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If I was an Iranian
What if students in colleges all over Iran and US were asked to communicate directly with each other by standing in each others space-what would they say?


Elham Atashi
May 4, 2007

History travels fast in the landscape of time. What if we could intercept it, not with the echoes of guns or the drums of war but with voices that question and yearn for understanding that could bring us closer to each other? What would those voices say, what would they echo? What if we could awaken history to talk to us, so we could question it? What if we break absolutism of history, by adding layers of voices to break the silence of history that lay in words in books? What if students in colleges all over Iran and US were asked to communicate directly with each other by standing in each others space-what would they say? Would their fears, emotions, worries differ? Would they be similar? What color is love in Iran? Is it different to the one in the US?

In a world, where we define freedom as making permitted superficial choices, perhaps we need to remember that we don't chose where we are born, but we can chose to be human, to master our sovereignty as humans, rather than be a slave to borders created by history separating us based on our constructed identities. Our "we-ness" can bring us together as humans or it can separate us based on our nationalities. That is the ultimate exercise of choice. These are a sample collection of such voices by American students by trying to stand in the space of Iranians. What if Iranian students did the same? What if we dreamed not of limits-but of a vision with possibilities?

If I was an Iranian
By Lucy Halse

All too often, the past is buried, labeled "history," something that is over and done with. The acknowledgement of and respect for the past is one of the fundamental dividing lines between the East and the West, Iran and the U.S. Iranian history dates back to the early years of B.C., to the time of great and expansive empire– the Persian Empires, and great leaders who created many fundamental concepts of Iranian society, such as the need for social justice, acceptance of all people, equal and fair treatment of all people, and focus on generosity and giving rather than materialism. In Iran today there is a strong emphasis on reflection, analysis, and a need to understand people, derived from its historical roots. In this way, history and its most important messages are still alive. But an undeniable human element is the need to explore, create, grow, and dominate, and without this motivation there probably would never have been massive empires, sciences and mathematics, technology and complex tools. This is where the U.S. comes in. The people of the U.S. really do not share one common, deep-rooted history, as many are descendants of immigrants from all over the world. This keeps them perpetually looking towards the future, exploring, inquiring. What unites them is what they collectively desire to become, what they want to be. So while the Iranian people have a sense of who they are in a historical sense, unified by time, Americans must continually move forward to find commonalities to bring themselves together. They have essentially disconnected themselves from the past, and it is in this disconnection that they have lost touch with themselves, and of the most basic and simple principles for existing as human beings, the most fundamental needs of the human species, compassion, understanding, and peace, not cars, weapons, and tools.

If I was an Iranian
By Dan Samuels

When looking through the glass at the country of Iran, we normally only look for the differences, or at least we are only presented with the differences between "them" and "us". However, through education and a path towards empathetic understanding, one will find that the people of Iran are not so different than we are. The differences as they are presented cause us to misunderstand the Iranian people. In the midst of the US leading the way to establish strict sanctions against Iran, we are given facts-that cause us to accept what is going on. This does not often leave us with a space to properly question the decisions being made by political leaders on both sides. When one learns about Iran, its history and its people, it seems as if the United States government is trying to keep us from the Iranians, because they don't want us to truly see what our country has turned into. Iran and the United States were founded under similar situations, through people finding ways to empower themselves and simultaneously dis-empowering their oppressive governments. Unfortunately while the United States escaped the shackles of British rule, it was only about one hundred and fifty years later that they began to oppress the Iranians worse than the British had done in the late seventeen hundreds. Since the US has gotten involved in Iran we have only dug ourselves deeper and deeper into our guilty hole over time. We have attempted to cover up almost every mistake we have made, causing us to become more irresponsible. One may say that it is only a matter of time before Iran makes the transition that the United States made, from oppressed to the oppressor. However, if one looks at history, in the Persian Empire they believed in just leadership; as an American, I also believe the same. In America, we are so spread out and spoiled with materialism that it is hard for a student like me to make the commitment to leave the life I lead for the concept of collective transcendence; or doing what is right for the greater good. I see the Iranians as a stronger people than the Americans, we have become so high strung since we fought our way to the top, and we have forgotten what our country is really about and what it was founded on. I believe that a revolution does need to happen in America, it will be much easier than our last one, because there is already a constitution and we just need to actually run our government by its laws.

