When telling people that I would be traveling to Iran, people often questioned or commented on how safe (or not) it might be. I don’t exactly know what their fears were, but I am finding Iran to be very safe. Early in the morning or late at night, a person can walk by herself with no fear of violent crime. Theft is rare. I’ve never seen a locked bike.
There is one thing I worry about. The most dangerous thing we do in Iran everyday is travel by car or walk on the sidewalk. My dad has described what driving is like many times before, but until you experience the nail-biting thrill of being on the Iranian roads, you really can’t understand. For example, the way to make a left turn is to pull in front of the incessant flow of oncoming traffic slowly until a car is forced to stop for you. To cross the street, you say a prayer, close your eyes, and step in front of oncoming traffic, trusting they will slow down (not stop. They don’t know how to do that). I always cross the street with an Iranian and make sure they are on the side closest to the approaching vehicles. The lines on the road indicate neither direction of travel nor where you ought to position your car. No, really. Cars drive the wrong way on one way streets and a road with three lanes always has four rows on traffic. You are marveling that you could reach out and touch the head of the child leaning out the window of the car next to you (car seat? How would they attach it? The seatbelts have never been dug out from under the back seat) when a scooter goes by between the two cars. On the scooter is a man and his wife, who is holding their sleeping, swaddled infant on her shoulder. Folks make UTURNS FROM THE RIGHT HAND LANE ON A RED LIGHT. I’ve seen it more than once. City busses run red lights.
Twice now Norah has dashed from me. I’ve never been more scared for her life and safety than in those moments. The first time I caught her just before she made it to the alley. The second, she escaped out a hotel revolving door and was one turn of the door ahead of me. Thankfully, the security guards outside the hotel and every man standing outside ran to block her from the street.
Another time, she climbed out of the car and onto the sidewalk. While I turned to close the door, she was almost taken out by two motorcycles ON THE SIDEWALK. They swerved and she jumped back just in time.