Follow up to "Goodbye
By Anne Irani Abadani
March 4, 2004
The response to "Goodbye
Iran" has overwhelmed me.
Most emails have been very supportive and sympathetic to the
plight of my children.
Some has been less sympathetic
and questioned why it is important to me that my children be regarded as "Iranian".
I hope that I am equal to the task of answering such questions, not only on behalf
of my children, but all the children of Iranian mothers.
At the most basic and
fundamental level everyone in the world has the right to belong to someone,
something, or someplace. Usually, one doesn't get
to choose these things as they are dictated by the culture or country to which
one is born. Even if circumstances in one's life change such as the country
of residence or the learning of a second language, one still feels
tied to that
to which he or she was born. This is why Iranians who have moved to countless
countries throughout the world continue to call themselves, Iranians
our hearts and minds to our culture and our country are in most cases unbreakable.
Even our children who have been born and raised outside Iran feel the strong
tug of our ethnic heritage, although many of them choose to be hyphenated
when referring to their nationality, e.g. Iranian-Australian, Iranian-German,
etc. Those of us who emigrated from Iran, however, are simply Iranian, no
matter where we are or how long we've been gone.
While undoubtedly there are
differences between the generations of our people who were blessed
to have been born and raised in Iran and the generation
of our offspring who have grown up in non-Persian cultures, we all still
another as members of the larger Iranian family. This is our heritage, this
is our birthright and the birthright of our children born abroad. No one
questions this when both mother and father are ethnically Iranian. The question
to get less clear for some, unfortunately, when the children are born to
one Iranian parent and one non-Iranian parent. Why?
The government of Iran
regards the mixed children of Iranian fathers to be fully Iranian.
At the same time it regards the mixed children of Iranian
be fully foreign. Some of the letters I have received have questioned why
I bother to question this distinction. For me it comes down to the question
I have met a number of young Iranians in the
United States who can't read or write Farsi, but can speak it. I have met
others who do not know how to speak a word of Farsi. There are those, of
are able to do all three. I for one, do not make any distinction between
any of these children regarding their "right" to count themselves
members of Iranian culture and society.
It certainly isn't their fault that
not speak, read or write the language of a country which many of them
have never set foot in. Moreover, the circumstances of many Iranian
they reside in places where there are no Persian schools, classes or
playmates for their children to be given a chance to experience
some degree of
Iranian-ness growing up. This is a fact of our larger Persian community's
life as immigrants.
Our love, affection and acceptance of these children
does not hinge on their linguistic abilites, heir knowledge of
poetry, or anything else
older generations hold dear. To us, these young Persians are just as
as we are. Certainly there are differences between us and them, but such
differences are to be expected and often welcomed as a consequence of
living new lives
One of the things that happens when young adults
live in lands far from Iran, is that they fall in love with non-Iranians
and in many
them and start families. When this happens to Iranian men, the laws
of our country are very accommodating. The foreign wife and any
are blessed with are legally regarded as "Iranians". As you
all know by now, such legal recognition is withheld from the spouse
and much more
importantly, the children of Iranian mothers. Why?
We as a community
are willing to loving accept our youngsters who can't speak our national
language or recite our passionate poetry and
the government of our nation gives them legal recognition, even in
they are only
50% Iranian, having foreign mothers. This is done because we want
each and every one of them to develop and value their identity
We want them to have pride in who and what they are.
We would be willing to fight anyone who tried to strip them of
this very basic human right.
down to being a matter of personal dignity. We want our children
to be like us. We want our children to hold dear that which we
We want our children
to be what we are.
This is why our generous people are willing
to regard the children of Iranian men and foreign women as Iranians.
who marry foreign women and their children the dignity of our
nation and of our people. Why then, does our generosity fail to
to Iranian women who
marry foreign men?
Certainly, in some cases the foreign marriages
of Iranian women to foreign men do not comply with the legal regulations
of Iran, the
most fundamental of which is that a Muslim woman can only wed a
man. (Whether you or I agree with this legal sine qua non is
not relevant to this discussion, although for many Iranian women
it is a very important issue.)
In other cases, such as mine, the
is recognized in
Iran and an Iranian marriage license is issued. Unfortunately,
it doesn't matter that the husband is Muslim and that all the requisite
formalities have been met because the children of an Iranian mother "legally" married
to a foreign man will have no legal claim to her nationality.
is wrong because in many, if not most cases, the children of such
women not only speak, read and write our language, but
don't love it as a mere pleasurable pastime or hobby. They love
it because they identify as being part of it. They regard themselves
as being a
full member of Iranian society and culture, just as the half-Persian
fathers do, or the full blooded Iranian children born abroad, who
can't speak our language, do. What is the difference?
All of these
a legitimate claim on our nation and society. Once a government
recognition of a child...it isn't only that child who is affected.
Every subsequent generation will lack the right to claim membership
heritage. Even the
most open minded of Iranians at some point would say that "so-n-so
isn't a real Iranian, only his grandmother was born there."
the children of Iranian mothers, like me, are refused the legal
right to be Iranian then
that door will be closed forever not only to them, but to their
progeny and their
progeny's progeny as well.
