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On top of Tehran, Tachol, Tehran, Iran

In Tehran, I spend far too much time. I return again and again because of the India and Pakistan visas. In the end everything for almost nothing. I get the India visa after an artificially complicated process. Visa procedures here resemble organised crime. Information is trump. In the end, I have a 180-day visa with a single entry. For the same price, I could have had a six-month visa with an infinite number of entries. It always happens when I stumble into stuff like that exhausted. It annoys me, but I can't change it, so I move on.

Flickering nightlights, Tehran, Iran

The rest of Tehran is loud and crowded. Everything is overpriced and dirty. It's not a beautiful place. Men are continually talking to me, they catcall from a distance ("Hi, Sexy!") or whisper dirty comments in my ear when I try to walk past them ("Lick me, lick me!"). I can barely move past the incidents from Armenia, the fear is always present and thus takes up much more space than would typically be the case. I can't defend myself verbally against these attacks, and the hijab is useless. Again and again, I try to say that most likely nothing will happen but deep down, I'm not convinced.

Where the city shmoothes with the mountains, Tehran, Iran

Once, when I didn't reserve a hostel dorm bed in time – I had to stay in the city for a day longer due to complications with the Indian visa – I slept in the ugliest and worst run hostel in Tehran. The concierge was a young foreigner from Eastern Europe and his assistant, a young Syrian refugee without English skills, cleaned the bathrooms. The toilets stunk up to the second floor. Because I had no alternative, I stayed there for one night. Again, my gut feeling prepared me for one of the worst nights in Iran. (Although can anything?) The two-bunk bed dormitory filled up during the evening. Since I had lost my Oropax, I had to tolerate the rustling of my neighbour's bedsheets as he masturbated himself to sleep. Not the kind of hidden quick motion, half embarrassed. No, a full-on display of his manhood and power to incite some sort of arousal in me. When does that ever work? Are their women who like that? Ever? Of course, I didn't sleep a wink that night. I resigned within myself. It wasn't the first time, but if I had any say in it, it would be the last.

On the street, in the hostel, and in every shop in Iran, I'm exposed to a potential sexual assault. Of course, that doesn't mean that something happens. Only if it should happen, I am not protected by the state or the police. When in doubt, it's my fault in the Iranian narrative. Possibly being raped is constantly on my mind.

Made me think of Shariar law, truly a dead end, Tehran, Iran

Overall, I return to Tehran three times. In between, I travel further south, but I always have to come back. As a result, sometimes I see people that I had met in other places before they return home. We don't know each other well, but this kind of recognition gives me a sense of security, at least when I am with them. That's how I saw most of the city in the end.

The further I head east, the cooler the cars get, Tehran, Iran

Tehran can be pleasant, although for me it was beautiful only once. On my last visit to the capital, when I decided to try couch surfing again, I ended up in an unusual household. She is a photographer, with a studio and Persian cats, speaks perfect German, has a small daughter and an equally friendly husband. She lives in northern Tehran, not far from the mountains. There, the parks are clean and primarily depopulated during the day. It's a civilised and relaxed area. Wealth buys privacy like anywhere in the world.

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