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Letter to the Editor

Iran, A Look Back

web posted June 24, 2009
Dear Editor,
Thirty years later, my most vivid memory of Tehran, Iran was that beautiful October Day when I had gone downtown to interview with the Iranian Navy for a job to teach English.  After the interview, I walked outside of the building and turned the corner to be faced with a protesting crowd marching down the street.  Even though I could not understand Farsi, the signs were clear. “Yankees we hate you, Americans go home!”  Obviously, this was no place for a twenty year old gal from South Carolina.

Once again, the streets of Tehran are filled with protestors.  This time thousands are marching in silence, demanding that their elections be validated.  Many Americans are stunned because we relate the people of dictatorial nations to their leaders.  Obviously, in every nation, there are people who want their votes to count; they are desperate for their voices to be heard.  We, as Americans, should not judge the people of a nation by the actions and ideas of their dictatorial leaders.

Thirty years ago, the Shah was the leader of Iran.  He was a good friend of the United States and numerous US companies were thriving. My sister and her family lived in Tehran due to her husband’s job.  He helped corporations set up ketchup plants from ground braking to the first ketchup bottle coming off of the assembly line.

We had a spectacular view of the city from our house nestled into the side of the mountains on the north side of town.  Most of our Iranian neighbors had been educated in the US or England and spoke fluent English.  They were very westernized in their business pursuits, their clothing, and outlook on the world.

Having arrived in September of 1978, Martial Law was implemented only three days after we landed.  This meant an implementation of a government enforced curfew.   My niece and nephew attended the International School, therefore our lives showed no real change due to the new rules.

We enjoyed having tea with our neighbors and entertained American guests frequently.  One of the most spectacular trips was a hike in the mountains which highlighted the gorgeous terrain.  The mountains were streaked with the bluish green hue of the copper running through the rock walls.  The traditional meal consisted of lamb kabobs, rice, pickles and yogurt.  The entire cultural experience was intriguing and the people were warm and friendly.

Of course, there were also many women who wore the traditional Chador, which covered everything but their faces.  Fundamentalist Muslims were prevalent and eventually their voices became the loudest. Soon, tension would increase and the American presence in Iran would become less welcome.

The children’s school bus became the target of stone throwing and it became more dangerous for Americans to be downtown.   Finally, as we sat on the top of the flat roofed houses that climbed up the mountain, we witnessed the burning of Main Street.  The irony was in the voices on the American radio blasting away that things in Iran were just fine.  Obviously, it was a last grasp to try to protect the huge American investment in the country.  It did not quall fears as the reality of the situation became apparent. 

For the last weeks of our stay, we did not leave the house.  Finally in November, we left in the middle of the night and headed for the airport.  There was no guarantee that there was an airplane and certainly, no guarantee we would be able to get on.  Fortunately, there was an airplane, we did get on, and we were technically refugees to Belgium.

A few weeks later, the Iranian revolution would oust the Shah and put Ayatollah Khomeini in power.  Much has changed over the past thirty years and many Iranians have left their beloved homeland.  But even to this day, there are many there who demand that their voices be heard. 

As we see this enthralling story unfold, let us remember that in every nation, regardless of their leader, there are those who believe in our rights of fair elections.  We are blessed to live in the United States where our voices are heard, our vote counts, and we elect our leaders whether we always agree with them or not…Democracy.

Jane Ballard Dyer

Editor's note: Jane Dyer is a candidate for the Third Congressional District for the US House of Representatives.

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