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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


February 15, 2000

Iranian outside Iran

In response to Mr. Vaezi letter, "We are American":

let me start by saying that you are certainly entitled to your views, and you have the right to raise your children anyway you see fit. You may have arrived in this country as a teenager or adult twenty- two years ago.

I, however, was born on American soil twenty-two years ago. I never lived in Iran, and I have not visited in almost ten years. Nevertheless, like Maryam Hosseini ["American? Yeah right"], if someone on the street were to ask me where I was from, I would proudly say Iran. While having grown up in this country may have given me a certain viewpoint, I do not consider myself an "Iranian-American." I am an Iranian living outside my homeland.

I think you made a good point when you said that there is a lot of misery in Iran, and that those of us who visit should not equate a few weeks or months of great times with the harsh realities of life in our country. However, despite the fact that the US is "the land of the free", et cetera, great misery, poverty, and inequalities exist in American society as well.

The richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor live in your beloved America. Do these realities make you, who say you are American, or your children, who you believe should not be "brainwashed" into believing they are Iranian, love your America any less? Even with its problems, misery, poverty, inequality, non-democracy, and every other negative thing one could come up with to describe Iran today, I am still proud to be an un-hyphenated Iranian who happens to live abroad; I am willing to let Americans, Iranians, employers, professors, classmates, and anyone else know it. Your country America is supposed to be free; therefore, I am free to be Iranian and free to be proud of it despite what others may think about me or my country.

Being isolated from the general American population is a personal choice. If assimilating into the general American "melting pot" means giving up my identity as Iranian, I would prefer to be isolated from the general American population. Every ethnicity that has assimilated as a collective in this country has eventually lost its language, culture, and a sense of who it really is. Why should we as Iranians follow suit? I say let us be smarter than that.

I would like to see first- and second-generation Iranian parents telling their children born in America that they have elements of both cultures within. Allow the children to choose their own path concerning their identity. We don't have to brainwash them into thinking they are Iranian or American. Give them options and they will choose the path that is right for them.

Maryam Hosseini mentioned "paludeh" and "meydan" in her article when she described her longing for her homeland. These things may appear to be trivial, and compared with the lines for meat and eggs, frightfully devalued currency, and people being humiliated in the streets, they are trivial matters. However, these are "places of memory." Walking around, for example, in Meydan Vanak on a hot summer day, eating a paludeh with family or friends makes a special memory, even for someone who may have only ever been a tourist in their own land. Those are the things we connect with our homeland, and for many of us, our identity as Iranians or Iranian-Americans starts with these "places of memory."

I ask all compatriots, young and old, who ever lived in Iran, to share your experiences with those of us who did not, and help us understand our language, our culture, our heritage, and ultimately, ourselves.

Saba Ghadrboland


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