Iran crystallizes many fantasies. Immediately, we think about the mullahs, the fanatical regime that stifles his people, laws from another times, public executions ... To all these (real) clichés that persist, is added the showdown with Donald Trump and the United States, which is crisping and focusing international attention. What to think of Iran?
It is a complex country, that does not reveal itself completely without digging a little bit. To the general resignation provoked by a policy disconnected from reality, Iranians oppose an unlimited resilience and generosity. The cost of living, already dizzying, has tripled in the last 6 months. Petrol, symbolically accessible to all, will also increase because of the new sanctions imposed by the United States. Everyone feels that a movement, a backlash, will put the regime to a real test, sooner or later.
In this hot country, the Kurds, who represent 13% of the population, occupy their own place. Apart.
The Kurdistan region is not visited by many travellers and foreigners in general, and is not recommended. Such a pity... The reception of Kurds is unequaled, at the height of the fantastic landscapes of traditional villages on the mountainside.
Here we are in Kurdistan, between Iraq and Turkey. We speak Kurdish, we are Kurdish, but still Iranian too. Always oppressed by the Shiite regime of the mullahs, the Sunni Kurds are little integrated into the Iranian civil society. In a troubled Kurdistan, claims for autonomy are however weak, unlike the Turkish Kurds. The Iranian regime has never been soft with the Kurds, however, and the region has seen wars and "operations" over the last few decades, especially at the Iraqi border.
Cases of torture and persecution of any nationalist impulse are still on the agenda. But, because of their cultural differences with the Iranian Persian majority, there is a certain "freedom" (quite relative in Iran), which is uncommon in this country. The place of women for example is atypical. They are much free and express themselves. The vails are light, colorful. People dance and laugh ...
A unique country, a unique region, and unique people.
Iranian Kurdistan is singular, in its own rhythm: an oasis of humanity, history and sharing ... Which you always leave too soon, with regrets, missing places and people...
Howraman village, Kurdistan. Suspended in the valley, time has stopped.
Tehran. In front of the Shah Mosque in the center of the bazaar district.
Tehran. The jewelers district is a glare for the eyes. Dozens (hundreds?) of overflowing showcases jewelry. Gold, precious stones ... Everything's real, nothing but real! The relationship to gold and jewelry generally in Iran is very different from Europeans's one. It is a safe haven, an investment, not to mention the social status associated with it. Luckily, not far from the jewelers, are the stores specialized in the safes ... Pretty smart...
Tehran. The patriotic frescoes to the glory of the regime bloom the walls of the capital, just as the photos of the martyrs bloom all the roads of the country ...
Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaijan. Capital of the Azeri-populated region, the atmosphere is radically different from that of Kurdistan. After the bright colors of Kurdistan veils, answer balck deep hijabs of Azerbaijan. The vast majority of women are dressed as well.
Tehran. The metro is clean and affordable, 10000 rials one-way (the equivalent of 7 cents €). One particularity, tail cars are reserved for women, and some parts of the platform also.
Tehran. Traffic is completely anarchic in the city. Tou can meet sometimes dozens of motorcycles in forbidden direction, taxis parked in the middle of the tracks while having tea, carriers making their way to the strength of the wrists ... Crossing the street, as a pedestrian, takes place in an organized anarchy rather impressive. If you survive the first time, you will quickly learn the implicit codes ....
Tehran. What firts strikes while strolling in the capital, is the number of redone noses... Iran is world champion in number of rhinoplasties. Small, thin, rolled up ... There are hundreds of them. It's a real mass phenomenon. In addition to women, men also have their faces modified. Thus, many proudly wear the nasal bandage, a sign of wealth in Iranian society. The plastic surgery is, in general, very anchored and assumed in the country.
