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Norouz and New Problems in the World

March 19, 2017 by  

From Editorial Desk – Persian Heritage-85 – Shahrokh Ahkami

It is again spring and with this season comes the awakening of life, the trees begin to sprout, the flowers begin to bloom, the birds begin to chirp and a new beautiful Norouz begins. With the beginning of the Persian New Year we at Persian Heritage magazine celebrate the magazines birth. We now begin our 22nd year as a publication. From our Persian Heritage family, to Iranians throughout the world, we wish you a healthy , happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year. On a personal side, I want to take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my colleagues, who work tirelessly on this magazine and the subscribers. I will be forever grateful for your support over these years.
The last few weeks have been unsettling for many in the United States and the rest of the world. New concerns have risen especially for Iranians, over the possibility of war, discussions on the destruction of Iran and the rhetoric of violence. This has taken us all by surprise. There is nothing new about the turmoil in the Middle East or the conflicts between the leaders of countries such as Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The turmoil has kept the people of this region on their tip toes for a long time. With the new immigration policy proposed by the new administration of the United States additional fears have been added; a new refugee policy that temporarily bans immigrants from seven countries, Iran being one of them. This action has turned the table for Muslims! American citizens have stood up in protest against this ban. This support for Muslims within and outside of the United States was surprising and appreciated. Because of this citizen support movement and the filing of a legal claim against the order, the judicial took it under review and gave an opinion that reversed the order and lifted the ban.
The implementation of this executive order and the ban resulted in massive demonstrations by people of all faiths Moslems, Jews, Christians etc. and the general population. Courageously they voiced their opposition. The protests against the oppression of a minority was striking and beautiful and showed the souls of the people, unified and standing up for the American values of equality and human rights. This is something we have not witnessed in decades. Those who participated in the protests against the executive order knew no color, creed or religion. They simply came together in support of a discriminated minority group.
Again I and many around me were deeply moved. Their selfless fight for human equality took our breath away. Their actions reaffirmed the kindness, generosity and gentleness of the American people. It confirmed the reason for the United States leading the world. It is after all, the people, NOT the government, NOT the politicians that make a country GREAT!!
These revelations brought me back to my birthplace. I thought about the struggles the people of Iran continue to face, forty years after the revolution; a revolution they hoped would overthrow the reign of a dictator and return equality, human rights and free speech, for which they fought so hard. THEIR STUGGLES CONTINUE AND GET EVEN MORE BURDONSOME! Not only have they not been able to remotely achieve any rights, there is an increase in incarcerations of the innocent, corruption is on the rise, executions grow and Iran infamously has been placed on the list of top countries suppressing human rights. Human rights organizations continue to protest and STILL the suppression continues.
 For the past 40 years Iranians have faced cruel immigration policies for traveling to Europe and the United States. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends have gone to their graves not being able to see their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends one more time. Iranians have been vetted during these years more so then most other people applying for visas to come to the United States. Iran continues to be labeled as a state that supports terrorism and Iranians will be subject to even greater vetting and constraints.
On so many occasions I have voiced my belief and cried out against the inhumane treatment of a people who suffers under the hands of their own government and by the leaders of the so called “enemy states.” I ask WHY the innocent people, not the politicians and government officials, are the VICTIMS of the political rhetoric used by the world leaders of “so called enemy states?”
Here in the States the population has been overly influenced by a biased media and rhetoric of their politicians against the Iranian government. This bias and rhetoric voids the human aspect from the picture. We are not shown the suffering of the people in Iran under the present government, as we are shown in other countries. Over the years I have tried to explain to my friends, readers and acquaintances that the citizens of a country must be separated from the acts of their government. The majority vote, in most dictatorships, is not the true representative of the peoples’ choice. Clearly only a few handpicked voices by the regime have a voice and those who oppose those voices are silenced.
