I read your letter to Iranian.com [See Mina Hakim-Bastanian's: “Sad & shameful”] and even though I have tried to refrain from further discussions regarding my latest book review, this time my heart tells me writing back is the right thing to do. I will not make any further referrals to the book because as far as I am concerned, a book review [See “Cold & dark“] is one reader’s take on a written text and no amount of debate can change my mind, particularly when I am being misunderstood. But as you said, this is no longer about a book as it involves my poor understanding of what has gone on in my own backyard.
Dear Mina, I wish you knew me beyond one article because I take great pride in the fact that there’s not a shred of prejudice in me. I must say, part of that was in my upbringing, but three decades of life in the free world and many open discussions with my now-grown children have also enlightened me.
I lived my early life in the less religious sections of Mashad and our house had two doors. One opened to an alley primarily occupied by Jewish families and the other led to three Armenian neighbors. Through my Jewish friends I learned about their customs and the mother of my best friend, Mrs. Zar, taught me how to make Gondi, among other things. From the Armenian friends I learned how to paint, crochet and read fortunes from coffee grounds.
Madame Googassian was the best teacher I have ever known and if I know how to bake, it is owed to her patience. One time, our naneh mentioned that I shouldn’t eat there because they are najes and she nearly lost her job for that. Mrs. Googassian’s humble house was cleaner than our naneh could dream. In fact, I was so drawn to the Armenian culture, my family’s biggest concern was that I would convert to Christianity and many years later, my son only discovered in second grade that we were not Jewish.
You were right in saying I do not know my own culture. My sheltered life would not allow me to know about the atrocities committed against minorities. It also kept me in the dark about many other social issues and how the fundamentalists must have seen me, regardless of the fact that I was born to a Muslim family. In their closed minds, a girl who lived freely, did not have hejab and went to parties must have equaled a streetwalker.
But most of us only realized what went on in their minds after the revolution, when the law no longer protected us and when the radicals had the power to treat us as they pleased. Indeed when the fog of ignorance lifted, we all realized that the world was not as beautiful as our families had painted for us. It is now up to you, and me, and every single one of us to make sure we do not repeat the same mistakes through reversed prejudice.
I want you to know that at no point has it been my intention to hurt you — or anyone else for that matter. You are right is saying that I would never know your pain; not then and not even now as you speak in such painful detail of your horrible experiences. Yes, I can only imagine the degree of pain a child must have endured under such circumstances, but no matter how hard I try, I will never even come close to understanding, let alone feeling it.
But regardless of how the world around us may act, we are all one and the same and peace will not begin until we realize that. No religion, no amount of education, and not all the wealth in the world would give anyone the right to assume superiority. Humanity is one, God is one and the dreamer in me imagines a day when the whole world realizes this. I offer you my sincere regrets for the fact that my inexpressive words may have been misconstrued and wish you better days to come.