Sunday, August 12, 2007

Report from Iran

by Gabriele Ross

(2,900 words)

I went to Iran for almost three weeks in July of 2007 with “Global Exchange.” Since 2000 Global Exchange ( ) offers several tours to Iran each year with the goal of fostering citizen to citizen diplomacy. In collaboration with an Iranian partner organization we went to Tehran, Yazd, Shiraz, Pasargadae and Persepolis, Esfahan, Natanz, Abyaneh, Namak Abrud, Ramsar, Lahijan, Masuleh and Rasht. This tour took us to hyper modern urban centers and ancient adobe towns, to deserts and rainforests, and from the Alborz Mountains to the Caspian Sea. Below is an attempt to answer some of the common questions I have been asked about this trip.


One of the strangest questions came from an Iranian American: “Did you have to do the HIV test and all that to get the visa?“ At first I am totally confused but then I remember: when I immigrated to the US on a fiancée visa some twenty years ago, I had to submit to an HIV test and other health exams, the result of which were kept from me and given to immigration officials in a sealed envelope. Funny - when memory plays tricks on us, even outrageous practices by the US government are attributed to the Islamic Republic.

To answer the question: there were no tests. Based on my European password I even got a discount on the visa fee, compared to the twelve US citizens and one Australian who traveled with me. I never figured out what restrictions there are on individual Iran travel for US citizens. If there are any, they do not apply to other nationalities, as evident from the independent travelers I met for example from Germany, Japan and Spain. I was not always with the group, there was no problem with me venturing out on my own.

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Gabriele Ross (, 503.235.6136) is a graduate of the Masters Program for Conflict Resolution at Portland State University, the "Bread and Roses” Programmer at KBOO 90.7 FM Community Radio in Portland, and a Founding Board Member of the Iranian American Friendship Council

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