I am a Christian. I was raised in Iran as a Shi’ite Muslim. And I am married to an American Jewish man. Back in 1979 my world had totally collapsed. All I had worked for and enjoyed in my life was threatened. Religious fanatics had taken over my country, upending everything for me and millions of other Iranians. It was enough to turn anyone against religion.
But instead it was religion that not only led to my survival, but to a happiness and prosperity beyond anything I hoped for. However, it was not the religion taught by institutions and authorities, and least of all by a government. Instead it was a true faith I developed in the midst of crisis.
I was not very religious when the Iranian Revolution took place. But my bitter experiences in that upheaval over the four years between 1979 and 1983, when I finally got out of Iran, led me on a new path. Let me tell you a little of what I went through in Iran so you will see that no problem is too large to be overcome with this faith.
A fearsome man came to power, a religious dictator by the name of Ayatollah Khomeini. He started calling America the Great Satan. But at home he began acting like a devil himself.
Every day people were being executed, with bodies hanging from cranes in the middle of the street. My father-in-law at the time, a leading industrialist and a member of the Shah’s parliament, was imprisoned. Daily life became a nightmare as the fanaticism of the new rulers was imposed on everyone in the cruelest ways, and when you least expected it.
When I drove to work on Shahreza Avenue, the newspaper boys stood in our way, holding up that day’s front page with the pictures of the smashed and bloodied faces of military generals recently killed. I remember looking for my arrested father-in-law’s picture; gladly unable to find it, and praying he wasn’t next.
One time as I was opening a car door I felt a liquid spray on my neck. It had become common for Khomeini’s people to splash acid on the faces of people who, by the way they dressed or the car they drove, appeared to them as Taghooti (meaning evil, but in this case pro-Shah). The Yaghooti, meaning ruby, were considered pro-Khomeini. As soon as I felt the liquid on my neck I thought I was under attack. Then I smelled that it was only bug spray. Some young thug was trying to terrorize me. He suddenly kicked the door of the car and yelled, “Haven’t you learned your lesson? You are still driving your Mercedes while there are people in the war [between Iran and Iraq]?”
The kid jumped on the back of a motorcycle with another guy and they sat there, laughing at my fear. Then they drove off. I was so angry, I chased the motorcycle through the narrow streets, and when they saw I was not stopping, the guy on the back got off and stood in the middle of the street, pointing a gun at me in the car. It was then I realized that anger was futile. There had to be a better way to fight them. I had come face to face with a bullet marked for my head and I dodged it. That experience taught me one of the most important lessons you can ever learn: don’t get angry. Leave revenge to God. He will give it out in his own time.