As a 35-year-old Iranian woman, a citizen of the United States, an occupier of the indigenous land of Lenapehoking (Lënapehòkink), and as a human, I have never found life as extraordinarily grim and dark as I find it today.
I have stories of loss and grief embedded in my heart and have inked on my skin the names of my mother’s family: one murdered by the former Shah (king) of Iran’s secret police SAVAK, and two others executed by the Khomeini regime, all in the fight for a liberated Iran.
My family has told me about war sirens that sent them sheltering in the basement of our apartment building. I was born in 1987, eight months before the end of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq — a war in which the U.S. provided military support to Saddam Hussein in Iraq to prevent Khomeini’s regime from gaining support in Iran, only to later, in 2003, declare war on Saddam’s regime, based on a fabricated claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In America, I lived through the United States’ illegal invasion of Iraq in ignorance: a middle schooler, adjusting and assimilating to American life as an immigrant. I lived oblivious to what was happening in the world, focused primarily on improving my English and finding my identity. I was bothered and knew that there was something deeply wrong. However, I had no capacity for, nor interest in, political analysis. Only in adulthood would I fully grasp the disastrous consequences of America’s actions and the campaign of the “War on Terror”, a war that cost 2.4 million Iraqi lives since the 2003 invasion.
The America that my mother dreamt of when she cooked in our kitchen in Tehran, and later when she awaited possible execution in Iran’s Evin Prison; the America that my father sought refuge in; the America that has been our home for nearly 24 years, has broken my heart in unmendable ways. My heart broke when Trump was elected and opened America’s Pandora’s Box of racism, of degrading rhetoric and actions toward women, and non-white communities, particularly immigrants. My heart broke when I learned that Obama used drones to murder brown bodies. It broke when I learned that Hillary Clinton could not be a feminist because she spent her career advocating for war. It breaks every time there is a preventable mass shooting. It breaks every time there is another black body murdered by police.
But today’s heartbreak feels as though it may never recover. Today, humans of conscience in my community have been taking to the streets of the Lehigh Valley and Washington D.C., chanting for a free Palestine, and calling for an end to genocide and Israel’s apartheid system. People across the States and the globe are standing in solidarity for Palestinian liberation. Organizers, including students, are leading walkouts and die-ins in protest, only to be suspended, censored, and arrested.
How grim and sad to know that our administration and most of its “leadership” choose indifference as their attitude toward the lives of Palestinians. How grim that our president unconditionally supports Israel without ever holding it accountable for its decades of indiscriminate persecution and imprisonment of the nation of Palestinian people, whose land it illegally occupies.
How grim and sad to be in America today having to demonstrate and protest and justify why Palestinian lives matter, and that what is happening is unequivocally genocide. How many voices and cries must those in power hear before they are convinced? How many more dead bodies must they see to believe that what we are witnessing is a crime against humanity?
How grim and sad it is to be in America today listening to “leaders” extend “humanitarian aid” or a “humanitarian pause,” while simultaneously sending billions of dollars in weapons to Israel: American-made bombs are shredding children to pieces. This is what our tax dollars are funding.
Our “leaders” dictate to the masses which victims are worthy of our moral outcry: John Kirby, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, teared up over Ukrainian lives lost. Yet neither Kirby nor our president has shown the same outpouring of support or emotion toward Palestinian lives. President Biden has dismissed reports of Palestinian deaths.
Why can’t we cry for all humans on this earth? Why do those in power call attention in support of women’s rights in Iran but disregard women’s rights in Palestine? Palestinian women are giving birth via emergency C-sections without anesthesia. They have no clean water. They cannot even take refuge in hospitals. These women witness the daily massacre of their children and loved ones. These women are forced to be refugees, and homeless. What about the rights of these women?
How can our “leaders” justify these killings when Israel uses bombs that burn people alive because the fires cannot be extinguished with water? Bombings that human rights organizations across the world say are undoubtedly war crimes.
Half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18. Every ten minutes, with our government’s full backing, a child is killed in Gaza. As the children sleep, their homes may come tumbling down, crushing them, and trapping them under the rubble. Fathers and brothers flail to rescue them.
What has happened to our humanity?
America must reckon with its deep-seated racism and its history as a colonial project. Will it ever do so? Not unless the people, we, demand it. It’s up to us to inspire this reckoning. We must look within ourselves and uproot our racism and ignorance of other nations, cultures, and religions. We must do the hard work of rekindling our humanity and then demanding it from those we elect to power.
While we do the work, while we take to the streets and disrupt business as usual, a ceasefire is the bare minimum to stopping this atrocity.
Elaheh Farmand is an Iranian immigrant and writer. In 2016, she founded the series, “Immigrants & Exile: Stories of Nostalgia & Longing”. The series gives space for people to share their experiences of nostalgia, exile, and longing. Elaheh fights for and dreams of a society restructured to place people’s needs and wellbeing before profits. She is occasionally nostalgic for her childhood in Iran, but focuses her energy on organizing, connecting with her community, her family and friends.
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