May 18, 2024

Iranian People Have Long Been Demonised

As I write this piece, I’m thinking of the hundreds of people — young and old — who’ve been injured and killed in the ongoing and unprecedented protests in Iran, as well as the thousands who remain in detention nationwide.

I can’t help but think of the many detained journalists, including Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi of Iran’s Shargh Daily newspaper, who remain in prison — the two young female journalists without whom the world may have never found out about Mahsa Jina Amini and the aftermath of her tragic death.

I can’t help but think of Ghazal Ranjkesh, a glowing, 21-year-old, fashion-loving law student who, after a long day of studies and work, lost her right eye to a rubber bullet whilst shielding her mother during the protests in Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

I can’t help but think of nine-year-old Kian Pirfalak — a science and engineering enthusiast — who was shot killed in his family car in the southwest province of Khuzestan and is believed to be among the youngest casualties of the Iranian government’s crackdown against peaceful protestors.

I can’t help but think of Mina Jandaghi, a young psychologist, children’s rights activist, and former board member of The Society for Protecting the Rights of the Children (a Tehran-based NGO), who along with dozens of other children’s rights activists and social workers has been detained for weeks.

Tragically, this list, their names, and their stories can go on.

These people are my sisters and brothers— Iranians whose hopes and dreams, fears and aspirations are no different than that of millions of others worldwide. Except theirs is controlled by the oppressive policies of their government.

Since the beginning of the anti-government protests in September — much of which continues to be inspired and led by a new generation of fearless Iranian women — I’ve been once again reminiscing over my life in Tehran— my birthplace that I one day dream to return to with my Swedish husband and children (whenever they come to this world) — all in hopes of showing them the greatness of our land, the richness of our culture, the beauty of our country; but most importantly, the tenacity, brilliance, and courage of its people.

I grew up with dual citizenship and therefore had the opportunity to complete high school in the United States and go to college thereafter. Still, even after moving to the US in my late teens, I would go back and forth to Iran for summer holidays and spend time with my many friends and father (a well-respected physician), who remained in Tehran until his death in 2011.

Thus, I was raised between two estranged worlds, and I often saw myself wanting to connect through all that its people share in common with one another.

Yet, fitting into the mould and dodging the ignorant stereotypes against Iran and Iranians was often a source of anxiety that perhaps inspired me to channel my anger into action and, more than ever, become a “citizen ambassador” of a nation and culture so misrepresented and misunderstood by the western world –something that I so wish more Iranians in the diaspora did over the years; something that I so wish people — not just Iranians— but every minority, ethnic community, and immigrant does to tell their own story and write their own narrative.

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