Land of the Free

Photo essay: Journey to the land of my American roots in Weiser, Idaho

by Jahanshah Javid
On the way to Washington DC, I had to go and check out the land of my American ancestors. I was 11 when my mother's mother, Helen Jeffreys, died in 1973. I remember her as kind, gentle soul. And of course I loved her for giving me my first camera :) She was buried in Tus -- thousands of miles away from her birthplace: Weiser, Idaho. Listen to her story in her own words. Also check out photo essay on "Liberty Street". Here's my mother's article "Motherland" after she visited Weiser and my cousin who wrote about Mount Helen, named by local Bakhtiaris in her honor in central Iran. My aunt Laleh Bakhtiar has written all the historic family details in "Helen of Tus".

* Photo essays in this series: Part 1: "Land of the Free"; Part 2: "Liberty Street"; Part 3: "Wild Wild West"; Part 4: "Cowboys & Iranians"; Part 5: "Prisoners of Persia" Part 6: "Taking Jesus by the Horns" Part 7: "Love of Liberty".


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Great post. Made me think about hollywood.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

I remember watching a video called... not without my daughter.. and how it was presented as a true story, even though the real life characters refuted it.

Hollywoods movies do work in harmony with US National Policies (that are undeclared).

Seeing this post made me realize if it weren't for this internet, the truth would never see the day of light.

Not surprising the US won't be making a movie of this anytime soon... as long as their neo-colonial agenda is pursued with such precision.  This story would show the friendship, love and understanding between peoples not serve the national agenda of funding a clash.

Creating a clash of civilizations was such a smart idea in a colonialism sense, even though it is clear it will lead to a disappointing outcome in years to come.

shahireh sharif

Thanks for sharing

by shahireh sharif on

Helen's story was very interesting 



Masoud Kazemzadeh


by Masoud Kazemzadeh on

JJ jaan,

Enjoyed the photos and your commentary.

Thank you,



For many people the

by comments on

For many people the chances of becoming a prostitute is the same as the chance of sleeping with a prostitute, which never happens.

Anahid Hojjati

hamsadeh, could you please clarify?

by Anahid Hojjati on


I was just reading your last comment. You noted:"

on a side note, i find it interesting that your honest description of the experience you had in the brothel didn't get a rise from resident feminists who're ready to call "all" men (or at least iranian men) misogynist whoremongers.  their silence is deafening.  that goes to show that all prostitutes are not in the buisness of exchanging sex for money. "

Could you clarify your last couple sentences? Is this an insult? Or I am misundestanding it. As far as women not commenting on JJ's brothel experience, may be people have better things to do than discussing someone's private life. There were other aspects to photo essay that were more interesting such as native Indians. Also I think part of the reason might have to do with location. Mustang Ranch is a very famous place. Some Iranians like to visit all these famous places so may be some readers thought JJ's visit was like that too. In any case, what did you mean by your comment?


JJ Story...

by comments on

I think the way that JJ portrayed the story is a typical and the most common approach of people (male/female and MALE/FEMALE) to brothels.

1) I call it dominant-deficient customers who seek help and get temporary treatment through paying for a sex.

2) At the end of their service they realize that's not what they wanted, and they just wanted to talk with someone in confidence.

I personaly think if there is a strong mood change or guilt after ejaculation/orgasm, there should be something to worry about one's mental health.

hamsade ghadimi


by hamsade ghadimi on

jj, i enjoyed your photo essay.  i didn't click on all the links and will when i have more time.  it seems that your grandmother had a very interesting life. the scenery in the northern states can be breathtaking.  some of these places seem not to have changed much through time and i can only imagine the feelings that you expereinced to know how your ancestors lived.

on a side note, i find it interesting that your honest description of the experience you had in the brothel didn't get a rise from resident feminists who're ready to call "all" men (or at least iranian men) misogynist whoremongers.  their silence is deafening.  that goes to show that all prostitutes are not in the buisness of exchanging sex for money.


Very interesting

by pedramx on

Very interesting and smart presentation... really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing JJ.


One of your better essays

by Sid Sarshar on

Ham fall ham tamasha. 

Neda Ansari

Went through the photos.

by Neda Ansari on

Went through the photos. Minus the first few - (sorry - am not used to relating things like that to family and friends), the rest were quite interesting. Your uncle, Dr. J. Bakhtiar was our neighbor in Isfahan, for a few months before he and his family moved to the U.S. I vaguely remember them. We (all the kids) skated in front of the university housing for professors before they banned it (I was the only one who kept at it until we moved out of Iran). Of course my family's related to the Bakhtiars, Rudi included, through my mom, but I don't know as much as I want to, such as whether we're related to your family. Everything was shrouded in secrecy after the revolution of '79. In fear of the kids saying something at school, families masked information – that was normal, especially for those with royal bloodlines (which I happen to have). And then later in the States we became busy with private lives and old connections dissolved. I want to know more now.

