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Buried ashes
Email to an old classmate

By Sheema Kalbasi
June 15, 2000
The Iranian

Listen again. One Evening at the close of Ramadan,
........ere the better Moon arose,
In that old potter's shop I stood alone,
........with the clay Population round in rows ........
-- Omar Khayyam

Maryam and I were classmates in Iran. She and her parents had lived abroad for years and after the revolution they left for the U.S. She was an Iranian-American. But Americans saw her as an Iranian. And because of the attack on the American embassy in Tehran and the hostage crisis, Iranians were hated.

Maryam's family like many other Iranians were under pressure and life had become so difficult that they decided to leave America. The green-white-and-red flag welcomed them back but it wasn't long before her parents realized that Islamic revolutionary Iran wasn't the ideal place for raising children. Iran had become just another kind of dictatorship. So they decided to go back to the U.S. and pretended to be Italians.

Maryam and I kept writing each other. Years went by and my great grandmother -- my little green-eyed Bibi-jun -- passed away. I went to Iran to pay my respects. Maryam and I had always thought about our school years in Iran and about going back to visit our past. When I got back from my trip I sent her this email to let her know how people in Iran were calibrating the new millennium.

Dear Maryam,

I went to Iran recently to see our homeland after years in self-inflicted exile. I walked to the end of the silk road of my memories and I wept.

With pain and sorrow I saw a dreadful, poverty-stricken, dark Iran on the eve of the new millennium. My childhood dream of the year 2000, for the most part, looked something like rocket-shaped cars, lunar colonies, and electric toothbrushes! It was disillusioning to find Tehran 2000 as a city of beggars, of barefoot children with cheeks of tan and dust, of the dark-red sun trying to breathe through the heavy dark clouds of municipal mismanagement.

Iran 2000 is an economy based on subsidies, to fill people's bellies just enough so they can survive. Survive to see more of the misery. Survive to receive token dowries and pastries for the blood of their raped virgins in the prisons of oppression. Survive to see fellow human beings buried in a hole up to their chests, stoned to death by a bloodthirsty mob of howling beasts. Survive to find that questioning, yes even questioning this bloodbath, is punishable by death.

So much for our economy. So much for our individual and intellectual freedom. So much for justice, and above all so much for our human dignity. In the end, here's a great quote from Ali, the first of the twelve imams: ''Consenting to the deeds of a group of people is the same as being one of them." You will have no excuse to support Satan in the face of God...

Take care and God bless all of us.

Listen again. One Evening at the close of Ramadan,
........ere the better Moon arose,
In that old potter's shop I stood alone...

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Comment to the writer Sheema Kalbasi


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