Does ancient 'conflict resolution' village hold key to U.S.-Iran talks?

Ancient ideas for a modern world
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Story highlights

  • The village of Abyaneh, in Iran's Karkass Mountains, dates back 4,000 years, and holds on to many ancient traditions
  • Its people have a reputation as conflict mediators, known for finding wise and fair solutions to dilemmas
  • Could the locals help resolve the long and drawn out talks between Iran and the United States?

Abyaneh, Iran (CNN)The elderly lady struggles to walk up a steep alley in the ancient Iranian village of Abyaneh. It's almost painful to watch as she puts her whole weight onto her walking stick to try to propel herself up the incline.

Honey Amiri, 74, has lived here all her life. She takes life slowly. But when I ask her about the United States, all of sudden full of vim and vigor, she stands upright, her voice as strong as her opinions.
    "We like the American people, we like President Obama, but we don't like Congress," she says -- with a broad grin.
    Her friend, 80-year-old Fatemeh Jamal, adds: "We have heard that President Obama says the military option is on the table. Well, we are not afraid of that!"
    Abyaneh village is unique even by the standards of Iran's massive cultural diversity. It is known as one of the oldest places in the country, dating back around 4,000 years.
    Its red-colored mud brick houses, clustered at the foot of a hill in a valley in the Karkass Mountains, are known all over Iran; many of the homes here have beautifully ornate carved wooden doors, almost as old as the buildings themselves.
    Abyaneh's culture of "live and let live" developed over the centuries; the village was subject to a lot of change but always maintained its core identity.
    CNN visited a Koran lesson for women in the biggest and oldest mosque in Abyaneh. The people here are Muslim, but have preserved much of their culture from pre-Islamic times when the main religion in Persia was Zoroastrianism.
    They have also preserved their traditional style of clothing -- the woman wear colorful headscarves and dresses, while the men dress in wide black pants.
    Persian Pahlavi, a dialect of ancient Persia, is still the main language spoken here -- the residents simply refer to it as the Zoroastrian language.
    Most of the 1,000 or so people who live here are very well educated. And, they say, they have a reputation as conflict mediators in this region.
    "We have a story here in Abyaneh," says Reza Alirezai, the head of the city council. "A man and a woman come to court because they have a dispute. Then the judge sees the woman tying the man's shoelaces and he thinks the conflict has been resolved. He asks them and they say that the conflict is still ongoing, but that doesn't mean that she can't help her husband tie his shoe."
    "The lesson is that even if you have a conflict in one area, it does not mean that you have to break off all relations," explains Alirezai. "You can still live together."
    Alirezai says Abyaneh is often called upon to draw up contracts and agreements between towns and individuals because its people are known for finding wise and fair solutions.
    He says he believes that kind of thinking would be helpful for the U.S.'s relations with Iran.
    "The people of Iran have always talked to each other in councils," he says. "And the output and the thoughts of the council were always stronger than any one man's thoughts. This is what creates civilization."