Meeting Iranians in Melaka, Malaysia

This morning we attended a huge tourism conference organized to promote tourism in Malaysia. More than 400 travel writers and agents from 33 countries were in the big hall, and among these delegates were men in suits from Iran. I have always wanted to go to Iran and write a story, so during a break I sought them out.

I wasn’t sure who they were, but I approached two men who looked, well, Iranian, but whose nametags were backwards. Bingo! They were indeed from Tehran. We talked about the possibility of going on a fam tour there, and they said that yes indeed, they could help me arrange it. The government, even though anti western, does set up press trips that we take to so many other countries. Then I told them about how often when I am traveling, people ask me about our President Bush, and why he is in power.

I was hoping that this might bring out some similar feelings about their president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is famous for declaring that Israel should not exist and other crazy stuff. “Oh no, we like our president, we support him,” said Iral, the friendly travel agent. “So people support him, not like in the US, where so many of us disagree with Bush?” “Oh no, it’s not like that at all in Iran.” During our conversation, a man behind us passed me furtive glances, making eye contact, like he wanted to speak.

At another break, this man approached me. “Iran government fucked!” he said. “Government bad, terrible, we hate them.” He made it clear that there was a whole other side to the story…and like in the US, only half of the people need to elect a president, and often the other side can’t stand him.