These Letters Will Totally Change the Way You Think about Iran
January 5, 2014
Sara Haghdoosti / Berim.org
Earlier this year, we asked Iranians to write a letter to a long-lost friend in the United States and share their wishes for the new year. We were overwhelmed by the response -- within barely 5 days, over 500 Iranians sent letters accompanied with images. Will you check out a few of these powerful postcards and share them far and wide with your friends to help dispel the stereotypes that surround Iran?
These Letters Will totally Change
the Way You Think about Iran
Earlier this year, we asked Iranians to write a letter to a long-lost friend in the United States and share their wishes for the new year. We were overwhelmed by the response -- within barely 5 days, over 500 Iranians sent letters accompanied with images.
Will you check out a few of these powerful postcards and share them far and wide with your friends to help dispel the stereotypes that surround Iran?
Click here to take a look.
The stories here are part of a creative writing project in Iran. We asked people in Iran to write a letter to John or Jane -- a long lost friend in the US. As background we told them that Jane was a graphic designer who works at a major US newspaper. Her uncle is a senator that is in support of increasing sanctions, her brother is in the US Army. Her sister was ill with cancer last year, her mother wants to travel to Iran but is scared and her father can't quite tell Iran and Iraq apart.
Iran is far from perfect -- we all know that. But this project is about highlighting the voices of everyday Iranians; about showing the world that in so many ways the people of Iran are just like people everywhere.
The more we highlight and share these voices, the harder it will be for conservative lobby groups to use fear to beat a drum to war. If you don't use social media, you can also share the postcards by forwarding this email to your friends.
Thank you for all that you do and happy New Year.
PS -- We've never tried something like this before so we're keen to get your feedback. Is this the kind of thing you'd like to see more of? Could we have done any part of it better? Please reply to this email and let us know!
PPS -- We're sending out this email to everyone who has signed one of our campaigns on MoveOn tomorrow, so our apologies in advance if you see this email twice!
Let's wish together that all television sets get turned off, all military bases get closed and all windows get opened. Let's wish for water, for no more hunger, and for kindness. And I will wish that on a rainy day, you fall madly in love.
Yours, a boy from the south side of town
Friendship, peace and tranquility are three the things that our countries deny one another. I will wish these things for myself, for you and for us.
I wish you a happy new year, and myself a happy Yalda. I wish you a Genie from the magic lamp. Wish me serenity and love.
I wish that you and everyone in this world live and breathe in peace. And for myself, I wish to slide down the curve of your neck once again.
My Dearest John,
It's been a long time since I ran in the street. Even when I'm late, I only take awkward, purposeless steps. I'm a poor excuse for that person who was able to sneak away while her parents took their afternoon nap, run three blocks to the shaved ice stand, buy the biggest shaved ice, eat the whole thing and run back all under 5 minutes.
And it's been even longer since "I ran with two childish legs, like a gazelle, jumped over the creek, and got far from home... "
I don't mean the sheer act of running, jumping, and getting far, but the spirit of the deeds that force within that obliges you to run with such euphoric joy until muscles start to ache. That spirit that makes you run, not caring if others are staring at you. Not caring because your lungs are burning, gasping for air as you run and your eyes see nothing else around you.
There was a time when I was enough for myself. I was enough and I was happy. Happy with myself and my imaginary friends. To be honest, even now I try to make due by myself, but in a serious and dry way, not even in a sorrowful way... As if I and myself are two humans who coexist respectfully and peacefully and don't feel the need to be either very happy or very sorrowful for one another.
As if we sometimes look at the past when we were many more than two Matins... The top student Matin, the shy Matin, the Matin who narrated poetry at school, the Matin who snuck into the shower and shaved her legs for the first time without permission from her parents, the Matin who hid her tamarinds in the closet, the Matin who biked eight hours a day, the Matin who biked all the way to the beach one day and had fruit flavored ice cream cone for 50 Tomans, the Matin who, on a cloudy day, put on her yellow raincoat with the pink baby chick on it and went to the beach to catch some fish with a strainer, and caught nothing but one small dead fish...
All these Matins were replaced by two Matins: the inside Matin and the outside Matin. Their difference is that the inside Matin wears pajamas, leaves her hair down, and watches "Friends" all night, and the outside Matin wears lipstick, ties her hair back and her soul smells like a corporate gray suit. It's obvious something's wrong with me, isn't it?
