On this #GivingTuesday I want to thank you for your support and engagement with AIC over the years. Now more than ever, AIC needs your help to improve intercultural understanding and dialogue between the U.S. and Iran.
Nothing affirms my belief in the need for AIC’s work more than when I travel to Iran - as I did for my third time - this September.
My travels there are always a powerful combination of heartwarming and heartbreaking: Heartwarming due to the overwhelming outpouring of enthusiasm and love that the Iranian people express towards Americans, and heartbreaking because I know that this enthusiasm and openness is not understood or reciprocated by many Americans back home.
Of all my interactions, the most touching moment during my last visit was when I met a member of the Basij paramilitary force at an Iran-Iraq war memorial in the city of Mashhad. He was selling honey from an area of Iran that had been bombarded during the war.
The memorial was littered with anti-American propaganda -- posters denouncing the U.S. for a surprisingly broad range of grievances, from U.S. support for Iraq during the war, to Hollywood's “unfair” portrayal of Iran in the movie Argo.
Despite our surroundings, this man’s eyes lit up when I said I was from the U.S., and he enthusiastically offered me a free jar of honey. I refused the requisite three times, but the offer was not ta’arof. Rather, this man – a member of the Basij, surrounded by anti-U.S. propaganda - was genuinely excited to meet me and expressed his hope that I would return home with a positive view of Iran that I would share with the American people.
It is this kind of interaction that touches me in a way that no visit to any other foreign country ever does. And it is just one story of many that are - again - both gladdening, and also frustrating, in demonstrating how much potential exists for mutual understanding and yet how much work still needs to be done.
Each time I return from Iran, I feel an overwhelming sense of duty to share my experiences, to counter the misconceptions that people have, and to work tirelessly to pursue AIC’s mission of improving intercultural understanding and dialogue.
If you feel a similar passion for AIC's mission, I ask you to please make a 100% tax-deductible donation and support AIC’s work. The year 2017 will be a very active time for us, with a particular focus on Iran’s image and people-to-people diplomacy. We are gearing up for 2017 now, and your help is needed more than ever.
Director of Operations, American Iranian Council