The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


January 8, 2001

Will not sit back and shut up

What Mr. Ali Noshiravani, inadvertently or selectively, overlooked in his letter ["Time to take responsibility"] is the fundamental reason Iranian people have historically disliked, and even hated, American foreign policy.

When Iranians tried to take control over their oil and nationalize this prosperous industry in the 1950's, the U.S. government helped install a brutal secret police and imposed an abrupt end to this democratic movement. Real and/or perceived "enemies" of the Shah were killed, tortured and imprisoned by their own agents, thanks to a little basic training from America's "intelligence institutions."

The context of hate toward this particular aspect of America, therefore, is relevant and very real to the Iranian people. Had we only been allowed to exercise political sovereignty a little over fifty years ago, modern day Iran would undoubtedly be a substantially more economically and politically stable country. Interference in Iranian politics falls in line with America's policing of political movements around the globe. These acts of independence are labeled as "subversive" or "communist" when they don't mesh with US industrial interests in the region.

Unfortunately, Iranians today are no better off with their current government. The secret police are alive and well, and they continue to spy on their own. Political prisoners are still being tortured and murdered by fellow countrymen. The same human rights abuses are in force -- just in the name of a new doctrine by new rulers. Because today's Iranian "leaders" make anti-American propaganda an integral part of their political rhetoric, the US government responds by punishing and humiliating all Iranians when they travel internationally.

Sadly, all Iranians end up paying the price for governments which supposedly represent them, regardless of whether we support such governments, and whether these ruling bodies are democratic or tyrannical dictatorships. It's one thing to dislike political actions taken by rulers of specific nations. For example, I am not in favor of the current Israeli government's policies toward other Middle Eastern countries. But it's quite another to hate all people of a given ethnicity -- I don't have anything against the Jewish people as a distinct nation. I find myself constantly pointing this out to my American peers, who react with a sort of negative surprise when I proudly tell them my name and heritage is Iranian.

I have nothing to do with the Iranian government. So why should I, as a taxpaying American citizen, be deprived of the rights guaranteed to me under the U.S. Constitution? Rights which ideally should be granted to citizens worldwide? I could envisage being detained at an airport if I were a member of the Iranian government, but detaining all Iranians is a petty act on the part of the U.S. and other Western governments.

Ironically, Iranian government officials are immune from such harassment when they travel. This type of discrimination is enacted under the premise of "security" interests, and is especially absurd considering that those traveling with Iranian passports have already gone through a month of so-called security checks in a third country.

As an Iranian-American and a Board of Supervisors member of the Persian Watch Cat, I do not plan to sit back and shut up if and when I am subjected to these discriminatory acts. Of course, I am only speaking on my behalf and my views do not necessarily reflect those of the PWC. I will continue to fight ignorance and injustice. In my local community, I endeavor to educate Americans about the contributions Iranians have made and will continue to make to all of humanity.

I share my cultural practices with them in an effort to foster a growing understanding and appreciation for Iranian music, poetry, food, and the many other rich Iranian traditions. Through cultural exchange and awareness we can improve strained relations, and humanize our identity as an immigrant population living and working in the United States. To me, this seems like a much more viable approach to our problems than passively standing by and buying into the notion that we deserve such treatment.

Ziba Marashi


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