I had met Shameem in 2004 when she represented her Institute at the World Pr Festival in Trieste. We haven’t seen each other since, but I remember very well her enthusiasm and desire to change. I have just received this article she wrote for the New Straits Times. Take a look and express your point of view..
Printed in NEW STRAITS TIMES on December 2, 2006
By Shameem Abdul JalilI was both excited and anxious to attend the Third Iran
International PR Conference in Teheran on Nov 12-16. Some friends
advised me to skip the country, whispering that it may not be safe.
Why not wait for another conference in London or Washington, they
However, the attractive invitation to speak and seemingly
interesting program were difficult to resist. The Iran calling
through the Kargozar Public Relations Institute, which is Teheran’s
oldest PT institute, was strong enough to land six of us in the
small delegation to the conference with the theme “Transparency,
Social Responsibility and accountability”.As we boarded the Iran air plane, someone whispered: “The United
States does not sell any aero plane spare parts to Iran, you know.”My stomach turned. What’s that supposed mean? Never mind, I consoled
myself. Many of my Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese friends have flown
Iran air and spoke well of their experience. Que sera sera.The economy class was spacious and comfortable, the stewardesses
courteous, helpful and beautiful. The take-off by the Iranian pilot
was efficient and we comfortably cruised the skies even at some
turbulent points.Seated in front of me was a beautiful Iranian woman, Zahrah, with
two gorgeous baby girls who kept me awake throughout the flight.
After about eight hours, we landed at 5:30 a.m in what I found to be
a very peaceful Iran. The weather was cold. Autumn was coming to an
end and winter creeping in.
My first impression of the Iranian man was formed when I met the
charming, pleasant-looking Haidi, the tour guide employed by
Kargozar Institute, who met us at the airport. “Salam and welcome to
Iran.” he said without a handshake.
From then on, we were introduced to everyone Persian, much to our
delight. We learnt that Iran known as Persia till 1935, became an
Islamic Republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown
and the Shah was forced into exile.
According to Professor Ehsan Yarshater, the suggestion for the
change of name came from one Iranian ambassador to Germany who
thought it was fitting that the country be called by its own
name “Iran”. This would not only signal a new beginning and bring
home to the world a new era in Iranian history, but also signify the
Aryan race of its population, as the name “Iran” is a cognate
of “Aryan” and was derived from it.
We had an official welcome ceremony at the Azad Islamic University
hosted by its head, Dr. Jasbi, who supports the important role
public relations plays in Iran’s progress and development, at its
huge main campus of over one million students.
We were then taken for a six-hour drive through Iran’s scenic
countryside to the beaches of the Caspian Sea. Along the way we
stopped to sample delicious Iranian cuisine at two restaurants,
including special kebabs, briyani rice, lots of yoghurt and salads.
Our visit to a serene highland amid greenery and waterfalls called
Masauleh (meaning the pious one) was unforgettable. Here we met
mostly elderly Iranians producing simple handicrafts for sale. They
spend much time “communicating with God”, according to Ali Tangshir,
our incredibly disciplined “caretaker” who checked on every little
detail to ensure our comfort. We brought that peaceful feeling out
of Masauleh as we waved them goodbye.
Our two-night stay at Aseman Hotel in Isfahan, known as “Half of the
World”, was too short but most memorable. We were treated to the
best lamb briyani dinner by the mayor of Isfahan who reminded us
that “public relations begins and ends with people”. On two
occasions, helpful Iranian passers-by helped us speak to the cabman
and negotiated a good fare for us to be driven into the city.
One can find almost everything in Isfahan- good food, friendly
people, shopping malls, beautiful architecture, beautiful girls with
make-up on their faces walking together, young men taking the bus to
college, Chinese and French businessmen and tourists, and even a big
Armenian Christian church.
The conference proper clearly showed the rich Persian culture
heritage and Iranian modernity.
Conference sessions were opened with “in the name of Allah the most
merciful and most benevolent” and a recital of the Holy Quran.
The session chairman, Dr. Hesamudin Bayan, a top scholar, took the
delegates through a most interesting conference.
We met and heard from Iran’ well spoken scholars in various fields
such as Dr. Isa Jalil and Dr. Mitra Hajizadeh, who spoke on the
psychology of public relations; Dr. Abolfazl Beheshti on the role of
think tanks in public relations: Dr. Ali Akbar on public relations
in the third millennium to name a few.
I had a marvelous experience when the hall of about 600 participants
loudly sang the Selawat Nabi (Praise of the Prophet) at the end of
every five Quranic and Hadith quotes read as part of my presentation.
Mehdi Bagherian, secretary-general of the Kargozar Institute, and
his team worked very hard to put the international conference
together where foreign participants from countries such as Malaysia,
Australia, France, India and Arab nations experienced Iranian
generosity and classic hospitality seldom seen before.
We signed a collaborative agreement between Kargozar Institute and
the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia for greater co-operation
and negotiated for Datuk Hamdan Adnan’s book Government Relations:
Persuasion, Personality and Power to be translated to Persian for
Public relations learning in Iran.
In Iran air on the way home, we agreed that this is the Iran we
never saw through media reports. Today we pray that Iran will
continue to prosper in peace and harmony with the world, and the
world with Iran, and that more global citizens will have the
opportunity to see the real peaceful Iran.
* The writer is director of corporate communications, Public Bank,
and president of the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia.