Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Firoozeh Dumas Stresses U.S.-Iranian History

Writer/humorist Firoozeh Dumas has written at length about the painful experience of being an Iranian immigrant in the United States after the beginning of the hostage crisis in Iran three decades ago. As American anger toward the revolutionary regime in Iran increased, Iranian-Americans found themselves dodging hostility from neighbors and strangers alike. It got to the point that when Dumas' mother was asked where she was from, she'd say without hesitating, "Turkey."

Dumas herself does more than her mother to try to bridge the differences between the two countries, and she -- like millions around the world -- is closely following the dramatic events in Iran. She does not, however, put herself on the side of those urging the United States to be like Europe and take a more combative public stance against Iran. She writes in a post on her blog:
Do I believe the election was rigged? Absolutely. Do I believe that Obama is doing the right thing by not getting more involved? Absolutely! Some of you have asked why [he] is not doing more. Here is a quick history lesson: In 1953, the CIA and the British staged a coup and ousted Iran’s only democratically elected leader Mohammd Mossadegh. Why did they do this? One word: oil. Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the oil industry which had been under British control. (This meant that oil was real cheap.)
That history is alluded to in the Iranian government's harsh response to the protesters, claiming Western interference in its internal affairs. But it's also possible that the current events will undo some of the automatic anti-Iranianism of some in the West and replace it with a growing respect for the bravery of the demonstrators.

Things certainly do appear to be changing. Dumas gave more context in her May 8, 2008, Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley [watch the video], noting, "Over and over again, I see that stories that have to do with Iran tend to be frightening. I find that so upsetting.... Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, [Iran's] president, is not speaking on behalf of the Iranian people; he's speaking on behalf of himself." Now, perhaps moreso than ever.


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