Last night, I went to an event at the Peace Resource Center in Seaside, California to see talks by some Americans who had recently visited Iran. There’s lots to report, and I may do a further post, but one thing that particularly caught my attention was the Iranians’ ways around oppressive government, both their government and ours.

One way around the U.S. and other foreign governments

If you’ve followed the issue lately, you know that foreign governments have tried to cut Iranians off from the foreign financial system. But the people who spoke told of being able to buy things with credit cards that were sometimes “swiped” (given my age, I hate that term–it used to mean something very different) through little square attachments on iPhones. Then the transaction went through Dubai.

Ways around Iran’s oppressive government

First, I should point out that Iran’s government is indeed oppressive. One speaker, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, denied this and, when challenged by one of the speakers, seemed to think he was answering her charge by arguing that the Iranian government had no desire to have nuclear weapons. Of course, that was not responsive at all. She pointed out that the Iranian government imposes serious penalties, including prison sentences, on people of her faith, the Bahai faith.

Now, on to the way around. One speaker, in response to a question from me, said that the Iranian government heavily regulates TV access. The good news: People get around these regulations with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and satellite dishes, the latter of which they cleverly hide. The Iranian government is aware of this. She pointed out that her tour group kept seeing signs with big Israeli and British flags saying, in Farsi, “Every time you buy a satellite dish, Britain and Israel win.” She, and some of the other speakers, laughed up as she way saying it.

Not that this is a way around the regulations exactly, but a related point, told by someone in the audience who had recently visited Iran, is that when she attended a rally to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, some people were handing out signs saying “Death to Israel” and “Death of America.” She thinks they were government officials. She said, though, that she didn’t see anyone carrying the signs. She did see a lot of the signs on the ground.