The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

In eigener Sache

Here’s Ulrich Ladurner of Die Zeit (one of Germany’s largest and most influential papers) travelling to a remote Iranian province to find out whether Ahmadinejad’s promises to improve life in the country’s regions were fulfilled.

(Which is a laudable intention, as few bother to look at the country beyond nuclear bomb issue.)

The article simply ends up being about how difficult it is to find information in Iran (title: The Persian labyrinth – Has President Ahmadinejad improved the situation of the poor in the provinces? To find an answer to that is as difficult as decoding the truth on
the Iranian bomb.

Now, the author talks to a doorman working at a local authority:

“Our president is the best president in the world,� he says, without being asked.
You don’t have to believe he means what he says. […] What he really thinks? Maybe he doesn’t know that himself. Iran is a country in confusion.

Isn’t this highly discriminating of Middle Easterners – just because the khawaga correspondent doesn’t understand what’s going on on someone’s mind doesn’t mean that someone himself doesn’t know what he has on his mind.

This is a feature, ok, but if you ask whether provinces are benefiting from what the capital promises, the words economic growth, investment and unemployment shouldn’t be totally missing from your text, should they (he does mention inflation).

Instead Ladurner travels to an industrial area and tries to measure the province’s economic development by glancing at factories and roads from the outside.

One paragraph really struck me: The author finds out a school that gets promoted as being built within six months of Ahmadinejad’s arrival in fact was built by a local business man two years before Ahmadinejad got elected.

He gets the business man’s mobile number, but then he stops short of calling the guy because he doesn’t want to endanger the one he got it from (well, you just don’t tell anyone).

Local business men, affiliated with the centre of power or not, can be a good oral source in the absence of reliable social and economic data.

So instead of calling up that potential source of information, he spends much of his text (and research, presumably) on complaining about Iranian state officials putting him off from office to office instead of giving him information.

But the bureaucracy of some Middle Eastern states is a result of these countries’ political economy (for which the West often is responsible) and not of the mindset of Middle Easterners, as suggested by the author in an almost Michael Friedmanian manner.

(In eigener Sache is the German media’s slug for announcements on internal issues.)