Why do I write these things to you, John? Why are my first words to you after such a long time not simply hello and greetings? Because we are one soul trapped in two bodies. One soul that would find any ordinary greeting an insult. Wouldn't it be preposterous if I were to write to you: "Hi my dear, how are you? I have missed you. How is everything?" And you would write back: "I'm so happy to find you. I'm fine. How are you." Wouldn't that be ridiculous?
The truth is, all the ramblings I started this letter with (which I am sure you will read carefully), all these things would be communicated in a long gaze at one another, a gaze known only to us, where we to meet in person. And I know that I don't even have to state the obvious this much, but I can't help it, I'm drunk.
I wish you a happy new year, and myself a happy Yalda. I wish you a Genie from the magic lamp. Wish me serenity and love.
I kiss your shoulders,
I hope all is well with you. Are you back from your trip? I must say, I am jealous! It is wonderful that you can put all your belongings in one backpack and go discover new places. I wish I could do the same...
The doors that are open to your "Blue Passport" are not open to my "Brown Passport". This is another one of the benefits from congress, which your uncle is a member of.
By the way, I read in the news that he is part of the republican groups that is pursuing new sanctions against Iran. I wish you would tell him and his friends that shortage of Nexavar is still taking patient's lives. Does he know how important is Nexavar for cancer patients? If he doesn't know, let him know Nexavar is the same drug that saved Jean's life.
Of course, with your help Ava recovered and is well now. She is studying 24/7 for the Iranian national test required to get into a good university. She would like to become a lawyer. If you hadn't sent us the Nexavar on time, we might have lost her like we lost Sina.
You don't know Sina. He is the son of a famous Iranian play writer. He had the same kind of liver cancer that Jean and Sina had. He died like many other patients -- lost due to unavailability of this drug, thanks to the sanctions! He was only 23 years old….
Let's change the subject; it's the holidays after all! It looks like you are visiting Tibet according to your Facebook. Finally your wish came true! Were you able to visit the Dali Lama's Temple?
I wished you could come to Iran again. We can go visit Isfahan again. Do you remember? We met for the first time there.
I was on the bridge that connects the east and west side of the city, looking at the river. You were standing where my shadow spread on the ground. You asked: "Do I know you?" I looked at you and smiled. I thought I had seen you in my dreams. Do you remember? You asked: "What are you looking for on this bridge?" I smiled and said, I am trying to pull together the skirt of my shadow, but you are standing on it. We both laughed.
That year I was working at a newspaper called Bahar and you had just been promoted from Sunday Times to New York Times. You are still at New York Times, but I have experienced the closure of 3 newspapers. Thank goodness now I am employed at a newspaper called Shargh. Have you heard of it? It is one of the more prominent newspapers published in Tehran.
That day, you enjoyed getting lost in an ancient city of my land so much. You only had one day to see the city. Same for me! You gave me your phone number and email address and told me you would want to return again to Iran. You said next time you would bring your mom. Does your mom still like to visit Iran or she is no longer interested? Does she still like to go to Darvand to buy Aloocheh? Just like the Aloocheh that your Iranian neighbor had brought back from Iran.
Tell your mom, they sell those Aloocheh in Tajreesh now. You don't have to go all the way to Darvand anymore. Tell your mom to see "The Past of Farhadi". It is going to be shown as of the first of January.
By the way, John, I had a question for your dad. When is the new season of "Friends" going to start? You know, half of my friends watch this show. They believe it helps them with their English. I am too occupied these days with the third season of "Homeland." Brodry reminds me of Joe. Will he return for the New Year celebration? I bet he will not return to Iraq again! I know how much he hates wars. Just like me, like you, and like many others.
Dear John, I am sending this email to wish you a happy new. I hope that next year we would be rid of wars specially the Syrian conflict. Happy New Year!
I saw you here by chance, the only picture that I had of you, was that single picture which you sent for me like 13 years ago. Actually, I wasn't surprises when I saw your face didn't get change. Do you remember at the same time, I told you that you foreigners didn't get change from 20s to 50s. Its like u guys just stay in you re 30s!I still insist ! if only my picture makes you doubtful whether its me or not, I wont surprise.
