Local View: From Duluth to Iran, we are all connected

Local View: From Duluth to Iran, we are all connected ...
duluthnewstribune.com 25/02/2017 Culture

Keywords:#American, #British, #California, #Catholic, #Christian, #Diane_Fay_Skomars, #Donald_Trump, #Duluth, #Duluthnewstribune.com, #Earth, #Esfahan, #Iran, #Iran_hostage_crisis, #Iranian, #Jewish, #Kashan, #Muslim, #New_York, #Persepolis, #Persian, #President, #Roman, #September, #Shiraz, #Sunni, #Tabriz, #Tehran, #Trump, #USA, #United_States, #University, #Yazd, #Zoroastrian

By Diane Fay Skomars Today at 12:11 a.m.
I was shocked to learn President Donald Trump listed Iran as one of seven countries whose citizens no longer were welcome to come to the United States. As far as I knew, no terrorist had ever come to the U.S. from Iran — if that indeed was the reason for such a restriction.
This past September I visited Iran with six other Americans. We traveled by van from Shiraz in the south through the heartland to Tabriz in the north with major stops in Yazd, Esfahan, Kashan, and Tehran. We were welcomed wherever we went, from the smallest village to the Iranian capital. We visited astonishing antiquities, such as Persepolis, that tell the story of this ancient, beautiful country. And we fell in love with Esfahan. There is a Persian proverb that states, "Esfahan is half the world."
The Iranian people sought to engage us, talk with us, take our photographs, and tell us, "We love Americans!" Cellphones prevail in Iran as does the internet. The median age of Iranians is 30.1 in a population of over 80 million.
We learned that they allow for other religions. About 90 percent of Iranians practice Shi'ism, the official religion of Iran. About 9 percent are Sunni Muslim, and 1 percent is Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and others. We visited Muslim mosques, a Roman Catholic cathedral, a Jewish synagogue, and the Zoroastrian Temple of Yazd.
Since 1979 and the Iran hostage crisis, the U.S. has declined to maintain an American embassy in Tehran. The old one exists but is now under the control of the Iranian government. The British government reopened its embassy after it was shut down in 2011 as the result of a mob attack.
As our Iranian guide explained, women in Iran vote, drive cars, are well-educated, and can run for public office. Rules exist about women covering their heads and bodies with appropriate clothing, but we noted that half wore amazing fashion items in rainbows of colors while still following the rules.
Our well-traveled Iranian guide was a woman in her 30s holding advanced degrees. I said to her, "When you visit America, my tourmates will want you to come to New York, California and Santa Fe. I invite you to come to Duluth and meet the real people in the middle of the USA." Her response was, "Why would I go where I am not welcome?" I was stunned! Doesn't everyone want to come to America?
Governments have their disagreements, their diplomatic stances, and their conflicting historic references. But people of all nations share a reality, hoping for a better tomorrow. We yearn to view other countries face-to-face, assuming we are allowed to travel back and forth. The Earth is small. It requires not only environmental attention but human connections, including the modeling of freedom.
Diane Fay Skomars of Duluth is retired from the University of Minnesota Duluth where she was director of development. She traveled to Iran with BJ Adventures (bjadventures.com).
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