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Dialogue among ourselves
An email to Mohammad Khatami

By Roozbeh Shirazi
February 23, 2000
The Iranian

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.

Mr. President,

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.

President Khatami,

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.

President Khatami,

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,


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