While US is imposing further sanctions against Iran and the Iranian regime threatening to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the people of Iran continue facing hardships of everyday life. While the government is tensing in readiness for a showdown, boasting about their nuclear science ability and the world knowing little of ordinary Iranian citizens’ stories, history repeats itself. The governments fuel up the fire and amongst the ashes and smoke people are left with their own perseverance or wallet to rely on. If given the opportunity you would pack your suitcase and leave your home in pursuit of safer life somewhere else. This leaves a country stripped off its pluralism and diversity, amid growing emigration among ethnic and religious minorities.
During the field work in Iran I met Mr Vartan, an Armenian Iranian in his late 60s, living in one of the cities where Armenian community was for a long time a vital part of the economic and cultural structure.
Mr Vartan, a voluntary janitor of the city’s Armenian community centre and church shows the grounds of the 100 year old building, with evident sadness, appearing in his proud face. As a child he played on the same grounds, when the building housed the Armenian school. I, being a Muslim, am welcomed on these premises only because I am accompanied by Christian Armenian friends. New governmental directive prohibits this visit and would cause Mr Vartan trouble for admitting me. Lately churches in Iran have had more Muslim visitors and there is a fear for increased number of conversions from Islam to Christianity. I oblige to Mr Vartan’s request and do not take any photos of him, nor mention his real name or the name of the church.
This is the story of the abandoned Armenian community centre, a story about how Iran is being emptied of not only its religious minorities but also of those who could have been important impetus for change.
IMG7907 Walking on creaky floor boards in the empty building, Mr Vartan tells tales of the long gone days; when there were several hundred pupils, when the Sunday services would be full and famous artists starred in the Christmas shows in the theatre hall.
IMG7914 It was two decades ago, the theatre hall was used last. The school was closed down long before. “The church is open on Sundays but they have all left, the few of us left behind are too old and tired”, says Mr Vartan with tears in his eyes.
IMG7876 Standing in line for terminus.
IMG7896 The worn-out building withers in fear of the government forcibly making it to offices if it was to be refurbished. Parts of the premises have already been occupied for municipal offices. Benches and chairs piled up under blanket of dust in deserted class rooms.
IMG7910 Boxes with school books, closets with theatre costumes and lonesome icons keeping the old place company.