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No, I'm Iranian
And I am thankful for opportunities America has given me

By Arezou Raeisghasem
February 7, 2002
The Iranian

That's a pretty name, where are you from? "I'm Iranian." Oh really? You don't have an accent. "Yea, well I've been here since I was three-years old." Oh, then you're practically American. "No, I'm Iranian."

To Iranians, I'm not Iranian enough. To the Americans, I'm not American enough. I have always felt like an alien in both groups. I'm sandwiched in between two worlds trying to fit into both, but finding myself alone, without either. I don't think I'm the only young Iranian that faces this dilemma each day.

Before, I believed I would have to just pick on or the other, and I picked American. I shunned all things Iranian, and dived into the only world I have ever known. But there was an emptiness inside me that could not be filled. I could not go to school and be one person and then go home, have my tea with "ghand" and speak Farsi. It just didn't feel right.

I think the turning point for me was when I went to Iran last summer. I saw the rich culture from which I come, and the many traditions and everyday way of life that I find fascinating became more real to me. I realized that I love Iran, and that I love being Iranian, and I can be proud of the person I am, whatever category that person falls into. But it does not necessarily mean that I have to reject the many privileges and freedoms that I have as an American citizen. It doesn't diminish the fact that I am thankful everyday for the opportunities that it has given me in my life. In fact, being Iranian makes me appreciate them more.

As I was spending time with my cousin Niaz in Iran, I would often ask God, "What made me so lucky? Why was I given a life of freedom and possibility and she wasn't? What if I was still living in Iran?" I truly know that if I had not come out of Iran, I would not be the person I am today. I would not know the world as I do, and I would not be as open-minded as I am. I also realized that although I grew up in America, my values and beliefs are profoundly shaped by my Iranian heritage.

When I go to Iranian clubs and see the young Iranian girls and boys dancing and enjoying themselves, I think, I hope, they realize how lucky they are. I hope they realize that if they were in Iran, they would not be able to go out to a club and dance with their friends, wearing their little mini-skirts, no matter how innocent their actions or intentions are.

When I am really stressed out over and exam or final paper for a class, I try to remember to thank God that I have the opportunity for this stress. I remind myself that I should be appreciative that I am not stuck behind difficult tests and not able to get into a university. Or, that I don't have to give up on university because the only school I was accepted to is in a town other than where my parents live, and as a women I could not live alone because "dorost nist".

As a result of these revelations, I have come to learn to be thankful for my differences within each group. No, I am not American, and yes, I love being in America because that is the only life I know and I don't have to feel guilty about that, and that doesn't make me any less Iranian. However, since I have been given this opportunity, I believe that I have an obligation to make the best out of my life.

I have an obligation to my parents who risked so much and gave so much of themselves to bring our family here; I can not imagine leaving everything I have ever know, all the people I love, to go to a foreign land and into the unknown. I also owe it to my cousins because they will never have the infinite possibilities that I have, and I owe it to myself because I have been given a life of privilege.

I am hopeful that us young Iranians all over the world can know that we don't have to choose between the cultures we were brought up with and the Iranian culture that is within us. We don't have to shun either, because we are both.

We can take the good from each one, and be a better, more knowledgeable person because of it. Most of all I pray that one day there will be a free Iran, so that my children and their children will know the rich beauty of our culture, without the oppression of its government.

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Comment for the writer Arezou Raeisghasem


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