Standing in the middle


Sepand Rouz

When I first heard about this travel ban, only one thing came to mind.

Why was Iran on the ban list?

Iran is a country ruled by a theocratic-democratic government and is a part of the Islamic Republic. But not all of the people there are represented by this restricting authority.

My mother left Iran in 1980 to continue her studies after the Shah was overthrown. This meant that the progressive age of Iran was halted, and it was thrown back into an age of conservative thinking.

Women were only viewed as housewives and were not given an opportunity to have active roles in society. Hijabs were mandatory, regardless of belief. My grandparents tell me stories of secret police, which consisted exclusively of Muslim men roaming the streets, falsely accusing citizens of crimes and sending them to jail and taking their land.

At the time, my grandfather was a prestigious and successful businessman. His father had passed away when he was 13 and my grandfather had transformed his shop from a grocery store to a pharmacy.

My family and especially my grandfather were considered philanthropists, and my grandfather was very proud of his good deeds. But as soon as the Shah was overthrown and a new government was installed, that was the end for my grandfather’s company. The government took control of the distribution of medicine, but their distribution of aid wasn’t nearly as fast as having a free market.

The people were suffering.

For better opportunities, my mom moved to India to complete her high school degree, then moved to Texas to get her bachelor’s. Soon, the rest of my mom’s family moved from Iran to Florida (to support my youngest aunt’s high school education) and later on to California.

Growing up, my mom always wanted to let me know about how she grew up. She would scold me about how ‘back in her day,’ she would be playing in her uncle’s pool during Iran’s scalding hot summers, meeting new people and learning an array of new things.

In all honesty, I would only give a part of my attention to her stories, using the rest for playing Pokemon Diamond and eating poptarts. But reflecting on it now, I probably would have liked to see more of what she saw and loved so much about Iran. Was it the people? Not really. The aura? Not really. The fact that it was just as much ‘home’ to her as the U.S. is for me?

Maybe it was.

But for now, I guess finding out first-hand won’t be an option for me. I was born in the U.S. so I am a naturalized citizen, but my family is all from Iran. Sadly, as a retort to the travel ban imposed by President Trump, Iran has banned entry of U.S. citizens as well.

At this time, I won’t be able to travel to Iran for a 90 day period, and if relations don’t get any better, I won’t be able to at all.

I consider myself an American before an Iranian. I cheer for all of the American teams at big E-sports events. I have an American flag pinned up in my room. I consistently wear my brightly striped red, white and blue American hoodie to school.

However, even though I am a diehard American, my Iranian blood will never leave me.

Being the only one in my family who hasn’t visited Iran, I feel left out. My brother visited the country when he was just a baby, and of course my parents lived there for decades of their lives.

The issue is, I feel no connection to the country, nor to the culture. During Nowruz, or Persian New Year, I am basically in it for the money and food. I honestly have no idea what is going on and why everyone is partying over a day that, to me, seems just as average as the rest.

My grandparents play the TV and everyone in my family celebrates—except me. I feel isolated in my own family, not having the slightest clue as to what is going on. I’m the worst Persian speaker in my family. I’m the least excited for holidays. And worst of all, I am extremely picky when it comes to Iranian cuisines.

This feeling of loneliness isn’t caused by my family itself. Instead, it’s caused by my own willingness to stick to the culture I grew up with: the ‘Murican way. Instead of eating naan for breakfast, I eat toast. Instead of eating gyros, I eat sandwiches. Instead of eating kabobs and rice, I eat steak and mashed potatoes.

As my mom walks around our house and starts chanting prayers and waving around her incense, I just think about one thing: what did I miss for this to help.