May 7, 2010

Persian Pride

I was born in Tehran, Iran, and lived there with my family until I was roughly 6 yrs old before the situation dramatically and violently changed (politically) in the country causing us to have to leave due to the imminent danger and risks posed to our lives by the circumstances.

Europe became our home away from home until we finally chose to settle in New York City during the height of the hostage crisis of the 1980's. Looking back, I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to survive in a New York City public school at a time when I received tremendous heat on a daily basis from my young American peers for being Iranian. I think the experience shaped certain aspects of my personality in many ways.

Growing up, I became a rebellious teenager trying to do everything in my power to distance myself from my culture, the Persian diaspora community here in the US, etc. In fact, I spent many years pretending to be from a completely non-Iranian culture (i.e., Italian) when asked where I was from, simply to avoid the American societal stigma toward Iranians. I really just wanted to be a cool American teenager like all of the kids I went to school with and so those years were full of constant conflict between the culture and values of my parents with those of my newly adopted country.

I'm an adult now (and an American citizen) and some 30 years have gone by without having set foot on Iranian soil, literally since the day my family left. I've become older and wiser and have done a better job of reconciling the two cultures, picking and choosing what I like best about each one and incorporating those qualities into my own personal aesthetic. I've traveled the world and I've built a pretty amazing life for myself but the one thing that I find myself really yearning for is to be able to connect with my true heritage by visiting the land where I was born. It's taken me a long time to get to this point given the diametrically opposite point of view I held as a teenager, but I'm intensely proud of being Persian, from Iran, whatever you want to call it.

The Persian culture is so diverse in its history, its richness and its beauty. Persian people are some of the warmest, most loving and hospitable people you will ever encounter. At the same time, they are strong, resilient, artistic, creative, intelligent, hard-working, tenacious-they are survivors. To be Persian is to have nothing at all to do with the headlines and stories you see on the evening news or in the media-what you see there is something entirely un-Persian.

I don't know when I'll be able to visit Iran again such that I can be free and completely unencumbered by the politics, dogma, and radical fanaticism which are imposed daily upon the population by the cruel and evil government. My greatest wish (on my personal bucket list) is to visit the site of the ruins of Persepolis before I die, to capture it on film with my camera, to put my own artistic stamp on this place which symbolizes the greatness and strength of the Persian Empire, not to mention the artistic and architectural genius of the Persian culture.

Up until now, the closest I've been able to get to Persepolis is Paris. The Musee du Louvre houses an incredible amount of art, artifacts and architecture from the Persian Empire spanning several periods. Having had a chance to see the Persian art and architecture at the Louvre has only whetted my appetite for the opportunity to see the real thing. I've already waited 30 years; I hope I don't have to wait another 30 years but I'm willing to wait as long as necessary. My experience has taught me that things come full circle in life and so I'm clinging to my belief that one day I will have my chance to carry out my wish.

Whether now or in the future, whether through words or through images, I strive to make it abundantly clear that I'm Persian and I'm proud.


  1. Dear friend. I have visited your wonderful country four times, and each time has been for all summer long vacations (10-12 weeks). The last two times I travelled there alone with my four children and we all had a great and wonderful time. We visited my husbands' relatives. Each time we have gone to Iran, there has always been bad news in the media either about the government, political or religious demonstrations and even war. But our desire to see our loved ones, and the exposure we would have to this wonderful and great culture cannot be replaceable, and we would not allow our fear to stop us from enjoying this great experience. Every time we go to Iran we also have had several mini-vacations while we are there.
    We have been in Teheran of course, and my husbands city of Kerman, but we have also visited Mashad, Hamadan, Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan, Chalooz, Shomal, Astara, Ardebil, Kish, not forgetting to mention Baam, that summer just before that terrible earthquake, many small villages like Jiroft, Qaital-arab, several Koopa'yiehs and Root-junes,and so many Bagh's right outside the city. I visited all these but my favorite of all these travels was my visit to Persepolis (near Shiraz) We actually got to walk up those long and high stairs to get to the top where the palaces were. I saddly saw the remains left after the destruction by Alexander the Great, We got to touch the very thick marble walls and windows that have the marble so shinny that you could see the reflection on the opposite (mirror-like). We stood next to some of the walls with sculptured kings that represented them bringing presents to Dariush (King of Kings) for Now-rooz, We walked up to the place where Zorotarians used to have the place for thier ritual fire. We got to see from above the underground tunnels where fresh water went through. We have travelled by all means (car,plane, train bus) and all these trips have been wonderful and NOT ONCE were we ever bothered by soldiers, police or anybody.
    YOU SAID IT RIGHT! Persian people are some of the warmest, strong and most loving people that I have ever met; not forgetting how kind, helpful and giving they are.
    I hope you do plan to visit Iran. Do not plan to go until government or radical fanaticism has changed because it may never happen. You will continue to miss out on so many great and wonderful experiences and you will always regret not being audacious enough to be fearless and to enjoy your home country. You said it also right Headline News and Stories you see or read about have nothing to do with what real Iranian people are and what their culture is. By the way, I am from Mexico, I married a great Iranian man. I live in U.S. I love your culture, your heritage, your rich and captivating history but most of all your people. :)

  2. Estela,

    Gracias por compartir su comentario. Pienso que la cultura Mexicana es muy rica tambien y me gusta mucho la gente carinosa del mundo hispanoamericano.
    Muchas gracias por sus pensamientos lindos.



Farhang (Culture)