"Hello," I said. "I am Rory. I come from Scotland."This is an extract from a piece entitled, 'Iranian Girls' by Rory Stewart. Stewart is an author of multi-award winning books including, The Places in Between, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, and Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq, a journalist, and CEO of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a not for profit, non governmental organisation whose mission it is to regenerate Afghanistan's traditional crafts and historic areas, creating jobs, skills, and a renewed sense of national identity. (Source: Wikipedia)
The headmistress interrupted, "tell the class how you have come to Hamadan."
"I walked here from the Turkish border."
"Class, Rory has spent the last two months walking across Iran, only on foot, not using any transport." She turned to me. "Iranian women are not free. They only think to get husbands with nice clothes and a nice job. That is why I will ask them whether they would marry a man like you." She looked at the beautiful 14-year-old on my left. "Would you marry a man like this, Aisha? One that is walking all the time. He cannot give you a car. Well, what do you think?" Continue reading
(Source: Prospect Magazine, November 2001)
His life reads like that of a modern-day adventurer, and although he is only 35-years-old, he has done some truly extraordinary things. These include having worked as the deputy governor of the Iraqi province of Maysan and Senior Advisor in the province of Dhi Qar shortly after coalition forces entered Iraq, and having walked across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles, done in two stages without leaving Asia.
He speaks a dozen exotic languages, is respected by the local people, has a reputation for his sassy sense of style, and is reputed to be fearless, except when it comes to women. Apparently they scare him.
The world needs more people like him. People that instead of making alarmist and ignorant generalisations from the safety of their armchairs, are out there, venturing into places most of us wouldn't dare, and through helping and making a difference, educate the rest of us that ultimately, people are people, wherever you go in the world. With a lot of the same concerns, fears, hopes and dreams as the rest of us. His literature and journalism is truly eye-opening and essential reading.
There's a good article about him here, entitled, Stewart of Afghanistan by Aryn Baker
Further articles by Stewart can be found here
Photo c/o Time Magazine by Zalmai