It is often not enough to simply declare: “I'm an Iranian.”
There are those who no longer want to be known as Iranian. They say they are “American,” or “British” or “Australian.” Or, from the “south of France,” if they really want to impress those who would cringe at hearing the word “Iranian.”
There's always the Persian option too. It sounds so cool, like something out of a mythical Hollywood movie; something mysterious from the past without a clear link to the present.
And of course as Persians we would be more than accepted along with Persian cats and Persian carpets which have managed to maintain their impeccable reputation. Iranian restaurant? Don't think so. Persian cuisine. More like it.
Most of us may not go to the extreme to deny our heritage. But the longer we have lived outside Iran, the more defense mechanisms or charm strategies we have developed to dispel any fear that potential friends, neighbors or employers may harbor.
The frustrating part of all this is that we are blamed for things we haven't done or believe. “What do you think about hostage-taking?” was a common question a few years back. Now we're quizzed about terrorism, religious extremism, and dehumanizing women.
These questions and attitudes may or may not go away. We have no direct control over their appearance or disappearance. What we can do is remind ourselves and non-Iranians that we are a proud and law abiding group of people who believe in freedom and human dignity.
Encounters with foreigners are not always an exercise in self-defense. For anyone in any situation, a little self-respect is all that's needed.