the
city is designed for pleasure. In the day people wander along
the park lined river eating ice cream, lovers sit in couples among
the honeysuckle arbors, families take swan boats out on the river.
Men and women sit on the steps of the
bridge catching the breeze as the cool water rushes through arches
just below their feet and swallows dart over their heads. For
four hundred years since the bridge was built people have come
here to sing to the acoustics of the stonework.
As we walk along the bridge we can
hear a song coming through the arches. A young man holding a plastic
bag of books, perhaps returning from college, is alone in the
shade singing close to the wall to use its resonance.
Passersby stop very quietly to hear
him finish his private song - "When my heart is broken I
will take my grief from my enemy to my friend, but when my friend
is gone to whom will I take my broken heart?" A
beautiful voice mixing with the cool shade and the golden syrup
On the far side of the bridge people
gather to hear a recital from the Epic of the Kings by the great
Persian poet Ferdowsi. The balladiers tell a story of a king who
has sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for being king of the
world. Two snakes enter the king's ears to eat his brain and the
only way he can stop them is to feed the snakes with the brains
of young people.
A young blacksmith resists and calls
on the young people to act together - so they rise up and dethrone
The Persians have had millennia of
practice at dethroning unjust rulers and poetry has been a powerful
tool in those revolutions.
At night there is a young woman rollerblading
round a statue of Ferdowsi. She is wearing pink.
In the square of mosques under a golden
moon families picnic in the warm air. The square is illuminated
by low lights among the bushes. Young men are playing cards. The
intimate velvet darkness wraps a thousand conversations among
In the streets and parks and shops
people stop us and talk to us about peace and negotiation. This
was the message from the priest of the Zoroastrian fire temple,
the mullah of the girls' orphanage, the Armenian Christian Orthodox
Cathedral of Isfahan, the nomad carpet seller, Ibrahim, the Jewish
boy in the bazaar selling an antique pair of scales.
Justice and peace has to come through
talking directly between nations as we are.
Near Isfahan there is an underground
storage facility for the nuclear programme. If this is bombed
by the USA with a nuclear weapon, then Physicians for Social Responsibility
have estimated that the singer, the rollerskater, the lovers and
grandmothers and three million other people will be killed within
We in Britain must make sure that this
armageddon never happens.
We must immediately make our government
commit to us that USAF Fairford and Diego Garcia will not be used
by United States bombers, and insist that our governement lifts
the fear of death from the Iranian people and enters into face
to face negotiations with their government now.