No, I don’t mean this blog.
A Saudi woman named Sara Masry decided a couple of years ago to pursue a master’s degree in Iranian studies in Tehran. More importantly for us, after a few months in Iran she decided to blog about her experiences. The result is the blog A Saudi in Iran, which I unfortunately only learned about from this Al-Monitor article about how it’s probably now defunct. You see, one of the repercussions of the Nimr execution and the subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran is that Riyadh has now imposed a ban on travel to Iran, so it’s not clear when, or whether, Masry will have a chance to go back to Tehran to complete her degree and, maybe, resume blogging. Masry wrote what may be her last post a couple of weeks ago:
As political events take on a life of their own, as usual it is the average people who bear the brunt, and the relations or potential for constructive relations between them as well as between future generations that are poisoned. In this region it is common practice for most to sit back and, while perhaps feeling uneasy about developments, watch them all unfold. I truly believe however that we have failed as a people when we fail to speak out against intolerance and harmfully divisive narratives against each other, or indeed when a simple call for moderation can grant you the label of a traitor.
Many of those who insist that Islam is a religion of peace and acceptance see no contradiction whatsoever in using violent and bigoted language against supposedly ‘opposing’ sects, nationalities and peoples – this is a critical problem that cannot be underestimated. The principles of moderation, understanding, forgiveness and tolerance, which are abundantly provided for in local cultures in the region as well as in its dominant religions, are progressively being eschewed in the face of rising animosities between its inhabitants, which will in the end take us nowhere but down.
The whole blog, as far as I can tell, is this thoughtful and well-written. It’s a fascinating look into daily life in Iran from the perspective not just of a foreigner, but of a foreigner who might have expected to be poorly received by the Iranians she encountered. Instead, with very few exceptions, the people she met were warm, kind, friendly. That’s unfailingly been my own experience meeting Iranians, but I’ve only met Iranians here in America. I’ve never been “on their turf,” so to speak. Masry’s experiences are valuable not only for what they say about Iranians and Arabs, but for the insight they can give everybody about what the Iranian people–not a handful of powerful religious figures or top officers in the Revolutionary Guard, but regular Iranian people–are really like. Turns out, they’re pretty much like everybody else.
Masry also has some great photographs, which are particularly cool if you’re somebody who’s never been to Iran but hopes to go someday, like me. I’m pilfering this one (I hope that’s OK) from her visit to a zoorkhaneh, the traditional Iranian gymnasium where athletes train for, among other things, the kind of wrestling we talked about yesterday:
Even though world events may have ended her blogging (at least for the time being), I highly recommend checking out Masry’s illuminating work.