With the sad news of the impending execution of Delara Darabi, the gentle and gifted poet/ painter, imprisoned for a murder that her former boyfriend most likely committed, coupled with the harsh eight-year sentence handed down to Japanese-Iranian American, Roxana Saberi after a one-day secret trial from which even her attorney was barred from attending, I have felt a sick and shameful feeling overcome me. I feel sick that the land of my forefathers has become a place that I rarely feel proud of anymore when I watch the news. Why should I be surprised though? Haven’t thousands upon thousands before these two ladies been victims of a regime that cares nothing for the truth as long as it is able to pursue its twisted political agenda? Haven’t thousands upon thousands of innocent people been wrongly imprisoned and wrongly executed by Iran’s ignoble leaders?
What makes me feel even more sick and shameful is that we, the millions of Iranians in the worldwide Diaspora, are totally impotent to do anything meaningful to improve the situation in Iran. The only thing that I’ve seen over the years is a whole hell of a lot of backbiting, name-calling, and insult hurling between the various expatriate Iranian groups that claim to want a legitimate democracy in Iran. For all the wealth and prosperity of Iranian communities in North America, Australia and Europe, we are a sorry lot…unable to make any beneficial changes in our homeland, but always full of hot air on how those in Iran should do it. How long will Iranians abroad simply talk problems to death without doing anything meaningful to effect change in Iran. With all the damn PhDs, MDs, JDs, MBAs MAs and an entire alphabet of academic credentials replete amongst the members of the Iranian Diaspora, one would think that we could do more for our country than sit on our backside and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. We have got to be the most highly educated obtuse people in the world. Now, that is shameful.
As far back as my memory will carry me, I can recall not only my mother, but just about every other adult Iranian that I have ever encountered rattling on about Iran’s future liberation. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big dreams as long as one understands that dreams will forever remain fantasy if action isn’t taken breathe life into them. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone speak of the about the revolution that never seems to materialize, or the soon ascendance of real Iranian reformers, I would be a billionaire. Honesty, I could count the grains of sand in a desert more easily than I could count the number of times I’ve heard elders in our community say that Iran will “soon be free”, or “next year Iran will be free”, or “freedom for our nation is on the horizon”.
Those of us who were born into the second generation and have never lived in Iran have heard all this mumbo-jumbo our entire lives and you know what? We don’t believe it anymore. More importantly, however, is that with the never ending torrent of horrible news stories coming from Iran, many amongst us are losing the ability to care. How much bad news…day after day, month after month, year after year…are we supposed to get angry and upset about? If I were to get angry every time I heard of some distressing news from Iran, I’d be angry all the time. Why should those of us who’ve never lived in Iran care when it certainly appears that our elders who once lived there don’t care. Our elders have done nothing for thirty years except talk about the problems in Iran when they should have talked a whole lot less and done a whole lot more. It was their Revolution after all. The older generation…my mother’s generation…created the monstrosity called the Islamic Republic of Iran…and once they understood that the system they created was not to be a servant of the people, but rather a blood thirsty master, what did they do? They left Iran in droves for the fat and sassy life that Western societies offered.
I have watched and listened to the adults in my community talk Iran’s problems to death for my entire life. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk … that’s all people seemingly want to do. It’s as if first generation Iranian immigrants believe that talking problems to death will solve them. It won’t! I wasn’t alive during the monarchy. I don’t know if the Shah was a good ruler or not. I know that many older Iranians think that he was a despot while others worship his name. Regardless of how one feels in this regard, one cannot dispute the fact that it took great courage for the people to overthrow the ruler. I wonder what happened to all that courage during the past thirty years.
Has life in the Diaspora grown too comfortable for courage to exist within the hearts of our people anymore?
I have grown apathetic when I hear our elders talk freedom for Iran, for Iran’s liberation from tyranny is not at hand and it never will be so long as so few seem willing to lift a finger to do anything to make it happen. Certainly the dreamers’ hearts are in the right place, but as with all things in life … actions speak louder than words. The cold hard truth is that the Iranian Diaspora has grown too fat and comfortable over the past three decades to really care. Iran is far away and so are its problems. The lives of average Iranians and average Iranian-Americans are simply not comparable. We have grown too important to feel our compatriots’ pain anymore. We slap ourselves on the back every chance we can because we have become the most prosperous ethnic minority in North America as if anyone cares? Many of us think that Iranians are the only successful people living and working in the West when nothing could be further from reality. Many others amongst us like to wallow in self-pity about having to live amongst Americans and Canadians who are backward, ignorant and hateful them when in reality the only discrimination they suffer after thirty years is the discrimination which is a figment of their wacked out, “look-at-me, I’m-a-victim” imaginations.
