Twenty years ago; a woman I adored. She said, "I keep wondering how long this nightmare will last. If we hadn't left Iran, [her brother] would still be alive."
We were always happy. In pictures of us from my early years we are always laughing. My father used to teach at the university of Tehran, and he often treated patients who could not otherwise afford treatment at home, late at night.
But the nightmare has gone on and on. It goes back to 1979. The Revolution.
Those were great days, exciting days, when we overthrew the Shah. We were so optimistic. We knew that democracy was in reach. Khomeini, the Ayatollah, was not the first choice of everybody, but he was someone that nobody could have objected to. But he said he would not come to Iran unless everyone wanted him.
My father was a political moderate. He wanted democracy. His faction agreed with the choice of the Ayatollah, although privately they had reservations. But you do not know the mood that prevailed. We were so carefree, so we agreed and I remember him saying if the Ayatollah becomes a problem we will remove him as well! We were so optimistic.
But on the second day, we found out how it was going to be. My father's group made an application to appear before Khomeini, and the Ayatollah said he would not see us because we were--we were . . . religiously unclean.
It was purely because of our political stance, not our religion.
After that, in all our pictures I am in a shawl. We still wore jeans underneath. But it showed we were not one of them.
From then on, we were in danger. I was young then--too young to be suspected. But as years passed, one by one my friends began to disappear. Some were arrested; some died. We could not remove Khomeini.
When he announced a cultural revolution, the universities were closed for three years. In Iran, the university has always been an important part of the community. For meetings. For theatre. For organizing. The movement to overthrow the Shah began in the universities.
We went underground. We moved from place to place. I do not know how we survived. In 1988, we finally decided to leave. Why did we stay so long? It was our home, and we did not want to give up on it. For so long we believed if we could only bear a little more, it would all come to an end.
I had the easiest time of it. I had a passport, so I flew to Turkey. My parents got there too, but they never really told me how. My brother had the most difficult time. My parents had paid a merchant a lot of money to smuggle him across the border, which he did, but then he abandoned him in the mountains. He had to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach us. When we were reunited, we could not recognize him.
We were in Turkey for a year, but things became dangerous for us there, too. I loved Turkey.
My parents tried to get a tourist visa into Canada, but they were denied. It is too easy to apply for refugee status once you arrive. They did get one into the United States, so they went there and applied for refugee status--which is still ongoing. My brother and I were placed in Canada by the UN High Commission on Refugees, which tried different countries until one agreed to accept us. So we came here.