Giving a Talk on Iran

In General: When you speak to an audience about your experiences in Iran, you don’t have to present yourself as an expert. It is enough to be somewhat informed, and to talk about your experiences when you were in the country. There is some good information on this website to support you. Pictures are very helpful. If you have photos of your own, that’s great. Otherwise, you might ask some of the people you traveled with if they would share some pictures. You can also contact Leila Zand, though it us best to show pictures that reflect your own experience.

Your talk doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly political. Churches and libraries and other social organizations make great venues for sharing your experiences, and people there don’t expect a strong political message. It is better to show them Iran as you saw it, and let the decide what to do about it. Of course if you are a political activist, then you may have a very politicized audience and you may want to open up a political discussion after sharing some of your experiences in Iran. Either way, be honest about who you are and what you think.

Tell stories: Show some pictures on a screen and tell stories taken from your experiences. In the process, you want to touch on some specific topics, and to approach them from a particular perspective. Check out the talking points, then create a little list of points you want to cover. Then tie them to your experience. In this way, they will naturally be addressed, and it won’t seem like you are telling people what to think. You will merely be explicating your experience.

Try to share a sense of Iran as a place where ordinary people like them live. Make the Iranians you have encountered come to life for them. Your guides are people too, and the ones you spent the most time with, so you can talk about that relationship as well as other encounters. Show pictures. Tell Stories. This is the most important part of the talk, and you want to return to it over and over, through other segments, especially when talking to people who are not in the choir. Any discussion that follows is icing on the cake. Just be yourself and be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a political question, then say so. If you have an opinion, say that it is your opinion.

    Some Topics you may want to mention are:
  • Some of the positive things that the Islamic Government as achieved in Iran.
    • There are public schools and attendance is mandatory for children.
    • People in general are well educated and women’s literacy is the highest in the region.
    • There is pretty much universal public water and power
    • Ongoing maintenance to archaeological wonders and historical sites
    • Generally parks and public areas are clean and well maintained
    • On the other side, it’s ok to mention the sidewalks and the traffic
  • The people: our guides, other people we met, people on the street
    • Were people friendly?
    • Did your guide/s treat you with respect
    • What did people share from their lives?
  • Iran as a center of art, literature, theater
    • Museums you visited
    • Art Galleries you visited
    • Poets like Hafez and Sa’adi revered
  • They have a history as a people and a nation that is about 15 times as long as ours.
    • Wonderful Archaeological sites
    • Historical and Archaeological Museums
    • Palaces and Mosques from different periods
  • Contrast in public mood and tourist privileges since the last visit
    •     (If you have been there more than once)
You may also want to note the very real threats against Iran, and the fact that these threats are a continuation of a history of threats that has gone on for at least a hundred years.
    Some Current Facts:
  • The US has a minimum of 2 Carrier Strike Groups, consisting of an aircraft carrier and 6-10 other warships, in the Persian Gulf; these groups are accompanied by ships from France and the UK; Israel has several nuclear subs there as well.
  • Import and export businesses, tourism, oil sales, reliable supply of refined oil, medical supplies, replacement parts for civilian airlines and other technology inherited from the Shah are sabotaged and undermined by US led western sanctions.
    Some Historical Facts:
  • In 1979, the people of Iran rose up in a non-violent revolution. Socialists worked with Religious leaders and others to form a popular majority that brought down the Shah. Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile as a populist leader with a clear plan, who had resources in place to lead the country, and so his faction emerged as first in power.
  • In 1953, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, who had threatened to nationalize their oil wells, was overthrown by a coup orchestrated by CIA agent Roosevelt, on behalf of the British. The Shah was restored as an absolute autocrat, backed up by an increasingly violent Secret Service called SAVAK.
  • In 1941, the government of the Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi was put in place by the ‘Allied’ forces (UK, USSR, US ) because his father was being a little too friendly to the Nazis during WW II. Under the new Shah, the Parliament briefly regained some power.
  • In 1921, Reza Shah Pahlavi, a general in the Persian Cossack Brigade, came to power through a coup against the last Shah of the Qajar Dynasty. Reza Shah was assisted by the British in his rise to power. He brought many modern amenities to Iran, and reorganized the military and government administration and finances, bringing about positive social and economic changes in the country.
  • In 1905, there was a Constitutional Revolution in Iran which resulted in the creation of a parliament, which held power until the rise of Reza Pahlavi.

For more information see the Talking Points page and the Iran Fact Sheet in this book.

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