Was your mother still interested to come here? there are too many things here. Both for see and not to see! Tell her on behalf of me you don't need to come or even if she wanted to come, just try her best to see the sights (the worth seeing). About the unsightly, we could see it enough every day. The picture I send you, is girls school in down town (south) of this city and this kids are a part of our sighting. They were hiding their sadness behind of their smiles. This is the unsightly happens that we saw it every day and pass it very simple. What if the term poverty wasn't familiar for them? Please, about the way I write -- nagging or write desperately -- just count it of lack sleep of these days or my upset mood (heart of sadness).
In the end of this letter I was suppose to congratulation the new year and make a wish for u, but I prefer to gathering "my" action with you, yeah, with you John, lets wish together that no kid shivers in any place of this world, never ever!
It was around sunset and time to go home when chief editor called and asked me to stay longer. I had no choice; I stayed.
I was working with InDesign when you came to my mind. I remembered the day we met at an InDesign intent forum. You were a designer in the United States of America and I was a designer in Iran.
Sometimes the projects we worked on were completely contradicting each other, like two soldiers from different armies fighting against each other, who had become friends. It's funny, but in truth we were like little kids wearing army boots...
By the way, the Christmas night is also like the longest night of the year (Yalda), within couple of nights from each other, we celebrate this ancient custom with homemade cookies. Do you know the reason of this celebration? As my father always says, the longest night of the year doesn't last for more than one night , so we should just spend it together ...
Yes, this celebration brings us together and makes us hopeful about tomorrow...
Now that I've found you here, I want to make you a wish. But honestly, the wishes seemed more beautiful in olden days, like when we were kids and used to go up the roof, staring at the sky waiting for the shooting star to pass so we could make a wish. Most of the times I was so excited to see the shooting star that I would forget about my wish.
Honestly, I didn't have any wishes, my world was small just like the street I used to live on. We would be happy with the sweet taste of ice cream, we would take a dandelion and make so many wishes while blowing it in the air, hoping it would make our wishes come true...
Once I made a wish while the shooting star was passing and unfortunately it came true -- I grew up... I wish I had forgotten my wish at that time...
My dearest, I think we have to wait longer for the truth of the world to come to light, we have to be hopeful, one day the world will become a better place, right? The sun is about to rise, the sound of prayer man comes from the nearby old mosque and pierces through the coldness of early morning, and this means tonight isn't staying any longer either...
Our neighbor turns his truck on like every other day, and at the same time hundreds of the sparrows make clamor, as if they are telling each other all about the stories of the night before. To tell the truth, they have a better understanding of the morning, they see it as the beginning point of the life...
My dearest, let's wish for all the TVs to be turned off, for all the army bases to be closed, for all the windows to be opened, let's pray for the world to have more rain, let's pray for all the kids to be fed and satiated, let's pray for their world to be kinder to them, I will also pray for you to fall in love on a rainy day...
An ordinary boy from southern part of the city
During the time we have been out of touch I've thought a lot about us … about all that happened between us, all that we talked about, all that we dreamt about.
I remember telling each other about our countries, I remember the first photo we ever took together, I remember crying together when we found out both my cousin and your sister were diagnosed with cancer.
Jane, there is something I want to share with you. Something I have struggled with. In your last letter to me you wrote that you and I were born into the wrong lives and places. You said you wished there wasn't all this distance between us. You wished we could be with each other every day. I have thought so much about these words that you wrote. Maybe you didn't mean much by them. But Jane ... please marry me.
I'm guessing you weren't expecting this. Maybe I am wrong to ask. But I am afraid if I don't tell you how I feel I will regret it the rest of my life. It's like the first season of Friends we watched together.
Ross: I think I am a fool for thinking she will come.
Rachel: No. You're not a fool. You're in love.
Ross: Same thing.
I'm that fool, Jane. I think I really love you. I love where you come from. I love the letters you send me. I love all the things you write to me about. I know it's crazy but I sometimes think if we can overcome the barriers that keep us apart, then maybe we can be the spark that allows our countries to also bridge their differences.
And I know it's even crazier but I imagine the children we would have together. Children that will call both our countries home. Children that will love both countries the way they will love both their parents. We will have a wonderful live together. A life filled with kindness, love and adventure.
Jane, I don't want you to feel pressured to give me an answer right away. Take your time. I will give you as much time as you need. I will wait. I just hope that even if your answer is no, you will remain in my life. I would miss reading your letters.
It is Christmas now and it will be the New Year soon. People always make wishes and resolutions for the New Year. I don't want to wish for things that can never be. So I hope this wish is not unrealistic. But here it is ... I wish that you love me. That's all.
The one who loves you, Ali.