On this second installment of Simin’s Xlibris Blog, the author narrates how she encounters a fork in the road that led her to a land where she discovered true freedom.
In the summer of 1966, the United States National Science Foundation offered me a fellowship at the University of Michigan, an opportunity for me to finally visit the country I had read so much about. As you know, 1966/7 was a time of unrest for America as the Civil Rights movement was surging ahead. As a foreigner, I was shocked to find that the America I had idealized for so long, was in a state of upheaval because of discrimination and prejudice that seemed to question the principles of equality and freedom which had been so firmly expressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I returned to the United States the next year as a Fulbright Scholar visiting professor and was impressed to find that the American people were even more ardently supportive of the Civil Rights movement than the previous year.
Inspired by the magnitude of reforms that were taking place in the United States, I returned to Iran convinced that Iranians could also overcome their prejudice against working and educated women. Thus, I became involved with the women’s rights movement in Iran, finally being elected Secretary-General of the Women’s Organization of Iran in 1969. From 1969 to 1971, I established and supervised more than 150 Family Welfare Centers (House of Women) throughout Iran. Although proud of the family welfare systems, I felt that the country needed a firm education base geared towards strengthening these special centers. Therefore, I established Shemiran College in order to offer specialized programs of pre-school education, family counseling, welfare administration and special education. There I served as president until 1979 when the Islamic Revolution broke out and the government shut down all educational institutions. The Islamic government proclaimed that it was no longer interested in what the universities and colleges had to offer since they believed that the Islamic teachings of the Koran were sufficient for Iran’s educational needs. After the return of Khomeini to Iran, it became clear that the government’s purpose was to oppress its people in the name of God, freedom and equality for all. Betrayed by my own government’s abuse of these sacred principles, I saw no alternative but to leave the country. We left Iran with 20 pounds of luggage, thinking that we might return when the hype had died down. Although we left with our dreams and with little to show for them, we left with a warm feeling, willingly accepting what was to be our new country, America.
When I reflected upon the bygone years, I thought of my visits to America where hearts were warm and spirits free, a land where freedom and equality were the underlying principles of its government and a country whose people had chosen to replace discrimination with love and understanding, and I knew America was the only place in the world where I would want to live and raise my children. Among other things, the American Constitution guaranteed its citizens that their rights to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.” In fact, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence guaranteed my family and me the many rights that the Iranian government did not consider important.
Read the previous part here.
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