And contrary to what mainstream media tells me, he actually was happily living here.
Back story: We were driving back home to Qom from Mashhad, and stopped in Aradan. In the village of Deh Namak there was an old fortress used in the time of Shah Abbas (according to the manager it was some 500 years old) which had been turned into a hotel/restaurant/rest stop, called Caravan Saraye Deh Namak.
It was a beautiful fortress. We went inside and the hayat had gardens and small fountains. There were individual rooms you could rent for the night. I wish we could have stayed longer.
But we were hungry and ready to just hit the road and get back home. We met the manager who led us inside the restaurant. It was a sunnati, or traditional, restaurant, which means they serve the typical kabab platters (koobideh, joojeh), deyzi, among other dishes. The seating arrangement was quite lovely – you go up these small steps to private areas furnished with rugs and cushions so you can relax and eat on the floor.
My husband struck up a conversation with the manager and finds out he is Ahle Sunnat.
“Do you find yourself being discriminated against here?” my husband asks.
“No, not really,” the manager says. “I find no trouble at all.”
He has leased the fortress from the government and is currently living there with his wife while he tries to finish renovating it. He has two kids – one is a university student and one is married.
My husband then tells him that we often read articles about how Sunnis are discriminated against in Iran, a predominantly Shia country.
The manager again confirmed that he has no problems here, but that there are plenty of people who exaggerate these issues for their own benefits.
“Extremism on either side is a problem,” he said. “A person who doesn’t eat at all is harming his health, just like someone who eats too much.”
So now if someone tells you Sunnis are being discriminated in Iran, at least you can say you know one who says this is not the case.