Driving, Politics and People in Iran – and how this fits together?

We have to make a little chapter about driving in Iran, because that was actually something, we just couldn`t handle after the first days in this country. Our Iran Guidebook named Lonely Planet told us: „Maybe they seem to be hopeless, crazy and stupid, but they are not…“ And then they wrote several excuses, which should explain to the reader, why in the end, Iranians have everything concerning the traffic under control.

Our conclusion so far: Yes, they are stupid, hopeless and crazy drivers and by saying this, hopefully nobody feels personally offended. But feel free to judge on your own by these examples we have experienced:

What do Iranians do, if they miss the exit of the motorway?

Right, taking the next exit would take too much time, so they just put their gear in reverse and drive backwards to the missed exit, we saw this a lot – crazy.

Some more examples, we experienced:

Some Iranians don`t turn their lights on, while driving in the night or they just don`t have working lights
99 % never use their indicators (Blinker)
If they do, they just use it wrong and so it happens, that they indicate to the right side, while turning to the left
After using the indicator, they not even think about turning it off, so we saw many cars just indicating happyly around the streets, without any reason
Iranians overtake in every situation, from the left, from the right, before corners, just on every street, where their cars could possibly fit through a little gap
In every roundabout it works like this: First of all, there are no rules! If you don`t want to spend the rest of your life waiting in front of a roundabout, you have to enter it so fast, that other drivers think you would not be able to break, if they go now. If they think, you still could break, they just move before you.

So, as you can imagine, we felt a little better, when we finally got the chance to get an insurance for our car in Tehran (actually the first week we were driving without any car-insurance, because of Iranian holiday-time, we counldn`t get one). This personal driving experience in Iran contrasted a lot with what we had seen so far. If people give a shit about their environment, drive like complete egoistic idiots on the streets and then finally, when you meet them in person, turn out to be very friendly and sensitive human beings, that leaves you with some sort of confusion and we still couldn’t figure out, how these to sides of a medal fit togehter.

One more thing, to complete this Iranian traffic-chapter.

We regognized, that probably everybody, who is not used to the Iranian traffic and drives here for the first time, is going to face 5 different psychological stages – at least we went through these five:

1. Non-Believing and astonishment about the traffic
2. Annoyment and hate on other drivers
3. Desperation and gollows humor (Galgenhumor)
4. Resignition
5. Finally, if you like it or not: Adaption

So it might sound funny, how Iranians drive, but the sad fact is, that each year 22000 Iranians die in the traffic – 5 times the world average. What does the government do?

Nothing – chaos keeps people from thinking – is one theory, we heard. Oh . . . wait, their is one thing they do: The government is building speed bumps all over the country, which we think makes most of the time no sense at all. Maybe there is somebody in the government with a speed bump-company, otherwise we can`t explain this (excuse us) shit. They are everywhere, mostly not signed, so if you see them to late your car is (excuse us again) fucked. Once we didn`t see a speed bump and with 90 km/h our car was flying a meter over the streets :) For some reason nothing broke and we could continue our driving. Now you know all this, one more amusement: Ironically, the current president Ahmadinedschad has a Phd in traffic management. So, no wonder, that this works out as bad as the government in total.

Mentioning Ahmadinedschad, we have to loose some sentences about the political situation in Iran.
If we wouldn`t have known about the dictatorship before our journey, in the entire 3 weeks of travelling in Iran, we would have never regognized it. People on the streets are the nicest, most helpful and open-minded people you can imagine. If you are walking down Teherans big streets, you would not see so much differences to Germany, as you might think. Sure, woman have to wear a headscarf, but beside this, most young women wear make-up and western styled clothes and many of them just got their noses made (actually Iran has the highest rate of so calles nose-jobs in the world). People we met, told us, much of this outward appearance is a sign of protest. 25 years ago wearing a headscarf, which didn`t cover the hair of a womans entirely, would have had serious consequences for a female person. One example we heard of a friend is, that the police used to cut with a knife in the women arms for punishment. But now things are different. Step by step Iranians are breaking the rules and today most of the young women, you will see on the streets, just cover 70 percent of their head, so everybody is able to see their beautiful hair :) If the police would say something about it, a women will excuse and fix the headscarf „properly“. But since so many women are protesting in this way of dressing, mostly nobody says anything anymore.

But don`t misunderstand. The law in Iran is still very strict, but mostly (young) people don`t care. They (mostly in the cities) hold hands on the streets (punishment: can be death penalty, like it happend for one 15 years old girl in 2004), they bypass the censored internet-sites, they basically do all the things, young people in Europe are doing for fun (but most of them secretly). Most (young) people in the cities are not as much religious, as Europeans might think, most of them hate their government and want to get rid of it as soon as possible, most of them are just like you and me. The way, how these (young) people mistreating the repressing laws slowly, but surely, shows, in which direction Iran is going. But it is not easy. The government, or lets call it some fanatics, have the weapons in their hands and do not hesitate to use them against any opponent. With their believing, that fighting against every ciritcal person is in favour of Allah and a „worst case scenario“ of maybe getting killed one day by regime-opponents, but than going to paradise with 72 virgins, these fanatics have nothing to loose. Smart (young) Iranians on the streets do.

All these words are just expressing our personal experience and opinion, which means that we can be wrong about how we judge on the current situation in Iran. So for any feedback we are very thankful!

By the way, if you going to Iran, don`t put your thumbs up – I did it several times to express that I am thankful for good (direction) advices, but I figured out that it actually means something like „Fuck you“ in Iran – so the same meaning as in Germany the middlefinger.

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