Taking hold of our fate
Or watch someone else dictate it their own way
By Nema Milaninia
April 9, 2003
I write as an American student studying in Egypt.
I write as an Iranian Muslim. Most importantly I write as a man
struck with pride, loyalty, and fear to his culture and heritage.
No doubt iranian.com is read by many of you who reside in the US,
who may or may not keep up with the war against Iraq, and for the
most part receive your information through CNN, Fox News, ABC and
What you may not see, is what I have the unfortunate privilege of
witnessing. Al-Jazeera and other arab networks save no time televising
Iraqi bodies bloodied, torn, mangled, and shot. Protests, which
wage every day with thousands of people, ranging from students of
the elite to fundamentalist such as Muslim Brotherhood, calling
together for an end to war, an end to occupation and an end to Saddam.
Most of all I am not restrained from witnessing the destruction
bombs cause on buildings built over years and artifacts sustained
for centuries only to be destroyed in a second. In so many words,
I see war and what the word truly means.
If we, and I speak of Iranians around the world, were born any other
time, any other place, maybe we would understand the realities of
such an occasion as war and why, as so many diplomats and politicians
say, “war must be a last resort.” Beyond all this, it
is clear we live in a very interesting time. A decisive turning
point where we have the opportunity to make great things happen
and to shape not only our futures but those of our families and
friends. We live in a time where war wages next door and threatens
to pull us in. In a time where hundreds of our family and friends
are denied entry into our country. Where talks of reform are shouted
louder every day against a government run by a minority and backed
by a minority. Most importantly, we live in a time where it has
become crucial that we unite and become vocal in our countries.
Iranians, has too long been apathetic. It is a shame
on two fronts. One because we deny our intelligence and opinion
to the world around us when we have proven to be the more educated,
if not the most, minority in the US and abroad. Second, because
through our lethargy we bring prolonged suffering. Throughout history,
it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference
of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice
of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for
evil to triumph. And still we remain a silent.
I will argue that our silence comes from our fear.
Iranians, specifically us living in the US, are afraid to discuss
politics. We believe that is a dividing force and that it breeds
animosity instead of friendship. If there is any evidence of how
benign Iranians are, it is certainly through their persistence in
avoiding anything which would allow tension or anger.
However, let me say now, there is no fear in discussing
politics. I have been told too many times that politics divide instead
of unite. Despite the arguments, tensions, and divisions political
discourse brings we must allow ourselves to participate peacefully
and respectfully. If we cannot discuss politics without remaining
united how do we plan on ever bridging our differences? More importantly,
how can we ever strive for truth? It is only through discussion
of those things we hold most true that we can either discover their
faults or reaffirm our beliefs. It is time for us to embrace politics
and not be afraid of confrontation.
Yes, it is difficult. Today, debate rises anew about the role of
Islam in democracy, and the role of Islam in Iran. There are divides
amongst those who support the emergence of a constitutional monarchy
and those who are disgusted with the idea of a new “shah”.
And of course there is a more recent debate amongst those who want
a US war against Iran, and others, like myself, who are afraid of
its very possibility.
There is a war in Iraq and it teaches us lessons that we should
never forget. It teaches us that unless we take hold of our fate,
and those of our family, friends, and culture, someone else will
and dictate it their own way. I ask you to always remember that
it only through discussion of our differences that we can unite
and that it is only through our unity that we can ever progress.
We must look to Iraq and remember what it means to be Iranian and
American. More importantly we must look to remember why we must
be resolved to unite for it is only through this unity that we can
ever prevent Tehran from becoming another Baghdad.
Nema Milaninia is a Graduate Student, International
Human Rights Law at the American University in Cairo.
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