Tehran. Jewelry, and gold in particular, are extremely important in Iranian society. For example, the marriage dowry (‟mehrieh‟), which the husband will have to pay to his wife, will have to mention dozens, if not hundreds, of gold coins. At several hundred euros a piece, for an average monthly salary of 50 €, many will go into debt for life. If a divorce is pronounced, the husband must in all cases pay the equivalent of the dowry to his wife, on pain of ending up in prison, which is a very frequent case ...
Tehran. Bazaar district.
Tehran. Commemoration of the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Tehran. The Armenian community of the city commemorates the 104th anniversary of the genocide perpetrated by Turkey. Inside the cathedral gardens, hundreds of people are gathered, as every year. A haven of freedom for women who also take the opportunity to let go of their hair.
Kurdistan. Forced stops during the long days of road, gas pumps are everywhere. At less than 3 € for a full refill, it may seem affordable, but the threat of higher prices would plague even more the finances of Iranian families.
Curious fact, the French movement of Yellow Jackets (‟Gilets Jaunes‟) had an echo in Iran, discouraging the government to increase the price of gasoline, for fear of a revolution ... For how long? ...
Palangan, Kurdistan. The village lives from fish farming, local specialty and well-known in the region.
Palangan, Kurdistan. The roofs of traditional Kurdish houses serve as terraces for the upper houses. Life is bustling in the sun.
Palangan, Kurdistan. The vast majority of Kurds wear the traditional baggy pants, the shalwar made to measure: ‟It's convenient and comfortable!‟
Palangan, Kurdistan. Kurdish children from the village sing and dance spontaneously. Dance is a feature of Kurdish culture. Highly codified, traditional dance is a real moment of sharing with family and friends, and often brighten up traditional Friday country picnics.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan. The families on a stroll offer themselves a point of view, near the Iraqi border.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan. On the right, the mountain separates Iraq from a few kilometers. While at the top the snow is very thick, it is very hot, down in the valley.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan. Stationed vehicles load packages of smugglers arriving from Iraq, carried by men across the mountain. Alcohol, food ... and even appliances, televisions ... a lot of things are passing through here. Once full, cars start and run on winding roads, day and night.
The red plastic films surrounding the packages arriving from Iraq dot the smugglers' crossing point by the hundreds.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan
Howraman village, Kurdistan. Howraman is a marvel. An extended village, following the slopes of the mountain. Life goes on, timeless. Young people play, old people languish in the sun in front of the mosque, at their feet: the valley as far as the eye can embrace.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan.
Howraman Valley, Kurdistan. Friday is the only day of weekly rest. So families and friends go out, meet to picnic, dance, laugh ...
Marivan, Kurdistan. The Soviet faux-air sculpture shows a man carried to the sky by birds. Supposed to represent the solidarity and the elevation of each one by the mutual help, some suspect that its construction was pretext to a campaign of search of gold in the mountain, for the benefit of the government ...
Marivan, Kurdistan. At the kebab, vegetables have disappeared, they have become too expensive, especially onions ... The annual harvest has been diverted and resold at a better price in Iraq, creating a shortage ... Indispensable in the local cuisine, the price of onions is now the same as in France.
Marivan, Kurdistan. A real Kurdish pants (‟shalwar‟) is necessarily made to measure.
Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaidjan.
Kandovan, Eastern Azerbaijan. Troglodyte village, Kandovan is a must on the road to Tabriz. Here, people claims them as Turkish or Azeri, besides Persian is not spoken in the street. Smiles are rarer than in Kurdistan, and tones are generally darker ...
Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaijan. Ali has been repairing sewing machines for four decades. At 74, he decided to learn English alone, without ever going to school. He has created his own dictionaries, and knows several hundred words. His great pleasure? Waiting in the street for passing strangers to share tea and talk together.
Tehran. The bazaar is a covered maze, dotted with squares, stairs, floors or labyrinthine half-floors ...
Tehran. Jafar sells pistachios, of course they are the best in the bazaar. It has 3 stores in Tehran because Jafar is in the pistachio from father to son.