In 2013, for the first time a group of students from Iran joined Peace Boat’s 80th Voyage to sail on the Mediterranean segment, from Piraeus to Barcelona. This marked the beginning of cooperation with the Tehran Peace Museum. In order to realise this journey, the students had to work incredibly hard on visa applications and other necessary logistic preparations, but all worked out and the group joined the voyage together with German students from the University of Tübingen. In joint sessions on board the ship they explored issues such as dealing with the war past, current realities in the Middle East and Europe, the position of youth in society and, of course, enjoyed music and art through cultural festivals on board. Differences and similarities were openly discussed in the safe and beautiful environment of the open sea, while questions of all kinds popped up all the time, with spontaneous discussions lasting deep into the night – creating a restless time for the coordinators!
Elaheh Poyandeh, Iranian student, said: “Traveling with Peace Boat in 2013 was my first international experience. As a peace activist you always need to feel you are not alone, and that what you do really matters. Onboard Peace Boat, you realize that you are not alone. There are many people like you around the world and together, we have hope! I have travelled a lot since then, but the diversity I experienced there is not easily found elsewhere”.
This unique partnership with the Tehran Peace Museum, which promotes a culture of peace through activities such as exhibitions and education, started through collaboration with Shahriar Khateri, an Iranian doctor and one of the founders of the Museum, who treated victims of chemical weapons from the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s. Dr Khateri participated in the “Horizon 2012: Sailing in the Same Boat Toward a Nuclear Weapons‐Free Zone in the Middle East” programme onboard Peace Boat. This programme brought together experts and educators for a creative and comprehensive programme of multi‐track strategy‐building, advocacy and diplomacy to build upon UN initiatives towards the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
As well as the student delegations, Peace Boat has also welcomed onboard Iranian victims of chemical weapons, who have travelled onboard the ship to meet with Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and share their common testimonies and lifelong consequences of weapons, and together deliver a shared message against war and the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Jasna Bastic, Peace Boat’s programme coordinator, said: “The interaction between Iranian and German students is so powerful. It is amazing how all the students strongly want to get to know each other and understand each other’s backgrounds; they are not afraid of different points of view. There is such a positive driving force in this youthful energy, full of curiosity, optimism and the natural wish to learn, understand, support and imagine how the world could be better. We all learn so much from them!”
Iranian students regularly join Peace Boat voyages, and we look forward to welcoming them on board again in the future.