For children's sake
Parents, children and the 1979 Revolution
April 20, 2005
While it is tempting, you just can't blame the
1979 Revolution for everything. We should take a hard look at
how some men left behind their children in order to either save
their country or encourage the Revolution. The latter, no self-respecting
intellectual Iranian will ever admit to, no matter how open-minded.
But the disturbing truth remains that many did support the revolution,
yet most regret their decision. As a result, some Iranian youth
of the 70s had to endure the loss of their pride and history
as well as and the break up of their family.
The children's side of the Iranian Revolution
is the one we never talk about. The tragedies children abroad
went through created a specific breed of Iranians. The marriages
that were destroyed during the Revolution gave birth to a new
type of half-Iranian half-unrecognizable individuals who had
to overcome enormous obstacles, racism and their own painful
identity crisis only to find out they will never fit in.
Some names have been changed in the following
stories to protect what remains of their dignity.
Daughter of Persia
"Baba? Chera Raftee?"
Maryam was 11 when the revolution happened, but she always knew her father
wasn't from the same country they lived in. Her little sister was 3. Bavaria
was a far stretch from Iran, but since her father's country was on the TV a
lot these days, and her mom and dad were yelling a lot about the news, she
knew things weren't normal. A few weeks later, he left. Ahmad said he went
to Iran to fight for his country, and that he would return. He never did.
No child should grow up so fast. Maryam was an 11 year old in the body of a
40 year old, caring for her little sister and devastated mother when their
father left. Somehow, Maryam grew into a young woman and went to America to
study, there she married an American man, and had 3 daughters of her own. Now
a mother herself, Maryam made the brave decision to find her father, after
23 years of little to no contact with him. The thought of him was eating her
Once, she asked an Iranian she met on a plane, who she spotted reaching a book
called, "Daughter of Persia," to help her call her father, as she
couldn't speak a word of Farsi. The woman was happy to oblige, stricken by
the courage Maryam had to face from such an early age. When the woman called,
He cried, and even she broke down as the messenger of a lifetime of this family's
pain. He said he had another family now, a son and a daughter,
from his new wife he married when he returned to Iran all those years ago.
Ahmad thought he had left Maryam behind in the southern part of Germany, with
her mom to raise her. He thought he had left the pain behind, he thought he
could forget and start fresh.
Ahmed never called, a paralyzing fear overtook him every time he thought about
his kids and wife in Germany, so he tried to imagine they never existed. It
was all some distant dream now. Instead, he chose to hide under a new guise
of a decent, loving, father, and he never told anyone the truth about the life
he left behind - he didn't even whisper the memory of it to himself. Yet, during
the silent moments between his fake words and phony sentences, he would silently
recollect his life's great tragedy.
Nushin's pink dirt bike
Nushin remembers the revolution as if it happened yesterday. She was an only
child, a tomboy dressed in overalls and pigtails, and she loved her father
fiercely. It was he that took her to the zoo and let her run her pink dirt
bike to the ground, and it was she that slept in the living room with her daddy
when he came home late from his second job at the automobile factory - so dirty
that mommy wouldn't even let him into his own bed.
Hamid only brought his family to the US for a short period of time, but he
now that the war was underway with Iraq, he thought they should stay for good.
Although the prices were high and the wages for a foreign student were really
low, he thought he should keep trying to make it for the sake of his daughter.
His studies were almost over and 9 year-old Nushin was all over his case about
quitting smoking on a daily basis. Once she hid his cigarettes and he had to
beg to get anything more than 4 a day.
It was around that time when the Revolution broke
out in Iran. Hamid thought of his mother in Esfahan, his sister,
niece, younger brother and friends. Would they all die? He had
to go, he had to do something to save them, and he had to leave
immediately. But his wife Feryal couldn't imagine a life in Iran
after all that was happening on the news, it wasn't a safe place
to live! Hamid left the next week, with tears in his eyes. Nushin
held on to her daddy's bath towel, as it was the closest thing
next to being held in his arms. She didn't even have the heart
to get on her bike anymore.
He tried not to call much, because he just cried and apologized. Every 6 months
or so he would send money in red and blue international mail packets, but it
would be another 16 years before he would see his daughter Nushin again. After
those first hard years passed, Hamid was either always short on money or burdened
with a new girlfriend that kept him far from his former pangs of fatherly guilt.
The lonely nights passed into empty years and Nushin grew into a rebellious
teenager, consumed with sadness and anger.
When the lights were out, she felt brave enough to
remember her father's face. Until the day came that she couldn't
remember what he looked like anymore. Sometimes, Nushin
would sneak out of her window at night, trying hard not to wake
the dogs, and ride her bike until the blood pounded so hard in
her lungs that she would forget her misery and think only of her
survival. She would spend her adult years wondering
what she did wrong to her father for leaving and why her mother
resenting having a child from her former husband who brought her
to America - a place she neither loved nor could leave.
Living by the sea
Madame Dadashi came from a very well known Tehran family. She was one of the
few that came from a family of half German - half Iranians, who were married
in the early part of the 1900s. Their family worked with the ruling family
of Iran at the time, the Qajar, and they had a lot of clout in Iran. It wasn't
a big surprise when her daughter, a young blond beauty, married a Mansour,
a famous Iranian intellectual, scholar and writer. No surprise at all that
these two social elites would be well matched. Soon after their two daughters
were born, they moved to the south of France, and raised their little girls,
Ladan and Leila, near the ocean's waves. They were to go to the best schools
and wear the latest Parisian fashions.
The waves came crashing down on Mansour when the
revolution hit Tehran. He felt a surge of allegiance to his
native land of Persia. He always felt Iranian, and he had never
accepted life fully in France, nor had France accepted him. He
was living off the remaining bits of his wife's, the heiress, fortune,
and everyone knew it. Mansour wasn't well known or accepted in
France among the elite. Could it really all be gone?
Mansour left his little girls behind, they were 7
and 9, and flew to Iran alone to document what was happening in
Iran. He missed his power and prestige in Iran. He was a man and
he would show everyone he was somebody, if not in France then in
his own country. He didn't visit France again, and he didn't utter
a word of French to the new wife he eventually took. A quiet woman,
who he treated as more of a maid than anything else. If his daughters
called, he would listen, all the while holding his breath in, and
remaining a beacon of strength next to their whimpering sobs. Mansour
was unreachable, he was always as elegant as an emotionless statue,
and he assumed the role of a silent tower, a Persopolis carving
of granite and marble and a father no more.
Are you a child of the Revolution,
or do you know someone who faced the Iranian Revolution as a child
and just managed to make it out alive? Its is not only the bullets
and bombs that shattered the psyche of Iran, but the love lost
and the families that became dismembered, which led to the demise
of Iran and the Persian family. If you have such a story to share
please get in touch with the author, who is writing a book
entitled "Children of the Revolution," Iranian short
stories inspired by real-life events of the Iranian Revolution.