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A New Iranian Dilemma

by Kathy Hadizadeh Tuesday, May. 07, 2002 at 10:10 AM

Following the new bill for banning issue of non-immigrant visas to Iranian nationalities, this is a true life storey.

errorA New Iranian Dilemma

It was a birthday party at my work. One of those birthdays that mostly we just gather to have a piece of cake and a break. These famous cakes of this land that look so yummy and delicious but are so terribly sweet that I can never grab more than two bites. We sang the birthday song, cut the cakes into generous pieces and luckily I had the camera with me to take photos. Taking the photos for me was the best part. I could send them to my mum and dad so that they could have a picture of my colleagues, the people that I talk about them so often.
Although, birthday parties are never that eventful and people just come to say happy birthday out of the mere sake of politeness and to eat piece of famous, good looking cake. But the fact that it breaks the normal routine of my humping behind my computer, cheers me up. I was happily singing when I returned to my domicile. Jumped on my big chair and tried to resume my work but there was a mysterious force in the air. A power that made me go to my mailbox despite the fact that I was behind in my work. I told myself: Hey dude, you sure do not want to miss your Italian class, do you? So, be a good girl and finish your work! Yet that power in that air was stronger than me and I opened my mailbox.
Surprisingly there was only one new e-mail from an old friend of mine. We knew each other from back home, when I was a freshman and he was a junior in the same school. He was a brilliant, fun guy studying medicine who had a passion for literature. And it was this passion that became our starting point. I met him in a trip with a bunch of common friends. One of those trips to the green, green north of Iran that you gather round the fire at night and have an intellectual talk. You talk about politics, the latest book that you have read, the poet that you like best and then you all sing a song together while the fire is lighting up your faces in red and orange colors. Then you live a life of those songs, those voices and those talks, those faces turned into red and orange under fire, wherever you are for the rest of your life.
He was one of those people that I discovered around fire. His solid voice talking about if a winters night a traveler of Italo Calvino drew my attention. It was the sparkle to talk about life, the dreams of our young lives and how to set goals. Goals that were so vivid, tangible and attainable then that we were not even at our twenties! The sparkle lasted long in our eyes, in our hearts till we returned home, till years later, till I saw him again in this foreign land with the same eyes and bright smile. Looking directly at me and asking that famous old question: Remember if on a winters night a traveler? It has become a legend for us to remember that we have to stick to our goals in life. And I laughed and saw that orange and red face of years ago without any fire to reflect its light on it.
He came to US two years ago. At the beginning we were in constant touch but as things started rolling for him, we were both so busy that although we were lucky enough to live in the same state, we hardly got the chance of talking to each other, let alone getting together and talking face to face!! That is life in US, as we all know.
Anyways, with all these memories marching before my eyes, I opened the e-mail and read it. For five minutes my mind was blank. My brain had stopped to function. As soon as I could move the muscles of my mouth, my first reaction was whispering loud: No, it is impossible. A few minutes later, the tears found their way and came down my cheeks although I was constantly repeating to myself: No, this cant be true; he had made a mistake when writing this. I read his e-mail two, three times. Tears in my eyes falling on my keyboard and I could never close my browser:
(Dear Friend;
To commemorate the death of my mother, on Saturday xx April, x Ordibehesht , I will be online from 9:00 11:oo AM PCT, which is 6-8 PM Europe time and 12-2PM Eastern time and 8:30-10:30 PM Tehran Time.
I will be honored by your participation in this online ceremony.
Thank You;
I searched for the phone but could not even think of what to say, how to ask if that was true. I remembered his mother so clearly. Such a vivid, sociable creature that was always laughing and so happy. And she was so young may be at early fifties. May be even younger. I was weeping loud in my own world, when my neighbor from the other cube brought me back to this world: Kathy are you OK? .I just replied with broken words: Yes, I am. What could I say? How could I transfer all those emotional load of memories and young dreams in a sentence over the wall of my little cube? And he did not say anything. That is the role in here; theyve got to respect your privacy.

Gathering my mind, I tried to picture him during the past two years. He had come to US on a visitor visa (B-1) and as he was a medical doctor, after all that 21 years of study and work back home, he could not easily get any admission to change to a student status (F-1 visa). Yes, as an Iranian he had a long way to go to be able to get a residency.

But now the worst case has come up. It was April 19th that I read this piece of news:

The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, passed unanimously (97-0) in the Senate late Thursday, prohibits admission of people from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan and North Korea unless they are coming to the United States as immigrants.
"We know the chances of another terrorist attack are great, and we know it is unconscionable for our systems to allow entry of another terrorist into the United States," warned California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the sponsors of the bill, during the debate preceding the vote.

I remember his words at the early months: Kathy, I am not born for here, I am suffering every day, why should I start everything from scratch to just say that I studied in US? All this pain not even for my own land? As an Iranian, I can choose only limited fields to specialize in, may be two or three and not even what I like! I can never even get into the field that I want. Just I have to stick to internal medicine and thank good Lord!

