Robin Glynn – General Assignment Reporter –
American poet, journalist, writer and prize-winning author Roya Hakakian visited Southern last Wednesday to speak on growing up in revolutionary Iran and the current state of her homeland.
“The Iranian Revolution is probably one of the most important, informative events in the late 20th century. It was never the same in the Middle East after that,” said Hakakian.
Corinne Blackmer, associate professor of English, agreed.
“That is the most important event in the 20th century beyond World War II because it transformed the Middle East and made it much more of a dangerous place.”
Hakakian read excerpts of her memoir, “Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran,” which took place over a period of 10 years, to a room filled with students and faculty. Her memoir is of her growing up as a Jewish teenager in post-revolutionary Iran.
Hakakian said the purpose of the revolution was to create democracy and freedom, but what people elsewhere were viewing was different and that she decided to give an account of what she thought had happened. There were three main points that Hakakian presents.
Iranians had gone through a transformation. Young, educated Iranian wanted to have democracy. She said that young people wanted to change while the older generation didn’t want change; her second point was being Jewish in Iran; and last, the story of women in Iran.
Hakakian said that feminism was reaching the shores of Iran; women had the choice on how they would like to dress.
She said that her book begins with the question of why did her father send her brother to America, which was so her brother could have civil freedom.
“Iran, which the regime has been in place for 32 years, is building a nuclear weapon and threatening to use it against Israel and the United States,” said Blackmer. “She also has some savvy opinions on what we should and should not do in response to nuclear threats. She is against war, she is against bombing Iran.”
Hakakian was born and raised in a Jewish family in Tehran. She came to the United States in May 1985 on political asylum.
“She was just very eloquent,” said Shannon Ryan, a psychology major. “She talked about topics that are relevant to women studies. Her story is important because her family comes from an important family in the Muslim and Jewish community.”
Blackmer said that Hakakian has a perspective on what should be done when it comes to nuclear threats because she lived through the revolution.
Working in news, Hakakian said reporters she worked with would turn to her for advice.
“They would run the story by me and I would find that my take was vastly different from theirs. I felt like I needed an explanation for a huge disparity between what I knew and what they knew.”
Blackmer said that Iran was once tolerant of religious minorities, but now they no longer are.
“Now if you are semi-Muslin, or Jewish, you are not a full human being, it is like Jim Crow,” said Blackmer. “Roya has said before what Iran needs is a civil rights movement like the black people had here.”
“At the end, what Americans were witnessing on their televisions, and what I knew were completely different,” said Hakakian. “I saw the revolution as that the Iranian revolution as a revolution for the cause of democracy.