Is it any wonder why many young successful expatriate Iranians have no interest in visiting Iran? The danger that one subjects oneself to in order to experience the beautiful heritage of our homeland is simply not worth it. Young Iranians are executed on the order of kangaroo courts continuously. Young Iranians from the Diaspora, who wish to visit, live or work in Iran risk terms of imprisonment if they cross paths with the wrong people who want to use them for political purposes. Our country has been faced with a brain drain crisis for many years, but as more and more educated Iranians leave forever, the concentration of thugs, religious fanatics and blood thirsty regime enforcers becomes stronger and stronger. If something isn’t done before it is too late…before they control everything and every mind in the country, nothing will ever be done.
While we all wish that Iran had a kinder, more responsive government, none amongst us has any right to blame our countrymen in Iran for being selfish and looking out only for themselves instead of overthrowing the regime. After all we have been unwilling to share and endure the hardships that they have faced over the past thirty years. We have no right to point fingers at them for failing to fight for their freedom when we ourselves have been unwilling to risk life and limb to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in trying to topple the tyrants who have enslaved our people and our nation. Can anything be more hypocritical than those of us in the Diaspora asking our countrymen and women inside Iran to risk all for freedom’s sake when we are prepared to risk nothing? We say our nation will one day be free, but we have done nothing in real terms to secure its freedom. We point fingers at our brothers and sisters who have not been lucky enough to escape tyranny’s clutches for not having given their blood so we can return home. We have sat on the sidelines in our comfortable homes, counting the money in our fat bank accounts, talking, talking, talking, but doing nothing to break the chains which hold our nation in bondage, as Iranian youth are executed on the flimsiest evidence, and even when children of the Diaspora are wrongfully imprisoned there.
While we have been talking, more and more time has slipped away and our community’s children and grandchildren have been born in other nations, learned different languages and customs, and have slowly been assimilated into other cultures. Many young Iranians today throughout North America and Europe can’t speak Persian well enough to hold a simple conversation or read the most elementary of texts. Unless we in the Diaspora awaken from our slumber soon, there will be nothing of our country left worth going back to….or for some, visiting for the first time. All of the decent people would have left or been killed.
Unless the older and wiser members of the international Iranian Diaspora collectively decide that they are going to join forces in an effort take our country back from the thugs that have scattered us like leaves in the wind in countless nations throughout the world, then we ought to just stop talking and get on about the business of leading our lives in North America, Europe, Australia or wherever in the world today our people call home. Many agree that trying to reform the un-reformable or to fix the unfixable is no longer a viable option, but they can’t agree upon what should be done. Iranians in the Diaspora are not meek, but they do want leaders who speak with a unified voice. If we only had true leaders, the people would follow them. As it stands now, we have no one to let those in Tehran know that the way they conduct the nation’s business is unacceptable that we, the educated millions, are no longer going to sit back silently and watch our country and our men, women and children violated.
The time for talking has long since ended. We need leaders that are not afraid to organize and marshal the combined resources of expatriate Iranians for the purpose of saving our country. We don’t need leaders that want to continue talking problems to death because when they talk about freedom, no one listens anymore. Those who talk about freedom without taking some kind of decisive, concrete action do so only because they like the sound of their own voices. If Iran is ever to be free, it will be only because each of us did something positive to make it happen, and we need real leaders to tell most of us how we can help. If not, young women like Delara Darabi and Roxana Saberi will continue to suffer at the hands of a regime that is neither democratic nor has the welfare of the Iranian people at heart. Its only purpose is to continue its existence no matter who it must kill or lock away forever.
I for one am tired of feeling sick and shame each time I hear the news from Iran. I know I’m not the only one.
God Bless and Protect these two courageous young women and millions like them.