Recently I spent twenty wonderful days in Iran, my motherland. I saw my family, my aunts and uncles, and all of my cousins. I grew up with these nice people around me and I need to see them every time I go back.
I heard about their hardships and daily difficulties of providing for their families. It is not easy, I gathered. When I was asked about how it is in America, my response was always that it is very much like the Iran in the 60's and 70's. If you worked hard, there are opportunities.
One of my cousins, who seemed a lot more intellectual than I imagined, filled me in on a lot of different issues. Some as ordinary as every day life and it's difficulties but most about the inner working of the government in Iran and how it conducts business to stay alive. It was quite amazing to hear him in what he had to say about the government.
He is quite a womanizer, from what I gathered. So most of his personal tension and problems with the government fell into that type of category. He would be caught with a woman, who wasn't his wife, sister, or a close relation; the law of the land does not allow sexual relationships outside of marriage.
He told me a stories like about the time he picked up a woman from wherever and officials entered his apartment and busted him. In more than one occasion he would have to pay someone off so he wouldn't have to serve time.
But throughout our laughter about his “sheytooni” he would start talking about things far more serious. He told me a lot about how the Iranian government conducts its business and it was hair raising — until I got back to the US and tried to read the Patriot Act II.
One day I came up with this scenario:
I'm sitting in my apartment with anti-government flyers all around me. My computer is filled with files of articles I have written or saved emails. My purpose, for the most part, is not to overthrow the government, or a regime change, but to simply modify it to the point that it is digestible by most of the population, especially when it comes to human and civil rights.
2:00 pm, there is a hard knock on the door. I ask who it is and the raspy voice at the other end orders me to just open the door. They just want to ask some questions, they say. I open the door and two rather large men push the door with me hanging on it and a couple more barge in.
I'm scared, angry, defensive, and my adrenalin kicks in, wanting to defend myself. “Who the hell are you and what the hell do you want”? I ask angrily and loudly. “Just sit down and speak when spoken to,” one of them says. He seems to be the leader.
“We represent the government of (fill in the blank….. Iran, Guatemala, Columbia, Sudan, U.S.), (hang on, yes US, I'll explain in a bit). We're here to ask you some questions.”
“But…” I'm cut off immediately.
“But what? Speak when you're spoken to,” says the leader.
I am wondering whether they have badges, or why they don't have uniforms. When I finally get to ask them that question, they tell me that they don't have to show me anything. They put handcuffs on me, won't allow me to call anyone or leave a note. Block my neighbors to see or hear anything, and push me into a car and whisk me away.
I open my eyes in a prison cell and upon repeated screams finally get a guard to answer me, “What? What's the matter with you? What do you want?”
“Well, I want to know where I am and like to make a phone call. I also want to speak to my attorney.”
The guard laughs at me and informs me that there is going to be neither phone calls nor an attorney. I'm here to stay and no one knows for how long.
“What are the charges?” I ask.
“TREASON,” he replies with this nasty grin on his face, like, you're not going to get out of this one for a long time.
“Treason? Me? I love my country!” say.
“Well, that's what they got you in here for,” the guard answers with the same grin.
Now, the right-wing, ultra religious government doesn't take shit from anyone and its agents can enter anyone's home without prior authorization by a judge, without a search warrant, or any reason whatsoever. All they need is suspicion and upon that they have the power to incarcerate without an attorney, without letting his/her family know where he/she is, and keep him/her for as long as they want.
Am I in Iran, where the far right government, without any concern for human or civil rights of it's citizens, could enter your home, take you away and put lock you up for as long as they feel necessary without informing anyone? Or am I in the US, where according to Patriot Act II, almost the exact same thing can happen here?
What's really funny is that Iran calls America the “The Great Satan” and America calls Iran part of the “Axis of Evil”. Both sides are dedicated to and believe in God. They claim God talks to them and guides them in running the government.
The similarities between Ayatollah Khomeini and George W. Bush are amazingly great. Here are a few:
Both had a problem with language. Khomeini's published speeches are used in Iranian gatherings as a source for jokes. Here in America, comedians rely heavily on “Bushisms” or else they would have to write their own jokes!
Both men are as far to the right of the as you can get. Both, are/were very religious. Both hear or heard God speaking with them. Both were really not educated. Khomeini always referenced Islam to justify his actions, and Bush has “National Security” to fall back on — and let's not forget “Terrorism”.
The Patriot Act II was passed after a quick revision done by Ashcroft at 3:00 am, so they could have it in the Senate the next day. None of the people who signed the bill had a chance to read it. They would never have a chance. Each page has multiple references to specific cases in our court systems and if anyone would actually read, even a little bit about that specific case, they would not be able to finish reading the bill in their lifetime. A human being can not live long enough to read the whole bill!
Yes, there are many differences between Iran and US, when it comes to many, many things. But did you ever think that you would leave Iran, for whatever reason, and end up in a country that is not really that different?
Patriot Act II gives the government absolute power in monitoring one's activities. Your phone, email, mail, driving habits, office, and travel patterns can all be monitored without anyone's permission, specially not yours!
I am old enough to have not forgotten the feeling I had, when I lived in Iran, about being watched. Who to talk to, whom I shouldn't be telling certain things, and overall, watch my back and watch what I say.
It was a strange feeling. A feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. A feeling one gets only when cornered with few ways out.
This is the price to pay if you want to live in this country.