If I was an Iranian
By Jared Margulies

If I was an Iranian I would think radical thought is nothing more than rhetoric if it does not mobilize action. I would not understand how people unsatisfied with their government do not act in physical opposition to it and instead live comfortably in passive acquiescence. If I was an Iranian I would be what some call a radical. If I was an Iranian I would stand in opposition to my government because I would see the inherent conflict between a theocracy and a true democracy, although I would be a fervent nationalist. I would hang posters of Mossadeq, Chavez, and Marx in my bedroom and engage in passionate discussion about American imperialism while listening to the Ramones and I would wonder why this confuses so many people. I would respect the United States and its cultural freedoms as I perceive them. If I was an Iranian I would wonder why America, a nation founded on revolution, has not yet had another, for it is long overdue. If I was an Iranian I would wonder why so much of the world seems to be asleep in the presence of such great injustice. If I was an Iranian I would want others to hear my voice, I would want others to know I too am a citizen engaged with the world like so many others. If I wan an Iranian I would be more American than most Americans, for I would fight for my rights and not allow them to be revoked and do nothing. But instead, I am an American.

If I was an Iranian
By Sianna Plavin

What must be infuriating to Iranians, are the people like "me", educated college students who walk around talking about how the actions of our government are appalling and how we should try our best to understand other cultures and countries through dialogue. We say these things, yet we remain so passive. As the war in Iraq trudged on, all over I heard people announcing that "we should pull out, the Iraqi people just want peace—they don't want us there." So often, even when we are trying to be sympathetic to our "enemies" we assume what is best for them without the roots of knowledge to support it. I am just as guilty of this, of saying that we must understand what our country is doing and do something about it but feel too helpless to act. How odd, to feel helpless while living in one of the most powerful countries in the world. From where I stand in my knowledge of Iran as a country and a culture—from my tiny drop of understanding, I feel as though I can safely say that this is not a problem Iranian students have faced. If I was Iranian I would not understand how my equivalent generation in the land of the free and the brave can have so much power and yet do so little to use it for what they believe in. How can educated American students be so submissive to a government they don't want, to a government that commits atrocities in their name? I don't know what it would be like to be an Iranian. I don't know what it is like to walk in the streets of Tehran. I don't know what it is like to think of myself as part of a people whose history goes back thousands of years, to feel connected to these people, to feel that they are alive and relevant to my life. I don't know these things, and I am only beginning to wrap my mind around them. What I do know is that I feel a responsibility to understand, and to approach this understanding with the knowledge that the moment I think I have understood, there are always ten more things to learn.

If I was an Iranian
By Aliza Land

As an American, I often find it difficult to step into other people's shoes. Sometimes I have to take a step back and look at the part of me that has been oppressed in the past in order to understand the other. I find it difficult to detach myself from what I am reading and often see parts of my own history and the history of my people in what I am reading. I draw connections between my history and the history and collective conscience of my people (the Jewish people) and our long history of oppression and discrimination in order to understand that of the Iranians and thus my reaction and emotions surrounding what we have learned come from that place in me. If I was an Iranian I would be pissed off. For my whole life, and my parents' whole lives and the lives of those of the generations before them, we have been fighting for the freedom to live our lives how we want to live our lives—in a way that is meaningful to us and embodies our values. And yet every time we manage to get our country, our land and our resources to ourselves, something gets in the way, whether it is-by war, a coup or being declared "evil". If I was an Iranian I would feel frustrated. Used for my country's resources. Frustrated because my way of life and my traditions are not understood by outsiders, and rather than try to understand us they try to impose their "better" way of life on us. Why are Iranians not allowed to transform their society on their own without outside intervention? Comment

This article is part of a collaborative work by authors above in "Iran: from Empire to Modernity" Class taught by Elham Atashi.


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