I have been following Iranian news daily now since about 1997, when I would trawl the internet, looking for anything I could find that would help quench a thirst that I must have been building up since my earliest days. A thirst for an understanding of the land I was born in, and that I have spent the majority of my years away from. Iran.
My parents were young professionals with good educations, in primes of the lives, when we left Iran in 1980. Three years before, we came to the United States so my father could study for his Masters in Business. He completed his degree, and we came back to an Iran that appeared to be quite alien from the one we had left.
I remember the day quite clearly, when we landed at the Mehrabad airport. I remember standing in a long line inside the airport. A rope separated those of us that had just arrived from the people waiting for us. I was crouched down low on the ground, in the unmoving line, looking under the rope and out between the legs of the big men in camouflage gear (carrying guns) towards my little cousin, and my aunts and uncles. Without my parents or the big guys in camouflage realizing, I slipped under the rope and connected with my cousin. I was so happy to be coming home. I missed my grandparents and the extended family and couldn’t wait to see them all. After a few minutes with my cousin, I slipped back undetected under the rope and end back with my parents. Unbeknownst to me at the time, those big guys with the guns were Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard.
I remember being in a car with my parents and looking out the window at a canopy of tall green trees that lined the sides of a grand thoroughfare. It had a different feeling to it than the U.S. It was Iran.
One night, I remember hearing someone shouting outside. I was in my Grandparents’ apartment in Tehran. I stepped out on the balcony and mimicked what I heard being shouted: “Allaho Akbar!”. Other kids joined in: “Allaho Akbar! Allaho Akbar!” The next thing I know my father pulled me back inside. “Chikar Mikoni?” : “What are you doing?” My grandfather, “What are you doing? Don’t do that again!” To my father he said, “Don’t let him do that again!” I didn’t realize that in 1980 that chant was in support of the regime that was being established. The Islamic Republic.
I remember constantly seeing a scary looking fellow on TV. I did realize at roughly this point in my life that the scary looking man with the turban, the deep scowl and the thick white beard was doing things that a lot of people didn’t like. I also remember people constantly stressed out and anxious, especially when we went outside.
It struck me that a lot of women wore chadors. In America they didn’t. At the time, I was not aware of the significance of this: that the Islamic Republic had forced it on all the women of Iran, whether they wanted to wear it or not.
I have many more memories. There was a lot of turmoil and my parents realized that who they were, and who they wanted me to be, did not mesh with the image that the Ayatollahs wanted to place upon us.
I remember leaving Iran for good. Over the years, my mother’s parents, and most of my uncles, aunts, and cousins left Iran too. Some of them had more difficulty than others.
I remember the stories. Like the one about my aunt being randomly searched on a bus by the Basij. They found a picture of her from before the revolution in which she was wearing a tennis outfit. This was deemed as un-Islamic. She was tried and sentences to lashings. She still carries the scars, physical and emotional.
I grew up in a good country in the West, but the price I paid for this was years of humiliation for being Iranian. I was ridiculed by those around me because I was from a demonized country. A country that had taken hostages. A country full of radicals and terrorists. This is what I constantly had to contend with. But I can’t complain because many of the young boys in Iran were being sent to the front lines on martyrdom missions. Basically, they had to walk across the minefields to clear a path for the tanks and soldiers. Prior to these missions they would be given plastic golden keys that were supposed to grant them access to heaven. The Islamic Republic consumed its own children in this way
My family and pretty much every Iranian that I knew despised the values and image that the Islamic Republic represented. We had left Iran because of the unbearable social restraints that we had to endure if we stayed. We had left Iran because we valued our freedom: freedom to be ourselves, to think and choose for ourselves. But in our new home we had to take being labeled as the very thing we had run away from. I was called pretty much every racist name for someone from the Middle East that you can think of. I got into numerous fights. My name was difficult to pronounce in English. I was ridiculed repeatedly for it. Just to not get mocked by pretty much everyone I met, I took on an English name. I am still known by most of my non-Iranian friends by this name.
