SHAFAQNA – Iran has made the headlines once more .. only this time it has nothing to do with any nuclear deal or talks of sanctions! This time Iran is being recognized for its people ‘s kindness.
An Islamic nation with a long and rich history, traditions and deep attachment to the arts, literature and sciences, Iran hides also the kindest of hearts.
Today Iran is teaching the world a beautiful lesson in compassion – one we can only hope will prompt others, everywhere to follow suit and jump in.
Poverty is a reality we can change, should we choose to. And while it would be foolish to think that all could live in plenty, we can easily ambition to secure all their most immediate need.
Charity in Islam is an act of worship – a mercy both on those who receive, and those who give.
With the addition of a few hooks and a splash of paint, walls across Iran are being reinvented as part of an outdoor charity initiative in which strangers leave goods they no longer want for those who need them.
The message above a row of hooks reads “Wall of Kindness”. It is a place where passersby are invited to “leave what you do not need” or “take it if you need”. Similar messages have turned up throughout the country as Iranians take matters into their own hands to help homeless people.
In the southern city of Shiraz’s Ghadamgah street, a few coats, jackets and a pair of jeans are hung on the hooks of a wall of kindness painted blue. In Kermanshah, in the west of the country, a wall full of women’s clothes has been covered with plastic to protect them from rain, and beneath the clothes is a shelf of shoes. In the eastern town of Birjand, a young girl wearing worn-out shoes returns smiling with a new pair, albeit second-hand.
It is not clear who started the trend, but in a country where use of social media networks is widespread, it has swiftly caught on. In the capital, Tehran, local municipalities have welcomed the move, promising to set up more kindness walls.
Iranian media have published pictures of walls in various provinces. “The old tales of kindness about people of old cities have come to reality today in a century struck by brutality and indifference,” said the reformist Shargh daily.
In Tehran alone more than 15,000 people are homeless, often referred to askartonkhab – those who sleep in cardboard boxes. According to Reza Jahangiri, a Tehran municipality official, 80% of them are drug addicts and at least 15% are women. Iran neighbours Afghanistan, a leading producer and supplier of drugs, and its young population, hit hard by unemployment and inflation, has easy access to a wide variety of illicit substances.
In Tehran, some shops have reportedly put out refrigerators and invited people to leave food they do not want for homeless people to take. At least one bakery has put out a box of bread for those who cannot afford it. “Bread is free for those who can’t pay,” reads a sign on the box.
Civil society in Iran is strong, and a number of non-governmental charities have had a significant impact recently, including the Mahak society, a Tehran-based organisation founded by the philanthropist Saeedeh Ghods that supports children with cancer.
Some charitable organisations have been hampered by sanctions imposed by the west on Iran. One unintended consequence was that imports of life-saving medicine were made difficult as international banks refused to handle any money associated with the country.
With sanctions expected to be lifted this weekend, there are rising hopes that such charities will once again be able to work as normal.
Iran is so much more than what mainstream media have filtered through … Iran has a strong heart and generous hand – if only you were to extend yours