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Speaker recalls peace efforts in Iran

WADHAMS Visitors to the Wadhams Free Library were treated to a very personal look at Eastern culture Oct. 22 as Priscilla Fairbank gave her presentation entitled Iran Reflections. Fairbank, a resident of the Albany area, visited Iran in December 2007 as part of an envoy of 10 Americans working through the peace building organization Fellowship of Reconciliation. Showing slides from her two-week visit, Fairbank retold highlights of her experiences in the nation President Bush has named as part of the Axis of Evil. Our goal was to be absolutely respectful as possible and not stand out as outsiders, said Fairbank, explaining that the women in the group donned traditional hijabs over their western clothing while out in public. As a tourist in the streets of the capital city, Tehran, Fairbank emphasized the friendly welcome the group received from Iranians, many of whom spoke english well. They said, Oh, we love Americans, but not your president, recalled Fairbank, going on to explain that many Iranians expressed dislike for their own president as well. According to Fairbank, a lot had changed since her first visit to Iran in 2001. She pointed to several instances of modernization in Iranian culture, including film, fashion, and architecture. We were constantly impressed by how much Iranians know about the United States, she said. Still, she stressed that Iranians have a deep sense of pride in their identity and culture, which dates back to some of the worlds earliest recorded history. This is a culture that honors its poets, not its military leaders, explained Fairbank. Fairbank also pointed to how women in Iran are allowed to drive and become highly educated, opportunities less common among their Arab neighbors. Iranians are very proud of their minority religions, said Fairbank, who visited Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and even an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple while in the region. What the whole trip was about was that people-to-people connection, said Fairbank. Id really like to think that the potential between the U.S. and Iranians is great. As part of her involvement in Fellowship of Reconciliation, Fairbank was one of few citizens chosen to pose a question to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad during a visit to New York City in October, an event she described as a positive, respectful exchange. Since returning from Iran, Fairbank has given her presentation over 30 times at several venues throughout the state, including a recent visit to Keene Valley. If I can put a human face on Iran to people, thats what Im trying to do, she said.

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