Regretfully I admit that many of my family, friends and acquaintances respond with negativity to what I call my “Iranian-ness,” which has gotten worse since Iran has been has been placed on the list of the seven most dangerous countries (labeled as supporting terrorism) selected by this and the former administration of our government. I am angered, as an American of Iranian decent, that the people in that country are labeled as potential terrorists. Can it be possible that we, the citizens of the United States, have forgotten the countries of origins of the individuals who have committed terroristic attacks on the United States and world? They include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but they are not on the list as supporting terrorism , nor are their citizens considered potential terrorists. No these country’s governments and citizens are called allies of the United States. They are not be labeled and perceived as terrorist nations. I ask the media and the world governments that IF you do not judge and label an entire government/country by an individual terroristic act by their citizen’s, than why label or judge an entire group of citizens by a country’s terroristic act? In Iran the leadership of Iran has isolated the country and people from the world by using tough rhetoric and harsh comments. While there may be a variety of strategies behind their actions most see it as a way they are able to remain in power.
In the Islamic Republic male dominance is the law of the land and movements for women’s rights are condemned or justified by the ridiculous theory that suppression is used to protect the woman’s femininity; for example the mandatory implementation of the hijab. While women’s rights are of the utmost importance, the Iranian government’s concentration on this matter allows them to avoid addressing issues that are causing their citizens to live in peril, while they, the leaders line their pockets and international bank accounts with money that should be used to help their country and its people prosper. Drug trafficking and drug addiction is on the rise, yet corrupt government officials receive light sentences and the youth, instead of receiving treatment are incarcerated or executed. How can a government who says they are protecting its citizens turn away from its people and the children who are homeless and hungry? How can a government who says it is for its people turn away from its people and children who are being brutalized by the cold winter and are finding shelter in shallow graves of the cemeteries? When I see, when you see these images we should cry, our wounds and anger should deepen. When the WORLD sees these images they should cry! When WORLD governments see these images (of not just Iranians) they should cry and realize the consequences of their actions on the innocent!
The United States has allowed immigrants to obtain the same opportunities as a natural born. The United States is a country where you can find work and raise your family, a place where you have a right to practice your faith or no faith. The United States has allowed us to freely celebrate Norouz and other ethnic celebrations on the public streets of every state and do so without fear! In Iran, however, these ancient celebrations are being curtailed and suppressed. This cannot be allowed to happen, it is part of the foundation of an Iran and Iranian.
Can it be possible that after forty years, if one goes against the grain or the regime and discusses another religion they are still condemned and imprisoned ? Baha’i neighbors are losing their livelihood and forced to close their shops. Young students of other faiths are not given the right to continue their higher education.  The possibility of a permanent ban on future immigration or visa’s of people from Iran, to the United States will increase the Iranian’s plight and allow the inaccurate rhetoric of the Iranian government become a truth.
Yes my fellow readers, friends, colleagues and acquaintances twenty-two years have passed since the publication of the first issue of Persian Heritage. Each year we hoped the wounds left by the revolution and governments of Iran would heal, instead the wounds are deeper and the pain more unbearable. When will my Norouz letter to you be filled with happiness and joy, rather than hardship and despair? AGAIN, I try to remain an optimist. PERHAPS this coming year will be better than the last for all of us. PERHAPS our wishes for an end to the conversation of war and the talk of nuclear enhancement will be granted. PERHAPS our wishes to end to the suffering of the innocent people and refugees will become a reality and all can return to the land they call home. PERHAPS we as world citizens can wisely, intelligently, measuredly and systematically use social media and peaceful protest to continue the pursuit of human rights for all. Untethered, meaningless and destructive actions will only fall on deaf ears and negate any positive gains! But I fear that as that as quickly a mass public protest and defense of an injustice arises, when the excitement ends it fades as quickly and we are left with “what could have been.”
To all of you, whatever our future holds, I extend and will always continue to extend my best wishes for peace and harmony. I will continue to wish, to hope and to pray for the day to come when the words of religion, color or creed are replaced by the words kind, generous and interesting to describe a neighbor.
Wishing for these exceptional wishes to come true,
I remain very truly yours, Shahrokh Ahkami

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