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My last trip to the United States
For the first time in my life I understood what discrimination means

By Picha
September 19, 2002
The Iranian

Are we all living in the same world? the same universe? Am I the ONLY Iranian nationality (citizen of another country) that has gone across the borders of United States in recent days? I truly doubt that I was the only person going across the borders of the United States and yet there is NOTHING on the internet, or in the news about what they are doing to those of Iranian descent.

What's happened to us? What happened to having rights and being enraged because we are being so openly discriminated against? What happened to making protests? What happened to standing together?

Someone somewhere on some news show mentioned the fact that the Americans are going to automatically screen Iranians entering the United States. Someone asked, "Is it really aimed at decreasing terrorism? Or is it just racial profiling?" I found the answer first hand.

Me and my family in Canada were the first ones going through the new U.S. immigration system on September 11. There was a convention and we were scheduled to get there the next morning. We were expecting to be asked more questions, but what it was a lot worse.

We were detained for three hours, fingerprinted with ink (there was no computerized fingerprinting) and photographed. Then we had to go through an interview. And then came the worse part: being given a list of border crossings and airports we were "allowed" to use to enter or leave the United States.

Why was I watched, followed, profiled, and treated worse than known criminals? Why? Because I was born in Iran. It did not matter that I was holding Canadian citizenship. It did not matter that my parents already went through security checks in order to get the citizenship. It did not matter and all of us were kids when we entered Canada. It didn't matter that my sister can barely speak Farsi, and knows no other country but Canada as her home (she was only 1 when we came here).

Nothing mattered but the fact that genetically we are Iranians. And we had no choice but go through the humiliation of it all. We could not just turn around and go back home and say forget the USA. I rather lose the $500 I paid for the plane ticket, than lose my dignity and pride. They would have still fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed us.

I truly cannot express how it felt to go through that. I can only say that every time I think about it, there is this strange combination of anger and sadness that makes me cry and boils my blood at the same time. Am I truly a Canadian? Will I ever be treated as one? I thought I was. But on September 11, 2002, I found out I was not. Because I was not treated as one.

WHY us? How can they justify fingerprinting and profiling a 14-year-old who has spent 13 years of her life as a Canadian citizen and call it "keeping the American people safe"?! How can treating innocent people as criminals keep the American people safe? And Iranians weren't even involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Wouldn't profiling Saudi Arabian citizens make more sense? Of course it would. Yet, they are not part of the five countries on USA's black list.

But most important, Why are we Iranian-Americans, Canadians, French, and so on and so forth sitting back and taking it without as much as a beep from us?! Well, that was my last trip to the United States. As long as this "new policy" is in effect, I refuse to set foot in that country. I lose nothing really. Instead of Hawaii, I will go to Jamaica. Instead of Las Vegas, I'll go to Montreal. Instead of New York, I will go to Paris. I still have choices, and I choose to stand up and not take it from the Americans.

If I decide to become a politician, no one would be able to find a single wrongdoing in my life. I have never smoked, or tried strange substances. They can't even accuse me of drinking or skipping classes, because I haven't done either. And yet, I was treated like a criminal by the United States of America. My choices were taken away, along with my pride; and for the first time in my life I understood what discrimination means.

There is so much I want to say, so much I feel I should do, and yet I feel completely alone in this battle. At times I wonder if I imagined the whole thing. Yet, the scars are deep enough to remind me it was real. Maybe I am the last person of Iranian-descent who still carries some pride, who values her rights and freedom, who is not willing to give up her dignity. Maybe I am the last person who will not be walked over without putting up a fight, or making a noise. Maybe it's just me.

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Have a good day
I was different from the men and women who were allowed to cross the border without questioning
By Behzad Yaghmaian

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