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Welcome to my blog! True to my name, Shiva the Spy, I will be your eyes and ears in Iran, bringing you detailed accounts of everyday life from my perspective. You'll have a window into the social, cultural, political, and historical aspects of the country. I will bring you the stuff that American media can't...or won't. So, check back regularly for stories, photos, commentary, and anything else your curiosity calls for.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A few days ago, 108 people died in a plane crash near Tehran's Mehrabad Airport. 68 of the 97 passengers aboard were journalists and news crew members from various newspapers and broadcasting services. The news team was en route to Bandar Abbas to cover a series of military exercises, according to reports. As their colleagues reported the deaths on the nightly news, they could barely choke back tears; nor could they contain their bitterness as they questioned the 2nd-in-command leader of the Iranian army on the military C-130 aircraft that has crashed several times before due to a specific malfunction. These planes were bought from the U.S. decades ago, prior to the Islamic Revolution. Sanctions have made it impossible for Iran to purchase the parts needed to fix the planes' major gliche: the tendency for the motor to shut off, in flight.

The crash took place after the pilot had attempted to slowly land the plane at the center of four 10-story apartment buildings; perhaps his goal was to avoid as much collateral damage as possible. While his landing attempt proved successful, the wing of the craft had hit the first floor of one of the buildings, causing the plane to explode, and send a rapidly spreading fire up to the 9th level.

Only moments after this story was reported in the evening newscast, it was announced that the next two days (Wednesday and Thursday) were officially declared holidays for all schools and universities as well as private and public offices. The reason? Because "air remains in pollution alert status." Undoubtedly, the fire caused by the crash heightened this problem.

In Iran, people go to school or work six days a week (Saturday through Thursday). So, while children and elderly enjoyed three days off from the work week, the rest of us took the last two days off. All because of dirty air.

What's worse, Wednesday was College Student Day, which typically is a prime time for scheduling protests. Tehran University had planned to use the day to show their opposition for President Ahmadinejad's recent appointment of an akhond (prayer leader) as the university's chancellor. Apparently, a religious leader--one who holds a PhD--as head of a university is unheard of among many (young & old); I'm not sure about the exact conflict of interest presented by this appointment, but it does represent a break from tradition. Usually, professors are given the opportunity to vote for whom they want to serve as their university's leader; after determining the winner, the nominee is referred to the Minister of Education, who typically acts in accordance with the faculty's top choice candidate. This time, however, the minister announced TU's new chancellor after a direct order from Ahmadinejad, snubbing the customary elections, entirely.

So, the recent days have been struck by a series of unfortunate events. Smoke-filled skies, tons of deaths, derailed protests, and too many days off. Today, massive amounts of Iranians poured into the streets to mourn the victims of the plane crash. To keep with the somber mood, my favorite comedy show, "Barareh Nights", has not aired since Tuesday night, and will likely stay out of the limelight for another couple of days, along with any other funny programs.

Just so it's clear, the pollution is at such high levels, that you can see the air take on a grayish-yellow tint. I went to a trade fair today expecting to spend the afternoon browsing the various demonstrations, but had to leave after only two hours because suddenly my blood pressure dropped, my breathing became shorter and more rapid, my head experienced sharp pains and dizziness, my face turned a sickly whitish-yellow hue, and my entire body was drenched by a flashflood of sweat. Later, my uncle and I agreed that it was probably the polluted weather that caused this unexplainable and sudden reaction. I denied this at first because I hadn't smelled any smog, but then again, I'd never been through an episode like that before. As a result of this invisible threat, I'm seriously considering purchasing a gas mask--the kind that resemble the faces of houseflies, and are typically used to protect soldiers from chemical warfare.


Blogger Hydra said...

hi shiva, the crash was tragic.
was the protest affected by the having these 2 days off? I mean, did they cancel the whole thing?

8:41 PM  
Blogger Moji said...

hello. I'm new to bloggspot.com &I just discovered your blog and i must say, i found it pretty interesting. about this plane crash,i heard the pilot refused to fly this aireoplane but they forced him to, and since this is called murdering innocent people, they offered their families 3o million tomman,,,,is that right? have u heard that as well? .Keep on blogging

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Hydra,

Yes, the protests were canceled completely, and on Saturday (first day of the week), a group of students and teachers from another campus protested the cancellation of the scheduled TU demonstration. I guess we'll wait and see how this matter is handled by the university's officials.

Hi, Moji,

I haven't heard anything about murdering innocent people, vis-a-vis the plane crash, but you bring up an interesting point. I'll definitely look into this perspective of the accident, and if I turn up anything, I'll let you know.

Thanks for visiting.

2:11 PM  

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