Vermonter heading to Iran

Vermonter Rick Zand will travel to Iran on Dec. 1. Zand will be part of a 14-day civilian diplomacy delegation organized by the international peace group called Fellowship of Reconciliation. This 15-member peace delegation is the fourth in a series of F.O.R. peace missions to Iran. The missions work to build solidarity between the people of the United States and the people of Iran; they will meet with ordinary people as well as politicians in Tehran. Zand and his party will have tea with minority religious leaders and speak with mullahs at the school of Shii theology in Qom. Zand said, "We lack the leadership in this country that would create constructive dialogue with Iran. Change must come from the grass roots level, from ordinary citizens." However, others view Iran as the next Iraqa dictatorship with dangerous militaristic ambitions that doesnt appear to listen to reason. Since 1915, FOR has carried on programs and educational projects concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict and social change, and the rights of conscience. Zand is director of admissions at Union Institute & University on the Montpelier Campus. He earned his MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and has taught writing and literature at Johnson State College, Norwich University and the Community College of Vermont. In 2004, Zand traveled to Iran with his brother to explore their family history. The brothers traveled to Tehran, Yazd, Isfahan and Shiraz, and to small villages around the Zagros Mountains. Zand has also traveled to Lebanon, including the south as far as Bint Jbeil, which last year suffered from Israeli attacks on Hizbollah. There is much misunderstanding about the people in the Middle East, Zand claims. Americans imagine Iranians and Arabs full of hate for the west, ready to strap on suicide bombs in the name of Allah. It just isnt true. Most of the people Ive come across in Lebanon and Iran are curious about us, and wish to have good relations with the United States. There are many opportunities to put diplomacy into action.

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