Iranian Peace Bikers Leave North America for Asia

A03444645.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- An Iranian couple, determined to spread peace and knowledge about Iran by bicycling around the world, has completed their tour of the United States and moved onto Japan.

Somayeh Yousefi, 28, and Jafar Edrisi, 29, met nine years ago on top of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in Iran. Four years later, they married. Last April, after selling their car and belongings for $12,000, they set off on a worldwide tour to educate the world about Iran and to plant trees across the globe. The trip will take them to at least 17 countries over two years. The couple is living on an average of $10 a day.

By mid September, the couple had covered more than 7,400 miles since they began their journey 17 months ago. Along the way they have spoken at colleges, schools and churches, screened an educational film about Iran’s natural wonders to communities along their journey and have planted almost 50 symbolic “peace trees.”

The couple told the Iran Times, “We started this grass roots adventure on April 29, 2007, to convey the message of peace and friendship from the people of Iran to other countries. We are also planting trees in different cities of the world in the name of peace and understanding. We would like to make a green belt around the world and help the environment by planting trees, as many as possible.

“We want to tell the people of the world to be kind to each other and to keep our environment clean for now and the future.”

Yousefi, who is a computer engineer and Iran’s female rock-climbing champion for six years, said, “We don’t want to judge other countries by the bad stuff happening on the news. We wish to convey a message of peace and friendship from the people of Iran to other countries.”

She said, “People are very confused about Iran. They think Iranian people are terrorists or aggressive or that we ride camels. Iran is a rich country, but no one knows about it. So we think it is our duty to show our culture to people.”

The trip has not only brought knowledge of Iran to the outside world, but contact with the outside world has countered many of the couple’s own misconceptions of foreign cultures.

“At first, we were very afraid of American people. We imagined that American people are aggressive with a lot of guns and tattoos,” Yousefi said.

The couple said it has been surprised by the kindness the Americans have shown them. In Vermont, a stranger invited the two to camp out in her home that was under construction. In Albany, New York, the bikers met former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who encouraged the couple to educate Americans about Iran. In Poughkeepsie, New York, a fellow cyclist drove them to their friend’s house when it had gotten too dark to bike.

Nasim said, “We’ve been amazed at the kindness of Americans. They told us ‘what goes around, comes around.’ It was very touching for us.”

The couple is keeping a log of their travels and memories on a hand-painted banner they plan to carry across the world and back home to Iran. Holding up the banner covered in signatures, Yousefi said, “After my wedding ring, this is the most precious thing I have in my life.”

The couple has already covered Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Canada, the United States and is currently riding across Japan, leaving Korea, China, Nepal, India and Pakistan left before they return to Iran. Depending on the weather – as the winter months approach – the couple told the Iran Times they might add some more countries to their route, including Malaysia and the Philippians.

Nasim said, “It can be very hard; we get homesick, we miss our families. But we’re not just doing it for ourselves. A lot of people are following us. If I give up, it’s very bad for other people, so we continue our journey.”

The couple told the Iran Times, “We would like to thank all of the friends and all the people who have helped us to continue our journey and thank everybody who let us be a part of their life.

“Bicycling around the world is the best way to meet people, make friends and touch the other’s cultures. This is the best university to study lessons of nature and humanity; it’s just an amazing experience.”

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