Dialogue among ourselves
An email to Mohammad Khatami
By Roozbeh Shirazi
February 23, 2000
Dear President Khatami,
Salam. Let me first begin by congratulating you on the success of the
recent Majlis elections. The results we have recieved in the U.S. warm
our hearts. I personally see it as a huge step forward in moving Iran towards
a democracy and making it more accesible to the world. I hope that under
your leadership, Iran continues to step forward, and that you are indeed
the reformer and open-minded person the media has made you out to be.
I write you tonight because I have a very strong dream. This dream of
mine is to one day visit my motherland, Iran. I have never been there and
my parents have not gone back for 25 years now.
"Why?", you might ask.
The reasons are extremely complex. A lot of it has to do with the history
of my parents, who came to the U.S. in 1975 to study. Also, a lot of it
has to do with your government. The policies towards expatriates is very
vague and makes many Iranians here feel unsafe, especially those with a
political history. My parents were politically active both BEFORE the revolution
and after. In the early 1980's, they had their passports seized by the
Islamic Republic because of their personal politics. As a result, they
remained in the U.S. and became American citizens.
In the 25 years that my parents have been here, both of my grandfathers
passed away, and my grandmother recently passed away in November. My parents
never got to go home to say goodbye because of the policies in place at
the time. My father has not seen his brothers and sisters for 25 years
now, and there is a whole family I only know through the telephone.
I have guarded and fought and struggled to maintain my culture here
in the U.S. Many times, it has caused me problems, but I have always been
proud to be Iranian, spoken Farsi at home, and tried to learn as much as
I could about Iran's history. You must know that being an Iranian in the
U.S. was a very difficult experience that most in Iran might not realize.
As a result, many gave up, and did not hold on to the past, and began new
lives and forgot their old ones. But I am not one of those people.
I am 21 years old and I long to go to Iran. I want to see everything
that is happening and meet my family face to face. Mostly, I want for my
parents to be able to go home. I want to walk the streets where my mother
and father grew up. I want to see the house where my grandfather lived
and meet my cousins. I want a life that politics has denied me through
no fault of my own.
But until there is some sort of guarantee, some promise and measure
of protection, I don't feel I am able to realize my dream. I am writing
you tonight to ask you a question: "Can you guarantee our safety?
Will you propose a bill that will grant a pardon or amnesty to those whose
politics differed from that of the Islamic regime but now only wish to
see their families without fear of punishment?" If you can do that,
then I would put a lot of faith in you and your government.
There are over one million Iranians living abroad, Mr. President. Most
of these people are highly educated, affluent and influential. In short,
if the climate was right to come back, many Iranians abroad represent a
potential force for Iran. I feel it would be best that your program of
"dialogue of civilizations" first started within our own, fractured
civilization. Iranians abroad and Iranians in Iran need dialogue, and we
need access to Iran in order to help it. For us to be able to have such
a dialogue, we need to move beyond our past, and forgive each other for
the grievances that we have against each other. Step towards us, and we
will take two steps towards you.
Again, I hope that your new Majles allows you to pursue your programs
more effectively, and that you recieve the support that you need to move
forward. I doubt that you wil recieve this message, but I truly hope that
you do. To hear back from you would be incredible.
Thank you for your time and good luck in the future,