LOS ANGELES, March 20, 2014– “Tehrangeles” (Tehran+Los Angeles) is a nickname bestowed upon the southern California city known to many locals. The city boasts the largest Persian population in America and has a climate perfectly parallel to that of Iran.
As the Persian New Year, Norooz, approaches I cannot help but reflect upon baba joon’s (dad) life. Baba joon stands six feet tall and weighs approximately 190 pounds. Faint strands of gray hair paint his otherwise jet-black receding hairline. He is approaching his mid-fifties. Although time has been kind to him, in the right light, pain and sorrow stream through his slowly wrinkling face.
He makes various odd noises consisting of ever changing tone and pitch- It’s a Persian thing. I have only seen him cry once. This of course, made me cry- It’s a man thing.
Pride is of absolute, sovereign importance in our culture. My father’s pride was stolen from him and millions like him when they were forced to exile Iran because of the Islamic regime beginning in the late 1970s.
Together, he and I walked across the pier at a Norooz celebration called Chahar Shanbe Suri, which occurs on the last Wednesday of March. Thousands gathered for the event. Walking along the pier, which was about 600 yards away from the main event, we could still hear the loud music and celebration of joy and laughter.
The Persian national anthem began to play and baba joon’s face lit up. He perked up and began to softly sing the words. With a background sound of thousands singing in unison, I listened to my father’s voice. It is strong, full of pride, but also sorrow. After the first few versus, his face began to reflect this sorrow.
He broke song, “Iran use to be the greatest country in the Middle East.” He continued, “That all changed after the regime change. It could be the greatest country in the Middle East again in only a week if the regime was gone.”
The Islamic regime tried, unsuccessfully, to ban Norooz celebrations because it has roots in the Zoroastrian traditional religion of the Persian people.
The regime also attempted to ban the Persian anthem. One can rarely hear it in Iran today. Him hearing it at the celebration was truly music to his ears.
Anyone who would claim political Islam does not present innate danger to liberty is either inherently ignorant, or inherently ignorant. These claims are irrational, and insulting to myself, my family and all Persian people who seek liberty. The dangers of political Islam are undeniable.
Before the current regime, which was put in place during the Islamic Revolution, men, women and children were free to do as they please. The video below shows Iran before political Islam destroyed the lives of millions.
More than thirty years later, the video below shows a young woman by the name of Neda who was murdered by the Islamic regime’s thugs. Neda was walking through a protest after the regime rigged the June, 2009 elections. She was shot and left to die. She carried no arms, not even a sign. I’ve been watching this video since my sophomore year of college. I cry every time.
Before 1979, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths lived in Iran freely. Since then, untold numbers have been killed, imprisoned, exiled or took on refugee status.
“In Iran, Islam is the only political party now,” said baba joon.
In opposition to the rigged 2009 elections, Persians started the “Green Movement”. Millions took to the streets. Hundreds were killed and imprisoned by the government. In fact, the opposition leaders are still under strict house arrest. The Islamic regime has literally walled off their houses and will not allow them to leave. They haven’t been charged with a single crime. However, they are now political prisoners. Due process? Not under political Islam.
What American liberals refuse to understand is that political Islam is not about tolerance. It is the antithesis of tolerance.
The night’s celebration is over and we return home. Baba joon looks over our traditional Norooz table setting called Haft Seen. He picks up the flower vase, which is full of a blossoming purple flower called sonbol, and becomes captivated by the aroma. I can see it in his eyes. He is reminiscing of his childhood home. A free home, copious of a prospering, free people. The place where his mother and father raised him and his siblings before fleeing the Islamic regime.
He brings the flowers over to me. “Smell these Michael. It is the most beautiful scent you will ever smell,” he says. As if he has forgotten he just brought the flowers over to me, he calls me over to the table ten minutes later… “Smell theses… I’m telling you. It is fascinating.” He spends more than 20 minutes tending the flowers. Not only does he smell something, he sees something.
Something I can only see through figments painted by his eyes.
In Iran, where Islam is the majority, it is important to understand that minority rights are not allowed. In Iran, women, Christians, Jews, homosexuals and all other minorities are all persecuted under Islamic law. They are killed, stoned and imprisoned.
This is a matter of fact. To deny it, is to deny my family their dignity and sacrifice. To deny it, is to deny the Persian people their grievances. To deny it, is to insult the lives of millions who are now dead, wounded, living as refugees, or imprisoned because of political Islam.
In America, I can write this freely. In Iran, I wouldn’t even be able to access this website. I will be damned if I allow such tyranny to take over the very country my father sought refuge and freedom in.
It is important to understand the difference between Islam and political Islam. One is simply a religion. The other, a political party insidiously painted under the guise of religion.
Tolerance of those who wish to pursue peace, liberty and tolerance themselves should always be encouraged in America no-matter the channel. Challenge and opportunity meet any individual willing to take on this endeavor. However, in pursuance of this greater understanding, jurisprudence must be exercised so that liberty may live on.
Sale No Mobarak! (Happy New Year)