|Baba velesh kon
I want to do something to support freedom in Iran -- and the U.S.
By Bijan Khazai
December 4, 2002
Many of us living here in the United States are the former sons and daughters
of the Islamic Revolution. We have left Iran and immigrated to this country, seeking
(a new) life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some of us may even be old enough
to remember the early days of the Iranian revolution.
I was a young boy, but I can still remember the lively discussions around our dinner
table. My father and his friends would discuss and debate the state of our country
into the small hours of the morning. It seemed everybody had an idea for the future
direction of our country and these ideas were as varied as the people holding them.
I remember gazing in wonder from the shoulders of my father at the human sea of protestors
marching in unison, denouncing the regime of the Shah. The prospect of a new Iran,
was being debated with feverish energy and enthusiasm in all circles of life.
A revolution was in the making and it was a time of drastic and sweeping changes:
a time of idealism about the abilities and triumphs of individual human beings and
the reaches of human potential. Many had aspirations to help make a difference and
influence the progress and development of Iran after the revolution.
When I talked to my father, who is still residing in Iran, on the phone last night
and asked him about the current student protests that are taking place in Iran, I
got the all too familiar, "Baba velesh kon..." or just let it go!
I thought to myself, what happened to the generation of idealistic intellectuals
who left behind their comfortable lives here to go back home and "make a difference?"
What happened to that dynamic and vibrant era and the high aspirations of the early
days of the revolution?
And then, a very frightening thought set in. What will I be like in 20 years? Are
my friends and I the new generation of idealistic intellectuals, discussing the prospects
of a new Iran with passion and excitement into the small hours of the morning, only
to be disillusioned 20 years from now? Will I think, what a waste it was spending
the energy of my youth thinking these "useless thoughts."
Unlike my friends and I, my father and his friends had put their money were their
mouth was by giving up a bright future abroad for a very uncertain life in Iran.
Taking big risks by protesting and rioting against the Shah. Some even loosing their
lives to their causes after the revolution.
If I were ever to return to Iran, and really put the energy of my youth to
help "make a difference", will I find my youthful enthusiasm and intellectual
idealism be blotted by skepticism or worse yet, give way to apathy? These thoughts
can make any aspirant for progress and development in Iran shake to their bones.
I have been following with great interest the latest development of the recent student
protests in Iran. I would like to think of the student movement as a leading engine
in creating reform and change in Iran, just as it has historically established itself
as a leading force in bringing about the revolution in 1978.
As a student myself with ties to Iran, I feel great sympathy and identify with the
drive of this movement. I admire the brave Iranian students who are taking on the
oppressive Islamic regime and openly criticizing the supreme leader and other hard-line
clerics standing in the way of social and political reform.
In a recent, well-crafted video clip by Javanan-e-Sabz
meant for "the worlds free thinkers and especially students," footage of
the recent student demonstration came to life through a very moving song, which in
loosely-translated words said:
Look, we got to the end of ally, but ran into a cul-de-sac. Till when are we going
to sing about freedom, what can we look forward to in our lives. God knows we are
on the verge of insanity. Everybody's lips are sealed when it comes to dissent. We
don't have peace or security.
By the end of the song, I could not ignore their plea: "back each other
up and don't be pessimistic, ask for your rights and don't stand still."
Hearing this, it is very difficult for me to "velesh konam". I am sure
the crushed and devastated youth in Iran who are "on the brink of insanity",
cannot afford to think whether or not they will regret taking to the streets 20 years
from now. For them this protest is not about intellectual aspirations, it is about
their very existence.
For them 20 years from now don't matter. It is about the powerful present, the here
and now. They are completely fed up, as their song suggests, "we are rotting
in all of this futility" and "what can we look forward to in our lives?"
But it is not only the students who are fed up.
As witnessed in the elections and support for the pro-reform movement, most of the
country is fed up with the oppression. It seems, most of the country is also still
suffering from the repercussions of their last great uprising against an oppressive
regime and are cynical and disenchanted in the idea of a reform movement, much less
Their youthful enthusiasm, and intellectual aspirations has given way to aged indifference
and pragmatic pessimism. Indeed the words of the song, "back each other up and
don't be pessimistic, ask for your rights and don't stand still" strikes a very
As a student residing in the United States, who left Iran to escape its suffocating
political climate in the first place, I can certainly understand and identify with
the plight of my counter parts in Iran. I try to help and support in whatever way
I can those students who, like me were more fortunate and were able to break away
from that stagnant and decaying environment.
But, I would like to do more than merely support Iran's massive "brain drain".
I would like to do more than stand in solidarity with Iranian students from across
the ocean. The cry of the Iranian students is ringing in my head, but I understand
that I am limited to what I can do by being here and not in Iran.
I want to do something, but what can I do? I am here now, living as an Iranian-American.
Perhaps this is the key point. Unlike many of my Iranian counter parts, who are "rotting
in all of this futility" I had the privilege of being introduced to a new world
of hope and growth. While Khatami speaks of "Dialogue among Civilizations"
as a mere rhetoric, I can be an active participant in this dialogue.
In fact the need to reconcile Iran to the West and ourselves to ourselves
seems more urgent now than at any other time. In this time of uncertainty about the
future of the world, we are more than ever, in dire need of the exchange of ideas
among people who are willing to understand and hear each other.
I realize that I am standing somewhere with the opportunity of being heard without
being shot at. So, while I am limited to what I can do to help out with the plight
in Iran and the cry of the students because I am not there, it seems to me there
is something more immediate I can do, because I am here.
Despite the football hooliganisms and stealing of goal posts, there are still concerned
people to connect with on my campus at University of California, Berkeley. There
are people who are willing to lend an ear and listen to each other. Everyone of us
Iranians of the Diaspora is urgently called to a dialogue of civilizations.
Not only for our own self-growth by reconciling the many cultures contained within
ourselves, but also to serve as ambassadors of the country we left behind and the
culture we brought with us. This is not a time to see being an Iranian in America
as a blemish to be concealed or erased. This is a time to come together and use our
multi-cultural upbringing as a gateway to a world where we are facing the "clash
of civilizations" and "a war between cultures".
We may think why are there so many Iranians sitting silent and not doing more about
the oppressive Islamic regime. Have we asked ourselves, can we really afford to sit
quiet under the Bush regime?
we don't have a problem with being labeled a "potential terrorist" we cannot
afford to sit quiet. The draconian measures taken during World War II in placing
all Japanese in concentration camps for the possibility that some of them may be
spies is not all that unlikely to happen again, given the kind of attitudes we are
seeing by some politicians right now who are using terrorist attacks to curb and
limit freedom of individuals.
We have a duty to remind these politicians, that these kinds of attitudes are fundamentally
shortsighted and go against the spirit this country was founded on.
So, while I am completely for progress and development in Iran and my heart goes
out to those fighting for a "civil society" in Iran, I also recognize the
growing need for a more civil society here. The "baba velesh kon" attitudes
are just as detrimental to progress and development in Iran as they are to the social
progress and development right here.
Bijan Khazai is a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering, University of California,
Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell
me to fix it.