Meet the Freund and Helfer

...on a lazy afternoon

Having a tea and puff on a waterpipe on a mild winter afternoon is firstly very pleasent, and secondly one of the very few things one can do in terms of "going out" in Iran. Apparently likewise think four or five other, younger couples and a small group of students that populate the other Sedirs (Carpets and cushions to sit down on) in the openair area of a one of the many Kebabis near Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah.
We are just discussing how little we see of the strictness and the suppression by the police that we read so much about as a nervous agitation breaks out among the people around us. We realize that a police car stopped outside the place. In a fearful hurry we see the kids regrouping: the girls jump quickly onto the pillows next to other girls and tighten their loose scarfs, they are now making up a female-only group. The boys stay where they are, looking a bit suspicious sitting all by themselves with two cups of tea and a pipe. Seconds after, a policeman accompanied by a soldier are entering the garden with stern faces. They agressivley step up to each sitting area, harshly grabbing the waterpipes, throwing the coal into the fountain commenting it with a dry "chub nist"/"this is not good".
By now, the girls have disappeared unseen, only some boys are left. We, supposedly protected by our foreign appearance, are not even being looked at, our pipe keeps on smoking as if nothing ever happend.

In the meantime, the restaurant owner that had come running, flatters the two men, pulling them aside which gives room for the remaining boys to get lost quickly. Sometime after, the two 'officials' leave also, some waterpipes are going with them.

We are puzzled and astonished by the events. On the way out from the restaurant, we ask the owner what this was all about. He smiles calmly and friendly, says that this is just the way it is, and that the police left again after he paid them 10'000 Tuman (10 Dollars). On top of that, he will have to go and replace the 'confiscated' waterpipes. Interesting to know is also that waterpipes are neither forbidden nor stamped as bad behaviour and we suspect the removed ones are now doing their job in an underpaid policemen's home...


...and at a wedding

Through our friends here, we have the opportunity to attend a wedding in the northern parts of the country. Even though it is a small wedding ("only" a couple of hundreds are invited...), it's a relatively unusual one: the bride is from Tadjikistan, one of the few other countries where the persian language is spoken. Also, it should be a mixed wedding, meaning that men and women are celebrating the event together! As a consequence of the law saying that such a thing is forbidden, the costs for the organisation will rise: whoever has the power to fine a misbehaviour also has the power to overlook one, a good handful of dollars will surely help...
As we arrive, the party is going well. Men in suits and ties, women in usually unholly dresses and with lots of makeup are dancing themselves hungry to persian and western pop. Taking photographs is generally forbidden, as it could put people in trouble.
A small army of properly covered women are enforcing this rule, for the sake of all.
The music seems to be played live, but at first we cannot see anyone with instruments until... we take a closer look and see an open door just besides the stage. In the room behind it, literally 'backstage', we notice a pop combo doing their thing all by themselves! Why this? Its simple: in case of a police patrol appearing all of a sudden, the door would be locked off quickly and the signs of this sinful music made invisible!
In the meantime, the master of ceremony has called for dinner. Rushhour, it must have been the iraniens who defined the term 'fast food'! Not 20 minutes later, the buffet is plundered and the party is back on stage, rocking the night away!

Everyone - with the modest exception of the tourist - understands immediately as the fire alarm goes: no fire, but the Sepa (the police of good behaviour) is on its way! A hectic movement breaks out, the music is turned off, the men are leaving the room quickly, either going outside for a smoke or moving to the upper floor. Only the ladies stay where they are, covering up as good as possible. They look now a bit akward in their fancy dresses and high heels under thick winterjackets and scarfs...

After ten or so minutes, a small car stops in front of the building. Two men get out, are welcomed by the owner of the place and have a chat with him behind closed doors. Usually they also get a nice dinner, but today they don't seem to be hungry and leave soon again. Probably they were satifsfied already with the envelope that changed hands? Not half an hour later, the party continues as if nothing ever happened.