Everything is known in comparison, as they say. While for many Armenians the state of democracy and freedom in their country deemed to be unsatisfactory, to say the least, and worth fighting for, for Iranians Armenia is considered as a “beacon of freedom” where they can enjoy and try things they can’t do back home. Today BBC publishes report on that special relations developed over the past years between isolated for different reasons Armenia and Iran.
Below are selected extracts from the report (headings mine). Full report is available here
Noy Brandy's wine-tasting sessions are popular with Iranian tourists.
"Ten metres underground, they think Allah is out of range." "They don't want to taste the wine, they want to drink it." (tour guide Anna from Armenia)
"In summer I think that 90% of tourists are Iranian. Armenia is so close by and has attractive things - cafes and nightclubs, and beautiful Lake Sevan." (student and businessman from Iran)
Twenty-year-old Mehdez [student from Iran] explains that Armenia is popular with thousands of young people who cannot get a place in Iran's over-subscribed higher education system. "I chose to study in Yerevan because it's an easier situation. Here we have more freedom," she says. "But of course anything that we do here, we can do in Iran - just not in public."
Liberalised economy and ‘benefits of isolation’
Part of that freedom includes an increasingly liberalised economy, and that makes Armenia attractive to foreign investment. The Armenian capital is hardly an international economic powerhouse, but there are signs that Iranian investors sense an opportunity. (BBC)
Like many of his compatriots, Muhammad [businessman from Iran] benefits from Armenia's geographical isolation. Practically every item he sells - from pots and pans to air-fresheners - has been imported from Iran.
That has not stopped the United States from expressing concern about Armenia's ties with its neighbour. Those ties include the new Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, frequent bilateral talks and state visits, not to mention a sizable Armenian minority in northern Iran. In this year's Country Reports on Terrorism, the US state department said warming relations between the two countries made Armenia "reluctant to criticise publicly objectionable Iranian conduct". The little country courts the Americans, Europeans and Russians. It is a difficult balancing act to follow. But Armenia's unique relationship with the regional power - Iran - is one it cannot afford to abandon. Moreover, the two countries are united by a shared sense of isolation from the rest of the world. (BBC)
"I like Armenian people, and it's difficult for me to want to leave my friends. When you come to Yerevan for a month, you will stay in Yerevan forever!" (student and businessman from Iran)