Sooooo, Why did you move to US?


Summer 1986, fresh off the boat!

So why did you move to US? I still get this question asked all the time. I have been living in this country most of my life but I will always be an immigrant. I don’t really mind it though, immigrant sounds tough and cool. I’d like to think  I am like the immigrants who came to Ellis Island all those years ago, but I came on a jumbo jet with inflight movies not on a sardine packed boat when people didn’t bathe very often.

So why did I move to US? Well in 1986 I was into Michael Jackson, E.T and Duran Duran. The Islamic Republic of Iran was not too kind to kids liking anything western, so I wanted to enjoy being a normal teenager!…No that wasn’t it. Maybe it was to come in search of my long lost love Brooke Shields?…Nope, not that one either…..Molly says I came here for her. As romantic as that sounds, I didn’t meet Molly until six years later. The truth is that it was none of the reasons above. Most fourteen year olds do not move out of the comfort of their parent’s home and move half way across the world unless they have to.

For those of you who are not old enough to remember, back in the 80’s Iran & Iraq went into an eight year war which resulted in death of over million people. Similar to the trench warfare fought between Germany & France this was a stalemate war. This means both sides went back and forth killing each other without gaining territory.

I was in junior high when the war between the cities started. Tehran & Baghdad each took turns bombing civilian areas killing as many innocent people as possible. Air raids became part of our daily lives.  In school we wore name tags so we can be identified if killed. The war between the cities went on for months. Every night the lights would go out and sirens would come on. Giant explosions would rock the city and anti aircraft guns would send flares up in the air. To this date I don’t like fireworks, they remind me too much of the anti aircraft guns.

As more soldiers were killed in the front,  the government looked into their next pool of bodies, the children. Since they couldn’t just go and take the children from their homes, they resorted into endless propaganda. In school they preached us the romance of martyrdom and getting the golden key to paradise. Every week during school assembly they would announce the name of the children who were just killed, and congratulate their parents on the honor. What a concept, congratulating a mother on death of her son. It wasn’t until a little later that I found out that the government was using children between the ages nine and sixteen to clear minefields.

They also preached us about those evil evil Jews, and how everything was their fault. Why is it that all repressive regimes need scapegoats? Why is it that Jewish people are often that scapegoat? My friend Armin was Jewish; only thing evil about him was how he always beat me in chess. As a Jew Armin did not have to attend our mandatory religion classes, he could leave and go to the library. As soon as he’d walk out, the teacher would start telling us about the evils of Judaism. Armin moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1985, and according to Facebook he is now a civil rights attorney helping the under privileged. Very evil of him indeed!

My parents who were both educated and progressive tried to shelter my brother and I from what was going on. We never bought into the key to paradise or the antisemitism nonsense, but the atmosphere was just too depressing. Two events finally broke me. First a school field trip to the national cemetery to see the graves of the young martyrs and then the death of my oldest cousin in the mountains of Turkey while escaping Iran.

Blood fountain

The blood fountain at Tehran’s National Cemetery

My grades started to suffer, and in Iran if you failed school you were shipped to the front to fight the war. So when I got my first F in science my momma said “You’re Moving With Your Auntie And Uncle In Bel Air”…. Danville California actually, but you get the point.

In winter of 1986 I packed my red Michael Jackson jacket and moved in with my aunt and uncle in US.  They were the only relatives kind and crazy enough to have a teenager move in with them. My uncle who is Jewish by the way, always calls my father the smartest man in universe. This is because he got rid of his kid right when he turned teenager. My aunt is a very private person so I will not discuss her in my blog, I will however give a little background about her. She is my mother’s youngest sister and I have always loved her to death. When I was little my aunt used to say she would someday steal me from my parents. I guess be careful what you ask for, ha?

When I left Iran my brother was only eight years old. Last time I saw him was in 1992 when my entire family got together in Paris.  My brother has never seen his nieces, and I have never met his wife. This year we are all going to try to meet again at a mutual location because 23 years is too long not to see your own brother.

3 thoughts on “Sooooo, Why did you move to US?

  1. Arash…an amazing story. I also have an “evil Jew” I work with. I jokingly say that because he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat. He’s a very kind and generous man who I call ” a closet Democrat”. At any rate I’m sure it’s been very difficult over the years with jou and your family being separated. I’m glad you made it to America, we are richer for it:)

    Liked by 1 person

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