Tak Setaregan...



by comments on

I was certainly aware of that by the way that you put the words together and didn't use your writing skills.


They were not questions, just some mazze parani.


La force du soleil naissant.

by Sinibaldi on

Quand le

souffle du


l'harmonie en

un chant

je sens, dans

la mer, la voix





Thank you JJ

by Monda on

Timely photo essay and labor of love. I hope you got to see the fireworks too.


Great Day JJ!

by Faramarz on

From Mustang Ranch to the encounter with the unfriendly mustang at the ranch and finally a visit at the cemetery.

In case you didn't know, you have many, many cousins in the US and around the world. Here are 2 clips about your grandpa in case you haven't seen them. His name is also in Ellis Island, New York. You may want to pay a visit on this trip.



Esfand Aashena

Nice pictures but y r u still shaving with disposable razors??!!

by Esfand Aashena on

Disposable razors, those Gillettes you're using, can damage your skin and they're tough!  I upgraded more than a decade ago!

Stop by a CVS Pharmacy store and try one of these new Gillettes, and 2 blades come with it too.  I use each blade for one or two months and I shave 5 - 6 days/week.

They're very smooth and there is a world of difference between them and disposables.  No comparison! 

Everything is sacred


The landscape and the little

by Bunyip on

The landscape and the little towns look extremely similar to outback Australia. The only difference is that you lot drive on the wrong side of the road, and are far far more fanatically religious. Thank goodness,
Australia is still free of the desease of religion, and in my mind
freer and much more liberal than the so called "land of the free".


What a great story

by deev on

Thanks for sharing, enjoyed every photo

Nazy Kaviani

Very special...

by Nazy Kaviani on

How sweet and endearing was your voyage to your roots. The events on the way were interesting, too! I really enjoyed your taking us along with your very touching photo essay, Jahanshah. Your grandmother was a very unique woman, a source of pride to both Iranians and Americans. More than any other time in history, we need more people like her.

Thank you for sharing. Happy 4th to you, too!


Great photo essay

by jasonrobardas on

and the  journey was so captivating!

Jahanshah Javid

Not even

by Jahanshah Javid on

Hi comments... you have lots of questions. Rest assured nothing happened. No kissing no nothing. I did not touch her. And she didn't "do" anything either. I was curious and I wanted to tell a story about freedom.



by yolanda on

So, the prostitute is a Thai girl.....Mustang ranch out-sources the prostitution jobs, but still charges $3000 per intercourse!

My favorite photos are the breakfast, it looks delicious:


and the tombstone in Idaho:


the inscription says 4 MD's in the family!


The Weiser cemetery is like United Nations: I saw Latino name, Japanese name, Chinese name, Labonese name?......and other Caucasian names!

I did not know Idaho has such cultural diversity! I heard Idaho has white Supremacists!

Great photo essay!



by yolanda on

Your grandma's voice on You-tube video:


Your grandma was like Florence Nightingale!


Lucky you!

by Asghar_Massombagi on

Just listened to her recollections. What a beautiful woman!


Thanks JJ

by Raoul1955 on

For sharing with us.  :-)


Apple's business card is so beautiful.

by comments on

Some thoughts: “One of the women said hello and I said hello back BUT I passed by her and sat at the barJ”

My thought: Good for youJ “BUT” Ghorboone harchi adame khejalatie beram.


“And I wouldn’t be able to shut up about it if I did it”

My thought: Please as long as you tell us what you did and turned us on that’s okay. No worries:)


“Apple takes me back to the bar where we can talk about what I would like to do”

My thought: Please....What would you like to do that you had to explain it in advance? Please don’t brag for us manly men. :) 



My thought: leg rubbing is within a bus and public transports, not bars:)


“Can we also kiss?”

My thought: Khodeto digeh kheili loos manish ine ke man hame chiro majani mikham. Even though it was not clear to me what you wanted to kiss..., and you finally kissed? You were sooooooo unclear in here:)


“Now I am really turned on”

My though: What’s supposed to mean? The maximum is the thing stands up. That’s all.......nothing series...serious!


Wow, what a good breakfast. Can you please ask Nersi to call me? :)