My children love Iran. They see themselves
as Iranians. They speak our language. They eat our food. They listen
to our music and poetry.
They enjoy our holidays. What then, makes them any less Iranian
else? I don't know the answer to this simple question and the the
all-wise, all-knowing Islamic masters of Iran won't tell me. All
I know, is that
my children choose to proudly live as Iranians then they should
be given their full rights, just as any other citizen is.
they choose to throw away their identity as Iranians... so be it,
just as the mixed
children of an Iranian man have the right to claim the identity
and nationality of their mother's people. The fundamental right
claim Iranian identity and nationality should not be withheld from
them simply based on the fortuity of their paternity. We don't
withhold Iranian citizenship from children simply because the mother
America, or anywhere else. As far as I'm concern and many of you
agree from your very kind emails to me, the children of Iranian
be Iranian as anyone else.
One's identity is very personal and precious.
To have it taken away or to have recognition legally refused is
a form of psychological
destroy and denigrate the spirit of Iranian women and their children.
It is morally repugnant to any civilized nation, but there lies
problem at present. As Sina in, "Unfortunate
son of revolution"
pointed out, Iran
at present remains in the grasp of men whom are impervious to notions
decency and civility.
The one thing that Sina in his very powerful
and moving answer to "Goodbye
Iran" failed to acknowledge, is that
women love our country with every fiber of our being, just as Iranian
men do. We raise our children, whether full-blooded or half-blooded,
our nation. While I know that life in Iran is a struggle for our
are still there many of us, probably most of us, who have been
fortunate to build lives abroad dream of being able to go home
dream and we hope against hope that the day will soon come that
we can return...and return with our children and husbands. I don't
I am wrong to
want my son and daughter to be proud and prosperous Persians in
a free Iran...in an Iran where it doesn't matter where your father
or where your
was born as long as you want to help rebuild your country and love
it with you
We the Iranian mothers of mixed children know that
once our children are branded as foreigners then there is no
hope of permanently
going back for
us or them. If our children are deemed to be foreigners then
certainly their children and their children and their children
have the opportunity
to live in and love IRAN, like we did.
Another point that I would
like to mention has caused me to rethink my initial emotional response
and to decide that I should not give
or my children. My husband and I have been married many years.
We started life
out together in the United States, but we have lived abroad in
Asia for many years now.
During the early days of our marriage
university students. We were so young back then, but I can still
remember how it felt
be called "sand nigger" and "camel jockey" by
angry and sometimes violent American students who were angry at
the Iranian government.
that there are many of you who know what I am talking about because
you heard such insults, too.
Sometimes, I grew very weary of carrying
the heavy load
of my Iranian nationality on my young shoulders. Although I
was fortunate to have never been physically harmed, unlike many
of our people, my hot-tempered and young husband got into more
than a few fights trying his
best to protect my honor. Unfortunately, he was usually out-numbered
and consequently, on the painful end of these encounters. Living
in a community with very few other Iranians to lean on, I soon
developed, as did others
in the USA, feelings of shame and inferiority due to my nationality.
It took me a long time to regain the pride that I felt growing
up in Abadan, but I have done my best to give my children my
country. I think
that it is sad that the current rulers of Iran are using the
issue of nationality to hurt my children the way Americans used
many of us twenty
five years ago. The wonderful letters of support that I've gotten
from Iranians from such far-flung places as Iran, California,
have renewed my spirit. I will not say goodbye to Iran and my
children will not say goodbye to Iran either.
I have decided to do what
my husband did
way back when. No matter how many times he got the hell-beat-out-of-him,
shied away from protecting me...not once...not ever. Like he did
for me, I am going to keep fighting for my children and the children
other mothers in my situation. If I get knocked down, I'll get
up and try again.
One of the kind people to write me in the last few
days, told me that by turning away from Iran, I was taking the
easy way out at
some people were fighting and dying in Iran for all of our rights.
Now that I
that there are so many of you with me, I am not afraid to take
the more difficult path.
Finally, the last reason that I will not shrink away is that I
owe it to my children to fight for their rights because how much
me. For example, recently, I was invited to "International
my second child's school. He attends an International School, so
all of the children are
expatriates from around the world. Each child in his classroom
was allowed to make a poster of their home country and to decorate
it however they wished.
When I found my son's poster on the wall he had identified his
home country as Iran. He had decorated the poster with photos we
have taken on our many
to see baba bozorg.
There was a small asterisk behind the large
word IRAN on the poster indicating that the reader should look
at the bottom for additional
information. When I looked I saw that he has written in parentheses
(and America, too). I don't know if he did this (identifying
Iran as his homeland) to
please me, knowing that I would come to his school event, or
if he meant it in his heart of hearts. He is a good boy, so maybe
he did it both for love of mother and love of country.
How wonderful it would be if Iran's current masters had the compassion
of this one, not-so-little Iranian boy!
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