A cautionary tale……. quite possibly, a mirror image story…..not likely. The popular protests sweeping the Arab world, notably Egypt, have many Iranian Americans remembering the story of their own country over 30 years ago. I am a first generation American. My parents are Iranians who immigrated to the United States in 1970, with every intention of returning to their homeland and their family one day. When the Iranian Revolution of 1979 happened, the same year I was born, my parents knew this was no longer going to be the Iran they knew and loved. The Iran they grew up riding bikes in the streets, eating ice-cream in the parks with their friends, falling in love and getting married.
As most Middle Easterners watch the protests in Egypt there is a sense of excitement watching the people’s desire for a new life and ultimately passion for their country. However, there is also a fear of something taking the place of their government that is far worse than the current rule of the country.
After the Shah was overthrown in Iran in 1979 Iran’s Islamist leaders came to power themselves through revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini emerged on top. He governed very much through a dual power, putting liberal soft spoken leaders as heads of the government while making sure his own clergy was behind every decision and ultimately running the government. This idea has been a hot point for many people looking into the Egyptian world and seeing the Muslim Brotherhood, a group wanting to govern based on Islamic law, as possibly stepping in to take over. I believe it’s easy to get caught up in simply just getting rid of the bad guy without a sense of how to transition him out.
My maternal grandfather was a high General in Shah’s army, retired at the time of the revolution but in direct opposition of the new regime. My uncle was a revolutionary who was exiled from his country and lives in Paris where he is an accomplished and respected author. At 70 he still gets followed and watched by police. My other grandfather spent years in London away from his wife because no one was allowed into the country and no one was allowed out. He is buried in London where he passed without her by his side. These are some of my personal causalities, but there are tales far more gruesome and heartbreaking.
Ultimately, when I witness the protest in Egypt and see the thousands of people in Iran marching for reform. I am proud. I am proud of my people avenging the country of their parents and grandparents.
I think Egypt has been deliberate with everything they have done and I speak for all Americans when I say we hope to see a new democratic government emerge in the Middle East, put in place by the people and represents the needs of their nation.
Mustapha El Amri, former Ensworth Faculty member, spoke to the 8th grade class about the current situation in Egypt and the Middle East.
In addition check out this video courtesy of CNN highlighting Ensworth alumni Read Ezell.