Feature: Hugs from Iran (Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times Chronicles his Road Trip through Iran)

"To me, Iran feels like other authoritarian countries I covered before they toppled."

F or several days now, Nic Kristoff of The New York Times has been tweeting from Iran, sharing snippets of encounters with the Iranian people. It is very rare for a western journalist to be given this level of unscripted and open access to Iran, but somehow Nic has managed to get it. And, he even took his family:

We have been waiting for his report. Here is the first in a series of reports on his trip across the country.

Hugs from Iran | The New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof

MASHHAD, Iran

My 1,700-mile road trip across Iran began with a giddy paean to America, reinforcing my view that at the grass-roots level, this may be the most pro-American nation in the Middle East.

“We love America!” gushed a former military commando, now a clothing seller, my first evening in the spiritual center of Mashhad. He was so carried away that I thought he might hug me, and although he acknowledged that his business was suffering greatly from Western sanctions, he said he blamed his own leaders.

“I can’t blame America,” he said. “I love America too much.”

That was far from a universal view. I encountered many Iranians — especially in the countryside — who strongly support the Iranian authorities and resent what they see as American government bullying. But while Iranians are far from monolithic, one feature was ubiquitous: the warmth of Iranians when they discovered I was American.

We passed occasional “Death to America” signs, but our trip was slowed by hospitality, for Iranians kept giving us presents or inviting us into their homes. And in the security line to board a flight from Tehran to Mashhad, a Revolutionary Guard said genially, “We’re not supposed to let batteries through, but we’ll make an exception for you since you’re a foreigner.”

The Iranian government gave me a very rare journalist visa, along with permission to drive unescorted across the country on a government-approved route from Mashhad in the east to Tabriz in the west, and back to Tehran. I interviewed people at random along the way, and as far as I could tell I was not tailed.

Read the full, and watch the first video in the series, here. >>

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Dave Siavashi is the founder and editor of Iran News Now. He provided coverage of breaking news and analysis on events in Iran during the unrest that followed the 2009 presidential election. One of the early journalists to use social media effectively to report on breaking events, his tweets and articles have been cited in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Christian Science Monitor, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, and Huffington Post, among others. He writes for Iran News Now and EA WorldView.

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