“We are always strangers to someone else. Learning to live together is fighting against racism”
Tahar Ben Jelloun
I wanted to start writing this post with a sentence by a famous Moroccan author who has been trying to fight racism and hate for many years. I’ve read one of his books, and I highly recommend them to you, if you have never had the chance to embrace his words. However, the significant sentence it’s also an assist for me to talk about another special person who comes from Sweden: Kristina Paltén. And perhaps, after reading some lines of my post, you’ll be able to get why I linked Ben Jelloun’s words to Kristina.
I’ve stumbled upon her story few days ago, and I straight away thought that it was extremely worth sharing it. Who is Kristina? She is a Swedish runner. And what about when a runner wants to change the world? Well, you just can’t stop her. She will jump over fears and doubts, and she will start running. And fighting prejudices with kindness and smile.
That is exactly what Kristina has done.
Everything started in the first half of 2015. The idea was to challenge personal fears, as well as general prejudices that the Western societies might have against Islam, and people following that faith: people who might deemed to be so different from Europeans, giving strength to the misleading dichotomy “we/us”. The choice of Iran was especially due to the fact that it is a Muslim country with Sharia law: would have it been possible to see a woman from Europe running through a foreign nation, with an additional series of limitations?
The adventure that led Kristina to Iran didn’t begin without difficulties. As you can read from her blog, many concerns featured her first steps in her project. “One of my intentions with this trip is to challenge fears. And I definitely do, on a daily basis”, she says. Fears of what could have happened, fears to see her permit denied, or to get no sponsors and magazines willing to buy her articles that she would share. Fears that, eventually, didn’t stop her at all.
The first weeks were incredibly full of things to do, people to meet and the trip to plan. Kristina mentions that many people gave her a great hand: pieces of advice, contacts that could be useful in Iran, reassurances about the hospitality and friendliness of the locals. Among the people who helped her, some of her Iranian friends as well as a freelance journalist, André Larsson, who contacted Kristina and proposed her to make a movie about her journey, following her steps in the following months. The enthusiasm that arises line after line on her blog is amazing. She knows what her goal is, she knows that the only way to being herself is doing what she really wants. She feels that people around her believe in this project, and that a positive energy is permeating the air she breathes. And gradually, brick by brick, her dream becomes true, even though at some point she still didn’t have flight tickets and, most importantly, a visa: that would mean that she could go to Iran anyway, but without the permission to be filmed by a journalist such as André.
Anyway… remember the positive energy? Apparently reached Iran before than she could, and speeded up the visa process: Kristina got it eventually, and the packing list could get started! In early September of the same year, her adventure in Iran officially began: over the next 58 days, she would cover 1,840 kilometers, starting from Bazargan, close to the Turkish borders, and ending in the north-eastern border at Bajgiran. The experience she had turned out to be fantastic. “I want a world where we trust each other and listen to one another”: a symbolic leitmotiv of her journey, and a tangible feeling she could actually sense. Along with the physical challenges carried by the path she undertook, Kristina had the chance to see stunning landscapes, and taste the smile and the hospitality of the people she ran across.
A family that gave Kristina some fruit and water
A young woman who asked Kristina to take a picture with her
The journey ended few months later, in November, and a movie, “Alone through Iran – 1144 miles of trust” is ready to be screened. At this point, I just would like to hug her. And I leave you all with her words of wisdom:
“Today I feel like “muslim” has become synonymous with “terrorist” or “fundamentalist”. There are around 1,5 billion muslims around the world today, and I’m guessing most of them are really nice. With this run I want to question my own prejudices, learn more about a culture I know little about and meet a lot of people. I hope my run will contribute to more openness, trust and tolerance both within myself but also in the world”
Featured image: https://www.facebook.com/alonethroughiran/?hc_location=ufi
All the pictures belong to Kristina Paltén. Follow her blog: http://www.palten.se/se/index.asp?Sida=235
Other source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/swedish-woman-runs-alone-across-iran-break-prejudice-2022055010