Iran: The Land of Love and Innocence?

When friends and acquaintances ask me what life was like in Iran, I tell them I had a wonderful childhood. I share with them stories of carefree summer trips my family took to the Caspian Sea, enjoying the sand and clear blue waters. On the drive north, we were surrounded by green mountain ranges as far as the eye could see. The air was crisp and fresh, and the excitement of the upcoming holiday gave a new meaning to the timeless question of, “Are we there yet?”

Alternatively, our vacations to the south, towards The Persian Gulf, provided an all-different canvas upon which we cast our eyes. The barren mountain ranges, with their gentle and steep slopes pulled me in and fed my soul. The rolling hills in the distance were like a painting, strong against the clear, cloudless skies, the crown on the desert sand. Those images are forever etched on my mind’s eye and have carved a permanent placed in my heart.

The sights, sounds and aromas of Iran are a part of my skin. The taste of the air runs deep within my veins. The colors of its sky have left a layer of memory on my mind.

So It’s not surprising that The New York Times named Esfahan, a town in the heart of Iran, as one of the “Top 52 Places That Should be Loved in 2021”, sighting beauty and innocence.

The beauty of the land of Iran is truly endless. Its innocents is another matter altogether. And love is not exactly a word that I would associate with the country known for its funding of terrorist, and responsible for thousands of innocent deaths.

Growing up in the Iran of 1980’s, everyday existence was filled with fear, anxiety and uncertainly. Threats from the deadly war with neighboring Iraq, shortage of food, water and electricity affected the very fabric of our lives.

A day at the beach was filled with anxiety, lest the modestly police make their rounds and cast their punishment on all those not following the proper Islamic dress code. Even as a child of just seven, my eyes were forever searching for the patrol cars, fixing my roosarie (headcover) and was on heightened awareness about my surroundings.

A country known for its horrendous acts against its citizens, where girls as young as nine are still allowed to be married off by their fathers, to a man just as old doesn’t exactly invoke feelings of innocence. A country whose leaders have continued to deny the genocide that was the holocaust and have vowed to wipe Israel off the global map doesn’t send a message of love.

The reader who submitted his vote to NY Times for Isfahan, wrote, “There’s a difference between the people and the government. I wish Americans could see the vibrant curiosity of the people who live here. I used to visit Isfahan every year. I spent long mornings lifting weights in the women-only gyms, and afternoons with my grandfather, watching him lovingly watering the plants in his garden and shooing away stray cats. But divisive politics, and now Covid-19, have made it harder.”

The truth is many Jews befriended their Muslim neighbors. The people of Iran are indeed warm, caring and welcoming. They open their homes to guest and give you more food than you can possible fit into your belly.

But what about the country’s appalling campaign in using dual citizens as hostages? (Remember: Not Without My Daughter?) As an American Citizen and a Jew, that is a risk that I am not willing to take.

What does divisive politics mean? Perhaps the reader is referring to the horrible ways in which Iran has related not only its Arab neighbors, but also those in The West.

What message is the notoriously anti-Israel and anti-Semitic News Paper trying to send to the world? By sugar coating and placing rose-colored glasses on their readers, it makes me wondered if it’s not yet another way to soften the blow of Biden’s vow to restore the nuclear deal.

To place Iran as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world puts a dagger into the hearts of thousands of Jews who had to leave everything behind for the fear of their lives and the victims of Iran-funded terror attacks in Israel. Let it be known that if someone is daring enough to enter the country, they would first have to declare if they are gay or Jewish. Israeli citizens are banned from traveling to Iran.

Back in 2019, The Times own travel journalist cancelled his long anticipated and planned trip to Iran, sighting risks of deportation or fears of detention.

I guess the country that The Times views as beautiful, is not even one that they would risk sending their own journalist to. Not much love there, I guess.

About the Author
Aylin Sedighi Gabbaizadeh grew up in Shiraz, Iran. She immigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. She has a masters in non-profit-management from New York University. Aylin's passion in life is educating others about the colorful and dynamic culture which she grew up in. Aylin is currently working on her first manuscript about the lives of women and children in old Iran. She is passionate about raising awareness about Mizrahi Jews and their trials and triumphs. Her goal is to open the conversation about the sacrifices that Mizrahi Jews had to make in order to survive the oppressions of the governments which they lived under.
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