I said: Hey man if it is really that bad- winking- why dont you go back home?

He looked at me kind of upset and laughing said: Oh. Common Kathy, you have been there, you know how that hurts. What can I do? Drive taxis round the city after all these years and with all those big plans? Remember If on a winter's night a traveler? Can I leave all my wishes? A man is alive as long as he makes wishes! I can not. He lowered his head and I could feel that tears are coming to those eyes.

I looked at his big brown eyes and preferred to just keep quiet. What could I say? I knew at least in US, he was able to realize what he had in his mind, if not today and tomorrow, but in 5 years, 10 years.just one day. One day before he would give that warm flesh of his body to the cold earth of this land. Before all those brain cells under his hair could stop producing his big thoughts. How could he be cruel to all his dreams? He should stay and fight and I am the one to tell him, now that he is desperate, now that he needs a push ..

Moments later there was me talking about the beauties of the utopia of his dreamy universe and how he has to try hard .. how his mum would be proud of him one day .. one day when all flourishes and once more its him who will rest his head on the bossoms of his kind, loving mum .He can invite his parents as a celebrated specialist and be proud.

He looked at me and I could feel that. I had made it! He loved his parents especially his mum so much. Just the thought of it worked and he started his swim against the stream of time

He said in a firm voice: Kathy you are right. No pain, no gain and it has been our destiny pain, pain and when comes the gain? Only GOD knows . And then he giggled.

We both knew how true that was not only for me and him but for the whole generation of us, young Iranian educated people after the revolution, so we both laughed whole heartedly. I left him with a new ray of light in that orange, red face that I had known for years.

He took the exams USMLE I and USMLE II, scores were so high that I was even envious ! Flied to DC and came back with good news. He was offered a residency in Internal residency. Things were turning even much better than what we had expected. Oh! GOD how I became happy How he was happy and how I could hear him calling his mum and Dad from the other room and saying: I am changing my visa status, they will take care of my work visa as I will start working as a resident in Washington DC. Hey start planning! I will send you the invitations and in summer , you should come to visit me. We will be altogether again! and then added with a lower voice and you do not need to send me any more money. Now, I will be working ..now you wait for my money coming your wayand he laughed so happily that I told him to knock on the wood so that evil will not hear him. He gave me one of those meaningful looks of: .. hey , you superstitious creature But when I left, I could hear the voice of his fingers knocking on the wooden door .

Suddenly I remembered, last time he was talking of starting to work in 4 months after the work permit work paper is done and his visa status has changed. And now?! Has it been done? Does he have a different visa? Oh .. my GOD .. under this new bill for Iranians..they will not issue a visa for him to come back and continue his studies.. he can not leave this country and come back What does he do now? Knowing him .. I knew that he will think of going back home definitely I should talk to him as soon as possible.

Cant wait any more .. picked up the phone and it was me talking with such a strange voice .. A young woman answered and told me two unbearable, unimaginable facts: he does not want to talk nobody and he has lucked himself up and just morns. My heart was beating and tears did not let me talk but I had to talk to him So, I just insisted and asked the lady to mention my name .I was his old friend, the friendship made over a fire and I could not let go of all his efforts so easily. It worked and finally it was him on the phone his voice slow and bitter ..

-: Kathy.. can u believe?
-: No .. never .. I could never even imagine .

-: Kathy she is gone .. she is not there any more .. Kathy my mum has died do u hear me?
-: (Yes I hear u with all my heart can I still talk about a fight for life, for goals now?! Never.. I am being thorn apart I hear my voice saying: ) I know how you feel .. it is all so bitter ..

-: Kathy .. I am leaving this damn land in two days
-:(Now I come back to the real life. I should do something, something to prevent him from leaving .He is leaving but he can never come back or at least not so soon.. My mind is filled up with that new bill. No more non immigrant visas for Iranians He has tried so hard in this land .. he is thirty something years old now .. how can he start it all again? How many years should he study? How many more years should he go through the pain till there comes the gain? I remember all those petitions but we never know if it will be a law or not. More likely to become a law. It just lacks presidents signature to become a law! Oh GOD! How I wish more people had signed that petition .. wish there was no bill but there is one .. no, what happens to him now? Are they all gone, all those efforts? He can never return, his efforts are all gone.. he can not go home .. but how can I say that?!)No.. if you do .., you know all you did is gone for good .. you know.

He: I do not care how can I not be by my dad.. huh? How can I even not be there when he needs me so badly? How could I let my mum suffer all this time? I gave her all the pain of loneliness and separation. She was crying all the time that we talked on the phone how do you want me to stay here and live? What is the worth of this life for me .. even if now I can not go and be there for her, for them for the very last time

I hear him weeping and then a door that closes! I better shut up sometimes logic is nothing but a piece of mud to slide on.

I hang up the phone, close my eyes and make a wish wish GOD would treat us differently.

April 25th 2002
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