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What is this image?
Almost feeling like an alien from Mars

By Sara Ch. Farhodi
July 20, 2001
The Iranian

I am a 17-year-old girl who has lived most of her life in Iran. Ever since I moved to the U.S. and started my new life here three years ago, there has always been a part of me that was always different from my American friends. I hear things about Iran every day, like, "Girls and boys do that. They drink. They have sex before marriage, and..." I just look at all of these people with so much amazement and wonder? How come I never got to hear any of these stories when I lived in Iran?

When I first moved here a feeling of not wanting to be Iranian or not wanting to speak Farsi had struck me, almost like I wanted to be fit into the rest of society. Most of the Iranians around me barely spoke Farsi. It was hard, very difficult. But now after four years of living in this country I can now finally realize that it was all for the best. As I grew older and older and became more familiarized with the American culture, the more proud I became of who I was, and where I had come from.

Since I live in a very small city, during my high school years I was always the only Persian in the whole school. Not that many people knew that much about Iran anyway -- except all the crap they had heard on TV or the pictures of chadori women they had seen in the books. It always bugged me when people asked me,"So you're from EYRAN." I would say, I am from Iran not Eyran.

My sophomore year I stepped forward to do a project on Iran in my history class and since everybody in the class knew that I was from Iran they were surprisingly all excited to listen. My project covered everything about Iran, starting from the Shah's time and the freedoms, all the way to the revolution and the evolution of Iran. Everybody was very quiet during my talk and nobody seemed to be bored. I almost felt like I was an alien talking about how we live on Mars. Funny, huh?

After I presented the project it was time for the questions. The first question was, "So do you guys live in houses, or in villages and deserts?" The question struck me hard since I used to live in a big, duplex house in one of best parts of Tehran. I had friends living in luxurious, beautiful houses and young boys driving Mercedes Benz every Thursday night, trying to pick up girls. I wondered, how could somebody possibly think we live in deserts? I explained as best as I could but I doubt they understood. The second question, "Do teenagers smoke marijuana there?" Well I had no answer to that question at that time. "I don't know," I said.

Everything about me started to change very quickly. I started to become very MOTEASEB and got simply offended by the slightest negative thing I heard about Iran. All of my friends in school knew I was Iranian and had understood my culture very well because they had seen my family, because they had eaten Persian food at my house, because they could say a few words in Farsi, and because they had experienced the joy of being Persian.

But what about the rest? How many times do I have to explain to a bunch of uneducated people that we DO NOT live like that, or that we do have rich people who live in houses better than the ones in Beverly Hills, or that we do listen to Emimen or Backstreet Boys and EST. What is this image that Western people have of Iranians?

Today I have grown so proud of who I am and proud that I had this opportunity to live in Iran and learn Persian like a real Iranian. A Persian who speaks Farsi not Finglish. I have been struck with these sorts of questions many times but there was never a doubt in my mind about whether I like being Persian. I don't feel ashamed of it. I never felt ashamed of what people think about Iran. They only trust what they see and hear without learning about the country.

I am not afraid anymore of people coming and telling me, "Hey do all the men in Iran beat up their wives, just like in 'Not without my daughter?'") but I sure DO get offended because they are judging a whole nation only by what they saw in a stupid movie.

I don't know if there are other Iranians out there who are faced with these kinds of issues. But some people are passive and just ignore them, but this is my advice for those people out there who think Iranians all wear chadors and live in deserts: pleaseeeeeeee just take a trip to Iran, and look at the way women dress up there. Then you will be ashamed of the way you think about my country.

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