Thursday, January 25, 2007


I find it interesting that I was born and raised during the Iran-Iraq War which brought eight years of horror, terror and tragedy for Iranians and Iraqis. The war ended and all that remained of it was the name of thousands of martyrs. Now in 2007, during these terrifying days of the US War in Iraq, I live in the United States. In another words I arrived in this world during a war with Iraq and I became an adult during yet another war in Iraq. Having grown up in Iran and with many slogans and songs about the Iran-Iraq War and against Saddam Hussein, I always considered Iraq, the enemy of Iran. And later on in the US, I kept on hearing about Iraq and Saddam Hussein as threats to the US. In a way, Iraq has always been considered the enemy.
Now, however, things have changed in my mind. I no longer care about political facts about Iraq, its contemporary history, its views on Iran and etc. I do not care whether Iraq is in a war with Iran, the US or Mars. Whenever I think about Iraq, all that conquers my mind is the life of young Iraqi women. I could only think about young Iraqi women’s faces, their pain, their eyes, their desires, burdens, hopes, dreams, their anger and a million other things that they have to confront everyday and every night of their lives. I wish I could somehow tell young Iraqi women that soon there will be a day when the world will have to hear all of their stories, that their experiences and their stories matter for the human race, that they must survive, that they are beautiful, that they are strong and that their existence matters.


I wake up in the morning. The TV is on. The morning news is all about the explosions that the night before took place in Iraq. I check the news online. The first news title is about even more bloodshed in Iraq. Iraq…Baghdad…death…weapons…explosions…chaos…
I wash my face, brush my teeth, look in the mirror and put on makeup.
I see Ahlam in the background. I see myself in the mirror and then I see another face, another body, another pair of young feminine eyes in the background. We are standing side by side.
“Ahlam”, she says. We stare at each other through the mirror for a few seconds. Still looking at her, I say, “Azadeh”. She is beautiful-naturally beautiful-. She looks at me as I try to carefully draw a thin black line under my eyes. My mother calls my name, “Azadeh…Azadeh…your tea is getting cold”. I ignore her words. Ahlam says, “Your mother is calling you”. She continues, “My mother died yesterday, so did my father, my sister and my little brother”. And I do not hear the rest. I make myself deaf to her story. I look back in the mirror. I see her big eyes that are lively and full of youth and of anger. Her lips are still moving. Ahlam is talking, telling me of her past, of her family members who as of yesterday are non-existing; of the pain in her wound…I still do not hear her words. I am deaf to her stories. They scare me. What could I do for her? She shows me her wound. I start to cry. The black line around my eyes is now scattered all over my face. She covers up the wound with her sleeve. To distract me, she points to my earrings and smiles. I say, “yeah, I know, they are pretty, aren’t they? My friend gave them to me for my birthday”. She smiles. Her smile soon changes to a frown caused by a sudden pain in her wound. She manages to bring the smile back on her lips and says, “Jan 8th, 1985, 2 am. Our date of birth. You were born in Tehran and I was born in Baghdad. We were born at the same time. We were born as enemies”. She giggles and I cry. I could hear the TV in the bathroom, “In today’s explosion in Baghdad, 100 more Iraqi civilians died”. I cover my ears with my hands. No more…No more please…I beg you…No more…

Ahlam’s wound hurts. She is in so much pain that does not even have the energy to mourn her family’s death. I am late for my class. To get to my GRE- the graduate school exam in the US- preparation class, I have to walk to the red line subway station, take the red line to Park Street, get on the green line, get off at Newton Center and walk for 5 minutes. On the way, I have to remember to get my cup of Café Late, chocolate chip muffin and mint gum and a bottle of water. My cell phone rings. I pick it up. It is my friend who is also in Boston this month. He asks me if I want to hang out with him and his friends tonight and I say, “Yes”. We decide to meet up later this evening. I am late for my class. I look in the mirror again to fix my hair. Ahlam covers her wound with her hand, smiles and says, “You will be on time. Don’t worry”. She pats my shoulder, whispers to my ear, “We are one soul in two feminine bodies” and she turns around and walks away. I yell out her name with my Persian accent, “Ahlam!” My mother says from the other room, “What did you say? Your tea is already cold. What are you doing wearing all that makeup. Are you going to a wedding?” Ahlam looks back at me and says quietly, “My family’s funeral is around the same time as your GRE class. I am late, too. I have to go back. They are waiting for me. I will be one of the few people there. I have to go”. I could now hear the analysis of today’s breaking news, “‘Today has been one of the most tragic days of this past month in Baghdad’”. I go to kiss my mom and to say bye to her. She is watching the news. They show awful pictures of today’s explosion. My mom looks at my red nose and asks me if I have cried. I remain silent and point to the news headlines. She gives me a Mona Lisa smile, hugs me and kisses me. I tell her about Ahlam. She tells me that I have to stop reading the news for a few days and that she thinks reading the news is making me sick.

