Ibrahim is a blue-eyed 72-year-old shepherd in the village of Kharaghan, aka Qaleno-e-xaraqān, north of Shahrud. He spends his days tending sheep and goats in the rocky plains just south of the famed Cloud Forest. Some of Iran’s greatest philosophers and Sufi masters walked these same plains through the centuries.
“I’ve been walking this field since I was 10 or 12. Seen everything you can imagine.
“Haven’t seen any wolves for three years now. Don’t know where they’ve gone to. Bears – there are plenty of them. In the spring, they come down from the mountains looking for food in the gardens. They steal and break things during the night but they’re smart enough to escape back to the mountains by early morning.
“When I saw you approaching, I was a bit apprehensive. Fifteen years ago a man just like you came up to me and asked for light for his cigarette. When I bent down to get my matches, he twisted by arm, slammed me to the ground and tied up my arms and eyes.
“Then his friend came and they threw me down to into a depression in the ground and asked, ‘Which shall we take – your life or your sheep?’ I said, “Do what a man does.” I prayed to Hazrate Abbas (Imam Hussein’s brother) and I eventually freed myself. But they had already taken off with 20 of the sheep, including a valuable ram.
“I dreamed all this in advance. A month earlier, I heard a man’s voice in my dream telling me to sacrifice the ram to Imam Zaman [the 12th Imam of Shia]. Then three days before the attack, I dreamed my hands were bound.
“The world has changed. When I was a kid, we never dreamed of having to defend our property. Now it’s a way life.
“My job is tough. Today the weather is good. Sometimes it’s so bad you have to stay out all night in the wet because impossible to find your way back home. My feet blister from walking into thorns and spines.
“But as hard as life can be, I when I sit down to eat, I thank God I’m eating what I earned through honest means.”