This I Believe

Sanaz - Plaistow, New Hampshire
Entered on March 31, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: immigrant

Three Thousand Years of Civilization

When I left my country of birth, Iran, back in 1987, I wanted to get away from all things Iranian. I told my father that I would rather live in a tent in America than live in our comfortable home in the north of Tehran. I was only fifteen years old at the time and suffered from what I call “tabeh gharb”, west fever. After spending some time in Ankara, Turkey with my parents, I was finally granted a visa to come to the United States. Upon returning to Hotel Tondovan in Ankara, a popular hotel regularly occupied by Iranians who were seeking visas to the U.S., I became the envy of every girl who was turned down by the U.S. Consulate. I thought that day was the greatest day of my life. I had my ticket to freedom from the Islamic regime’s decree on abandoning all things western. So I left the war and the Ayatollahs behind along with my home, my family, and my friends and came to the United States. Despite the fact that I left Iran, my struggles were far from over.

Embarrassed by what I saw on television about my country and the views of the western world on Iran, I began to turn away from my culture. I got rid of my accent and changed my name to an American name. I even responded to those who inquired about my nationality that I was Persian; hoping that they do not associate Persian with Iranian. In the process of avoiding my roots, I lost my freedom once more. My spirit became entangled in this web of negativity that surrounded me. Every time, I turned on the television, picked up a newspaper or talked with those who were close to me, I was confronted with what I had escaped from. The images of the bearded mullahs, the women who wore black chadors and shouted anti-American slurs and the news of the Iraqi army using chemical weapons on the Iranians, hunted me once more. I also encountered the misguided views of the west that Iran is a barren, oil-rich desert occupied by bearded war-lords who rule this poor, starving, uneducated, uncivilized and anti-American people. Fortunately for me, that was not how I remembered Iran.

So today, 20 years after I left my homeland, when I am approached by one who wants to talk about Muslim fanatics, terrorism, nuclear weapons, the Ayatollahs, Ahmadinezhad and Hezballah, I politely change the topic of conversation to the great Iranian philosopher, Avecena, the rich history of this ancient land, the beautiful landscapes of northern Iran, Persian carpets, Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, and Norouz. I also remind the ones who insist of being critical of the Iranians that after the bloody 1979 revolution and an eight year long war with Iraq, people of Iran are just not ready to stand up again and face more suffering. As for my self, I find that even though I have not gone back to my home country in 20 year, I am not ready to give up my pride in being Iranian. Because this I believe that we, Iranians, will always have our 3,000 years of civilization and should not allow the last 30 years to hinder our pride.