Of course there were many good people in my new home and I am grateful that I grew up in a free country that afforded me the opportunity to get a good education and lead a mostly comfortable life.
But my soul never been far from Iran. I am Iranian to the core, even though I am also a citizen of the country I have spent most of my life in. The more people ridiculed and mocked me for being Iranian, the more proud I became that I was an Iranian. And this is before I knew very much about the history of Iran. Over the years I studied and learned a lot more about my homeland. Most of my good friends are from Iran.
We are the children of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire. We are the descendents of great artisans, architects, mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, poets and medics. We have known civilization for 2500 years. Even though our land was invaded multiple times by different peoples: Greeks, Arabs, Mongols and Afghans to name a few, we have always turned back to our roots for strength. We have lived through other repressive regimes. We have managed to survive as a people by absorbing and eventually assimilating our invaders into our own culture. Iran had the first known organized monotheistic religion: Zoaristrianism, a precursor to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. After the Arab invasions came to Iran our great poet, Ferdowsi, wrote the Book of Kings, preserving the Persian language even to this day. We are the first people in the Middle East to establish a parliament, followed by being the first in the region to have an authentic democracy under Prime Minister Mossadegh. We are a people that enjoys company, and merriment, and music and dancing. We have a great culinary tradition, with some of the most amazing and unique dishes in the world. We cherish beauty, in our surroundings and in our people. We are a spiritual people.
As far back as I can remember, Iran has been misunderstood by the world. We have been thought of as Islamic fundamentalists, radicals and terrorists. The word Iran evoked images of turbaned old men who hate the west, or of hirsute women shrouded in black chadors chanting, “Death to America!”. We have been portrayed as monsters and haters of freedom. The movie 300 portrayed our ancestors as bloodthirsty hedonists. Thanks to Mr. Ahmadinejad, we have been called holocaust deniers and even compared to Nazis. Nazis.
When 9/11 happened I was doing a lot of traveling for work. Every time I entered an airport for the next seven years, I felt that shroud of suspicion and was ubjected to all sorts of indignaties and humiliations, and this is even though not one single Iranian was ever involved or even implicated in 9/11. We were put on a list of nations that the Patriot Act targeted. Thousands of Iranians were rounded up by the U.S. in the weeks following 9/11 for the slightest of infractions or mistakes on their visas or work permits and held in prison, sometimes with dangerous criminals.
Ever since 1979 revolution, Iranians have suffered. We have been associated with terrorists and Islamic militants hell-bent on destroying Israel.
This is not who we are. This is who our oppressors are. The Basij. The Pasdaran. The clerical ruling class (or “the mullacracy”). These people do NOT represent us. They are using us and sullying our name.
I have followed the story of Iran now for many years. Immersed myself in it. All while living a normal life in a peaceful country. A few months ago I setup this website, IranNewsNow.com so that I could start gathering quality news on Iran and sharing it. I also wanted to start writing articles on Iran, and events in Iran, in my spare time, as a hobby.
On June 12, when it was announced that Ahmadinejad won I instantly knew it didn’t make sense. My bullshit detector went into overdrive. Doubts started surfacing rather quickly on the Internet. I decided to chronicle the events here as closely as possible, not having any idea that by today, July 9 (or 18th of Tir, a very significant day in Iran) we would have seen the events in Iran unfold as they have.
Today was the culmination of weeks of popular resistance in Iran against the regime. Even though none of the reformist leaders asked the people to enter the streets in protest, they did so on their own accord. They organized themselves to the best of their abilities and risked their lives by pouring into the streets in the tens of thousands all across Iran. They were savagely attacked by the now completely shameless and utterly disrespected government forces, but they did not back down. And those forces were not able to control them.
Today was a turning point. The people of Iran now know that they do not have to fear this government. That they can face their tormentors and torturers and make them blink.
Iran will never be the same.
Those of us on the outside and those of us on the inside are united as one. We have shown the world that we are lionhearted seekers of freedom. We have gained the respect of people all over the world. We will never be associated with our tormentors again. This in itself is a shackle removed.
We will have our freedom.