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Everything Iranians do, other Iranians take personally

August 13, 2002
The Iranian

I remember a while back I was sitting at the computer lab at my university when I was distracted by a conversation going on in front of me. I looked up and I saw this fairly beautiful girl who was talking to some American guy and they were flirting a lot.

As I was about to turn my attention back to my computer, it struck me that perhaps that girl is Iranian. I started staring at the two talking. All of a sudden I started thinking, "Uh oh, the Iranian girl is talking to an American guy AND she's flirting; who is she? Khejaalat nemeekeshe!"

After about three minutes I decided she was not Iranian and I stopped caring about their conversation and went back to my work. And then it struck me, What do I care even if she was Iranian? I don't even know the girl. The only reason I stopped caring was because I decided she probably wasn't Iranian.

My feelings in those few minutes were much more than the morality of Iranian girls. I came to realize Iranians have a tendency to control each other. Every time I noticed an Iranian I became incredibly nosey and very curious about who that person was, their occupation and social standing.

Later I learned IT WASN'T JUST ME! When I am out with friends all of a sudden one of them would say, "Mesenke Irani hastan"; and then we would try to listen in on their conversations and see who they are. We even throw out some Farsi and see if they react - and then they notice that we are Iranian and they would try to listen to what we were talking about. So then I started thinking back to past experiences and situations.

I remember my visit to LA and walking down Westwood. Every single time an Iranian passed by, they would just stare into your face as if they really had something against you. But it was different on the East coast where Iranians at least smile when they notice each other -- most of the time.

Then I remembered my few months in New York City. I was in a store in Manhattan and I noticed the radio was tuned into an Iranian station and I reflexively and excitedly looked at the owner and said "Shomaa Irani hastid?" She was not too thrilled. She started acting defensive and asked me when and how I got to America. She said she was Jewish-Iranian and had been in America since before the revolution.

She was not open and warm. I'm guessing it was because she realized I am a Muslim-Iranian and that I had recently visited Iran. The question is why would that be a problem? We don't know Iranians we see in the street; we don't know what kind of people they are or where they have been or what they do; we are all different. So why do we become so controlling and possessive of each other?

This is the social problem of Iran: the unwillingness to allow people to be who they are and what they believe; and our government reflects that. And if you are sitting there complaining about the IRI oppressing people's choice, I am almost certain that as soon as you see an Iranian with a roosari you would call them hezbollahi. DON'T you? So really, you are just like the rest.

The reason I mention the roosari is because of my own desire to wear a hejab. As a religious Muslim, I have decided that the hejab is something I believe in. It's right for ME. Having grown up in America for much of my life, I'm used to a society that does not interfere much with what individuals decide for themselves (just look at John Walker, his parents paid his way to join the Taliban; they never interfered with his beliefs).

I guess I really didn't think of the numerous implications wearing the hejab has for Iranians. And one by one I had to deal with them because of my non-religious parents. And of course I also had to deal with the general perception towards the hejab because those in Iran who wear it full-time, are hezbollahi!

Recently I was talking to an Iranian woman who is the wife of a mullah living in America. She was describing her experiences after the revolution when they moved abroad. They are not supporters of Iran's government but they are chadori. She was at a store in a European country and some Iranians started threatening her because she was wearing a chador. They assumed she was connected with the Iranian government.

She described how terrified she was and how she feared for her life. And even still today, outside she only wears a roosari and manteau but in an incident where some Iranian women over heard her and her friend talking Farsi they started to curse at them and call them 'hezbollahi'. "

Then I suppose if Iran becomes a "democracy", the people who wear the hejab by choice will be shunned as IRI supporters and probably terrorized in the streets and homes - this is the Iranian society that I have come to know well.

Everything Iranians do, other Iranians take personally. They think they are right and everyone else is wrong. Iranians have various ideas about what the government should be and and whatever that is, the rest is rejected as wrong. Muslim Iranians interpret the Qur'ran in different ways and set aside those with other interpretations. Not every single Iranian is like this (I have met every kind of Iranian you can imagine), but I speak about the majority.

Where does real reform begin? President Khatami can't deliver if we don't begin to reform ourselves. Iranians will never be satisfied with anything since they cannot learn to accept each other as individuals. I think if Iran ever sees an American-type democracy, Iranians would start killing each other in the streets. Let's just say America won't have to bomb Iran; we'll do the job.

I love all of you and being Iranian really is the best. I plan to move back next year, enshallah, despite worries about hard times. But please give me a break -- give each other a break. I have been trying hard not to care what any Iranian is doing just because they are Iranian. Try to be more respectful and open minded toward each other.

For instance, when you see me with my roosari, don't automatically think I am an FOB who's forced to wear the hejab by a "hezbollahi" husband. Instead when you see an Iranian, practice this phrase: "She/he has her/his own beliefs and I do not know a thing about them. I'm just going to smile and say 'Salaam' to my hamvatan and hope to get a warm greeting back. If not, well then they can just... "

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