Monday, June 29, 2009

An Essay by My Iranian Friend

A supporter of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi protests June 16, 2009 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Images

Fourteen years ago my friend from Iran sought religious asylum in the United States. Now he is attending college and working toward his degree. As the celebration of our Independence Day approaches, I want to share with you parts of my friend’s essay that he wrote for a recent assignment in his English class. May we never take our freedom for granted. May we be diligent in protecting it! Then may we be willing to help others gain their freedom as well.

The Election in Iran

The bus stopped in front of me. “Do you want to get in?” the driver asked. That’s when I realized I was finally free.

Three years earlier in 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed and Khomeini rose to power. After that anyone suspected of anti-government viewpoints was arrested, thrown into jail, interrogated endlessly and tortured. I was one of the many young men and women who were arrested and thrown into Evin. It was the only political prison in Iran at that time. After Khomeini seized power, hundreds more political prisons like Evin were built. Anyone daring to express anti-Khomeini views was arrested and put into prison. Evin became a living hell that I endured for one entire year. But now I was free! Or was I?

My life would never be the same. For three months I suffered a deep depression. It took a long time to become a normal person. But it was a ‘new’ normal. I was no longer the free young man I had once been. In all my records I was a marked man—a criminal. A stain was against my name simply because I held a different viewpoint than the new government. Yes, I was free! But I soon realized that I was not really free! My new ‘prison walls’ were the borders of Iran and I couldn’t leave.

Because of the actions of Iran’s new government, all Iranians were labeled as terrorists by the rest of the world. We weren’t, but other countries were fearful and would no longer give Iranians a visa. Even though I could still walk freely between Iran’s borders, I was never-the-less a political prisoner within my own country.

In order to survive I had to learn self-censorship—not ‘seeing’ what I really saw; not ‘hearing’ what I really heard and crafting my words very carefully when I spoke to anyone. If only there was someone who could be my ‘voice’ to the rest of the world. Someone who could understand and help me and the millions of my fellow countrymen break the political chains that bound us.

Finally I was able to escape my ‘prison’ (my country) fourteen years ago and I came to the United States of America. Being accepted into the ‘land of the free’ and given the privilege of becoming a U.S. citizen gave me my first and sweetest taste of real freedom.

I am free now and this freedom is priceless! However, the recent political events taking place in Iran, remind me of my days of imprisonment. On June 12, 2009, over forty million Iranians cast their ballots to elect their tenth president. It was predicted that the current president, who for the past four years has harassed other nations, would lose to his main opponent—a reformer who wants and campaigned for change. Soon, this hope faded away and the government-run broadcasting agency announced the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner of the election with 63% of the votes. Then the ‘supreme leader,’ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, confirmed at a Friday prayer and political meeting that Ahmadinejad was indeed the winner.

The Iranian people reacted with major protests and riots. Now the government is using batons, tear gas, and sniper shooting to quell and quiet the people. But the people are holding up signs saying, “Where is my vote?” and the protests are growing. At night the people with new boldness are crying out from their rooftops, “Allah O Akbar!” (God is great.) This is their way of declaring their unity with each other during their protest against the present dictator government.

The people want change. It is hard to believe that this election was done in a democratic way. Many believe this was an announcement of a ‘selection’ and not a true election. In the past several weeks, millions of people rallied in the streets in silence seeking justice and freedom from their prison within country-wide walls. At least eight individuals have been killed; four of whom were university students. University professors have resigned and joined the sit-in by students at Tehran University. They are standing in solidarity with the crowd who feels their votes and opinions were not considered legitimate.

The ‘supreme leader,’ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has taken sides against the opposition groups by calling them “enemies” of Iran who deserve imprisonment! He says it is the “cruel” Western governments who are really behind the scene of the recent reactions to the election. He believes that the Western Media are agents of the Western Empires indoctrinating the world with false pictures of Islamic Iran.

Many international broadcasting agencies were invited to cover the presidential election. They were granted nine-day visas which would allow them to cover both the election and post election events. The day after the election, many cell phone recorded movies showed members of the revolutionary guard opening fire on people--killing several including a pregnant woman. This is not what Iran’s dictator government wants the world to see and the members in the international media were suddenly confined to their hotels until they left the country.

Now there are no international reporters to echo the voices of the voiceless Iranians to the world. But despite phones being controlled, and internet access being limited and filtered, many smart Iranian people are finding ways to allow the world to hear their cries. Even though a few international reporters were silenced, millions of amateur journalists have evolved to cover the events, but they are still bound by the chains of the present regime.

Just as the doors of a jail can only be opened from the outside, so too, must the doors of Iran be opened by the ‘outside world.’ Now that the world can hear and witness what’s happening in Iran, it is our turn to act on behalf of the seventy-two million ‘prisoners’ of that country. Iran’s citizens have found ways to project their voices against their oppressors, but they are powerless to open their own door to freedom. Now it is the responsibility of the free world to open it for them.


  1. I wish my boys understood what a privelege it is to be growing up in America, how lucky they are to be able to walk down a sidewalk without fear for thier lives. Thank you for this post, it is in good timing too, since political granny seems to be cavorting with a six foot mouse wearing pants. You have picked up the baton for her!

  2. Thank you for this guest post. Very compelling and always a good reminder not to judge a people by their leader. I certainly do not want to be judged by ours.

    Hello again, BTW! Been gone for a bit but I'm back and raving again. :)

  3. What a wonderful essay you have shared with us. It's hard to imagine living life not at all free in thought or action. Our country is so wonderful and no more better day than to remember this on the 4th.
    What a fantastic writer your friend is and how compelling an essay.
    Thank you again.