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On the Other Side of the World

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Tehran Protests

My dad came to the United States from Iran in 1979 when he was 18 years old. His plane took off in the midst of the Revolution; it was the last flight out of Tehran before the airport was shut down. It’s been thirty years since he made that journey. Other than one visit with his parents in Turkey in 1989 (they’ve since died) and his oldest brother in Dubai this past March, he hasn’t seen his family since.

Because he left the country before serving a mandatory period in the military, if he were to return to Iran he could be detained by the government and not even his standing as a US citizen could release him. Needless to say, he has never gone back, and it is very likely that unless the goverment drastically changes, he will never go back.

To me, it’s terribly sad. But according to my dad, he left the country knowing full well that it was very possible he would never see his family or his home country again. For someone who  spent the first two decades of their life in extreme poverty dreaming about a life in the America, it’s been a small price to pay.  Once, dad told me that he never thought of himself as an Iranian. In his mind he was always an American. This was his culture, he said, and he knew it before the plane landed. In fact, it was the revolution that led to his desperate escape, the knowledge that he might never have another chance. So he came to the US, learned to speak English, got a job, started a family, and in nearly all respects, is living the life he dreamed of as a boy in Tehran. He never looked back.

He never taught me or my sister’s farsi (something I so long for now), he didn’t stay close with his family (a means of self-preservation perhaps), and though he cooks amazing Persian food, he’s always distanced himself from the Persian culture. Always. Until now. The last few days, I’ve heard him speak more about Iran and the Iranian people than I ever have before. He tells me that the pictures and videos I’m seeing are what it looked like when he left, except there were more tanks back then. He believes that regardless of what change takes place in Iran there is a greater change happening in the minds of Americans. The Internet is giving a face to the Iranian people, and it’s suddenly becoming clear that not all Iranians are fundamentalists, that many of them just want freedom and are willing to die for it. He says that for the first time he feels comfortable telling people that he is Persian:

After 911, my mom hired a handyman to do some work on the house. When he showed up they began to talk about the events that were unfolding. The man made a comment about kicking out all the “Arabs” in the US. My mom politely explained that her daughter was half-Persian, and he could go ahead and find work elsewhere.

Across the country, my cousins, whom I’ve never met, are fighting the fight of their lives. And even with the restriction on foreign journalists, social networking is allowing for it’s ugly and honest documentation. My dad thinks this is a good thing; I hope it is.

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Written by ditheringmiss

June 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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