Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Iranians I know

It is difficult here, very difficult, to remember that the Iranians are very different than what we see on TV. Heck, I grew up with quite a few expats, and many are still very close to my family today. Steven Knipp at the WaPo reminds me that beyond the madness - there are Iranians that are friends.
What took place over the next fortnight astonished me. Everywhere I went -- from the traffic-choked streets of Tehran in the north to the dusty desert town of Yazd in central Iran, to the elegant cultural centers of Isfahan and Shiraz -- I was overwhelmed by the warmth and, dare I say it, pro-Americanism of the people I met.
During my visit, I could not pause on a street corner for more than 30 seconds without someone coming up and shyly asking if they could help. Discovering that they had an American in their midst, they would often insist on walking me to my destination. Some told me of their friends and relatives living in the United States. (Precise figures are impossible to come by, but Iranian immigrant groups believe that between 1.5 and 2 million Iranians and Iranian Americans live in the United States.)
Everywhere I went, however, Iranians -- from high school students to middle-aged taxi drivers -- repeatedly asked me: "Why does America call us Evil Axis?" Then they would indignantly add: "We are good people -- we are Persians! Iran is a good country, some are bad, but most people here are good."
The sad thing is - that is true - but to change their government the Iranians will have to do it themselves. Earn the image and nation they deserve. It is up to them.

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