Globally Independent

by mr


Self-sustainability, Sanctions, Islam, Iran

May 30, 2013 – June 5, 2013. Iran, Tehran

Iran most definitely is not what the Western media show us. No big surprise. What is astonishing, however, is the easiness with which distorted media images generate general truths instead of questioning their narratives. Iran is not just another Arab country. The Persians had a strong influence on the development of the whole Arab world with their literature, art, science and administration… They have implemented the knowledge gained through the ages of their empires into the Arab Islam, and by sharing it, the Persian culture has built a cosmopolitan character.


In Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries, prayer is both a public and a private daily ritual. Prayers are performed three times a day. It is interesting that the Iranians pray in Arabic which is not their mother language and thus illegible to them. But how and why does anyone in the 21st century pray in a language they don’t understand? The answer could be found in the lack of abstract thinking that would allow reinterpretation, or any interpretation whatsoever, of religious messages as a consequence of their incomprehensibility. Prayer thus became a symbolic presentation of affiliation. The idea of social progress is based on traceably visible and direct evidence: big houses, physical infrastructures. Faces of religious and political leaders replace corporative signs and ideas of the Western billboards. Invisible or hidden potentials, such as the internet or digital infrastructures, still can’t earn Iranians’ trust.



When  approaching Tehran, one experiences a déjà vu. Have we already seen this city? In Europe, in the Mediterranean, in our collective consciousness, there is a slightly nostalgic picture of such a city under the hot sun. That is Tehran, a city of cosy ambience, loud and picturesque streets, amiable people. It is a city that follows its own logic, rather than the trends: new cars date from 1999, women – covered in richly decorated scarves – look like Hollywood actresses from the 70s, men are dressed in shirts and long pants. The space contains no luxury of the West; it doesn’t cater to consumerism like Western billboards covered with big brands.  The whole experience of Tehran seems like a time travel some ten years in the past. However, it doesn’t seem as a disadvantaged position compared to the rest of the world. At the beginning of the 1940s the population of Tehran was 700.000, while today this urban area is counting 13 million inhabitants! The generic is a shared problem of both Eastern and Western global cities. It offers shelter, clothes and food, but at the same time homogenizes everything. On the one hand, its results are predefined, passive living spaces, on the other, these are the spaces that allow permanent modifications of shopping centres. How does a city cope with such a tremendous growth?



Iran industry covers most of the country’s needs, it is the second country in the world by proven gas resources and the fourth oil power of the world. It produces more than a billion cars a year, which is the 12th biggest car industry in the world. Iran is the 9th country in the world to have launched its own, domestically produced satellite into orbit. Sanctions, seemingly omnipresent, actually protect domestic market and disable foreign competitors, whereas thus created legal gap opens the potential for the grey market. Store shelves are full of Iranian versions of famous global brands such as Barilla, Kit Kat or Snickers – why import when you can produce your own, and use an already existing, famous commercial?



Far from the impression of a country traumatized by the sanctions, we are in a country which turns the situation to its benefit. Being big enough and possessing enough natural resources, Iran aims at being economically independent on the global economy. We could almost claim that it had achieved the state of self-sustainability, the unattainable goal of all developed countries of the West.



foto: miro roman / smartphone