Despite heavy and ongoing opposition protests, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term as Iran's president Wednesday. This Iranian is one of many who saw his inauguration as no cause for celebration.
Iran is more than an ancestral homeland for me; it is where I rest my greatest hope for the future. I'm desperate to go back, but the general consensus is that, after everything I've said and written publicly, the current regime would probably allow me back into the country on my Iranian passport, but then it would also likely insist on providing me with government accommodations — complete with guards and iron bars.
While I have no intention of taking the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran up on any invitations for free government housing of this sort, I do intend to find my way back to the Iran that I remember.
As a 30-year-old Iranian-American, I've never known a time when my two homelands were not at odds. Having grown up mostly in the United States after living in Iran only briefly as a child, my memories of Iran consist largely of summer vacations spent visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Tehran.
It's been 10 years since I've returned, but my memories have far from faded. I long to see my family again, to climb the stunning mountains surrounding Tehran, to dance to infectious synthesized Persian pop beats at house parties that last until dawn, and to taste plums, cherries and pomegranates that are unequaled in their sweetness.
The Iran that I remember is a distinctly personal one, though it is not free from politics. Since the Islamic Revolution, politics have become increasingly and unavoidably personal.
On my last visit back, while shopping in the bazaar one afternoon, I witnessed a police officer order a young woman to pull her hijab forward, which, in itself, is not at all an uncommon occurrence. But when the woman rolled her eyes and ignored him, the officer grabbed her elbow and escorted her into the back of his car. After a few minutes, she emerged from the car with her hijab pulled only slightly forward. As she was walking out, the police officer pushed her a little. She swung around at once and slapped him so hard that all of us around her could hear it.
He was so shocked and embarrassed that he immediately got back into the car and drove away. The crowd, including myself, spontaneously broke into applause, and our heroine took a bow.
This is the Iran that I remember; this is the Iran that I thank God the world is finally getting to see, and this is the Iran to which I shall one day return — united, feisty, stylish and defiant.
I have absolute confidence that the Iranian people will win back their country from within, reclaiming it from the hypocritical mullahs who have ruled it for far too long. It could take some time, but they are not backing down.
I may not be able to return safely to Iran today, but someday soon, I will. And I will have millions of other Iranians to thank for my safe passage. I could not look these brave men and women in the eye upon my return without knowing that I did what little I could to help make their struggle known. So, I will continue to speak out, talk politics and even do some fist-pumping if that's what it takes. The discomfort I sense at constantly running my mouth and punching at my keyboard is embarrassingly small compared with the sacrifices of my fellow Iranians.