I am not getting sick. Ahlam was really here. I felt her hand on my shoulder. I talked with her. She talked with me. We exchanged smiles. I saw her painful wound. We were born on the same day, in the same year, at the same time. She is like a sister to me now.
I am late. So is Ahlam. I take a sip of my tea. It is cold now. So are the bodies of Ahlams’ parents, sister and brother. I am late. So is Ahlam. My sister, Ahlam.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Golden Rule

Living in a world that is literally infatuated with wars, all kinds of discriminations and violation of human rights makes the following words appealing to me:

The Golden Rule

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18

Bahai’i: “And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou chooses for thyself.” Lawh’I ‘Ibn’I ‘Dhib, “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” 30

Christianity: “ In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Mathew, 7.12

Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you do no want them to do to you.” Analects, 15.13

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata, 5:1517

Islam: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13

Jainism: “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.” Sutrakritanga, 1.11.33

Judaism, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole of the Torah; all the rest of it is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat, 31a

Native American: “Respect for all life is the foundation.” The Great Law of Peace

Sikhism: “Treat others as though wouldst be treated thyself.” Adi Granth

Taoism: “Regards your neighbor’s gain as our own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5

from: Tanenbaum Center for Interreligous Understanding

The Americanized Bead of the Family

After my finals I came to visit my mother in Boston and to stay with her for a month until my last semester begins in February. While it has been very nice to reunite with my family, it has also been kind of hard to perceive myself through their eyes. As many of you know my mother is in exile and lives in Boston these days, my father is under loose house arrest in Tehran and my older sister, Lily, lives in Toronto. Although we have been far away from each other over the past 5 years-some of the hardest years of our lives mainly due to political reasons that in a way destroyed the nuclear of my family in Tehran- we all have somehow managed to stay in close touch. We talk a few times a day on the phone and my mom, my sister and I try to have reunions once in a while.

Lately, however, it seems that I am becoming the ‘foreigner’, the ‘stranger’ of this family. They often call me ‘The American’ whenever they want to tease me or complain about me. They think that I have become secretive and detached from them. They think that I do not want to interact with them. It is often ‘them’ and ‘me’. It seems as though there is bold line drawn in between us: their world & my world!

They say that even though we all speak Farsi, they do not necessarily understand the core of whatever I tell them. And they claim that I do not understand them and their culture.

I, the Americanized, find their argument to be a rather unfair claim. I, the Americanized, too, have lived their lives in Iran. I, the Americanized, too, consider myself Iranian. I, too, belong to Iran and the Persian culture. And I, the Americanized, do no think that they have the right to draw such boundaries in between me and them. It is unfortunate that even in our era, we still have to restrict ourselves to one way of expressing ourselves, to the rules of one culture and to consider those who have different ways of doing things, ‘strangers’ in our crowds.

I, the Americanized, wish my family could understand that I still love them, that I still care about them, that I still want to be a part of this family. I, the Americanized, wish they could see me beyond my cultural changes and to see that I am still the same person with the same feelings, desires and affections. I wish, the Americanized, was not becoming my nickname in my family. I wish they knew how strongly I feel about being Iranian and being a member of the Iranian diaspora here in the US.

Is this really our destiny to have to view each other through the labyrinth of cultures that at some point, it seems, become serious obstacles for interactions and exchange of feelings rather than mediums for human relations?

I wish my family could still see the Azadeh that has always loved them and that still loves them dearly and wants to be a part of their unity!

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