This text is part of my in-progress memoir, which I plan to publish sometime in the future when the time is right.
God moved into our nation in 1979
God moved into our nation and settled there. It was 1979, and I was only seven years old. He took over the country with Ayatollah Khomeini. He was a “man” with a long beard and turban who looked more like an Indian than an Iranian.
Not long after, Khomeini declared himself the supreme religious leader of Iran. Khomeini’s pictures were everywhere. Not only was he hanging on every wall, but he was also on TV every time we switched it on. Was it a reminder that somebody was watching us?
How a man so devoid of spirit could become the supreme religious leader of a country remains a wonder to me. Real living proof of how mass suggestion sets forces in motion that eventually gain momentum.
It was not long before the left-oriented revolution took an unexpected direction. Women had to cover their hair. It was no longer allowed to show skin, listen to music, dance or drink alcohol. If you were an opponent of the revolution, you were also an enemy. The revolution brought fear to the country and dissolved people’s trust.
“What is mentioned at the dinner table or what happens at home belongs within the four walls of the house. Remember, it must not leave the house.” The grown-ups reminded us constantly. I remember a classmate who lost her brother. He disappeared one night, and they never found him. He belonged to the wrong group and was considered an enemy of the nation.
At that time, we lived half an hour’s drive from my grandparents’ large house in Isfahan. It is one of Iran’s largest cities, and its written history stretches back to 559-330 BC. The city, along the Zayanderud River, first became known with the Sasanian dynasty and is still known for its beautiful architecture. Isfahan has the perfect climate for growing roses. My grandfather loved and cultivated them alternately. Hidden behind high walls was their rectangular garden decorated with roses of various colours.
One late afternoon
I remember visiting my grandparents one late afternoon. That particular afternoon, the joyful, loving atmosphere at my grandparent’s home was suddenly disturbed. My grandfather’s family used to own large tracts of land in that area, and their street was named after my grandfather’s family, Aryan. One day, the authorities discovered that Aryan was not a revolutionary name and changed the name to something more Islamic.
I hadn’t seen my grandfather angry often. He was in a complete rage. He condemned the revolution and Khomeini. His disparaging talk could get the whole family in trouble. Walls had ears, as we said in Iran. So did neighbours and passers by. We had to get my Grandfather back inside the house or there could be desperate consequences for the whole family. This was the kind of fear and oppression we lived through.
Despite such episodes, people remained hopeful. “It will not last long. There’s going to be a change soon,” I heard as adults chatted among themselves, but before the improvement came, the country was at war with neighboring Iraq. Was the war a maneuver to focus all attention on an external enemy so that Khomeini and Co could claw their way deeper into the nation?
While all this was happening in the nation, God’s existence was absent in our home. My Grandma was the only family member who nurtured her relationship with God through daily prayer rituals. She had done that all her life. Beyond that, she made no bones about her faith. One day, God arrived at our house through my father’s brother. The year was 1981-1982, I think. The strangest thing about years is that time whispers the numbers away, but the feelings surrounding events usually remain.I was a nine-year-old with itchy ears. I had not met this uncle before. He lived in Istanbul, had a PhD, and knew a lot. He was so different from my father. I liked him from the first second, and as malnourished as I was for a healthy masculine relationship, I attached myself to everything he said and did. Around the dinner table, God accompanied politics, which really amused me.
I hope you enjoy listening to this beautiful Iranian song while you continue reading the rest of the post.
Come to yourself
In Persian, the word for God is Khoda.
The alphabet kh, in Farsi, is pronounced from the throat and does not exist in Norwegian or English. “Khoda means BE KHOD A,” explained my uncle. Directly translated as “Come to yourself.”
This encounter restored God in my memory, totally unaware that I had met his son a few years earlier in a dream. At the time, I knew nothing about the Christian faith and the trinity; in Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although I don’t remember what he was doing in my dream, he must have made an impression. “Last night I dreamed about Jesus,” I excitedly told my mother, who passed it on to my grandmother.
Turning back to the nation and Khomeini’s plan, many had begun to foresee the future. There were no prospects there, which created a mass exodus. The revolution became the dynamite that blew Iranian families out of Iran and worldwide. This included my family, who moved to Istanbul, with that uncle. Turkey was a transit country for many Iranians at that time—a stopping place before they moved on, either to the USA or Europe. We traveled by bus out of Iran. I remember the trip like it was yesterday. As soon as we had passed the Turkish border, I removed my manto (full-covering long top combined with trousers) and rooseri (headgear covering the hair). It was pure happiness.
“Can’t you wait to undress? You look absolutely desperate,” my father scolded. I was desperate! Walking in full-covering clothes under the scorching sun was the worst thing in my world. Letting them go was what I had been looking forward to most about moving: small child, big joy. Admittedly, I wasn’t a child, but a fourteen-year-old with childlike innocence intact. In 1986, I was only concerned with the dress code and the joy of change–unaware of how life abroad would shape me and my life in the following years, for better or worse.
It was after passing 40, that I became aware of a different side to it. It happened in a meeting with a shaman in South America. I had always considered myself a citizen of the world. One of the lucky ones who was concerned with people and not with their nationality. How similar are we as human beings, despite being born in different countries? Above all, we are socialized and learn to wear masks to fit into society. Even though the masks differ from country to country, in a meeting with the shaman in Peru, I was told that I had lost a part of my heart when we left Iran.
A conglomerate of various events
My life had been a conglomerate of various events that had brought me to where I was. Life had also, in its subtle way, forced me to face the unashamed truth.
My parents’ dramatic love affair had gone hand in hand with the political unrest in the country; the chaotic political situation had forced us out of Iran, and the eternal unrest at my parent’s home had made me run away from home when we arrived in Norway. I was barely 15 years old then.
In Norway, I became a lone wolf without a pack. I had met the face of loneliness before. It was when we moved to Shahoord, a town in North East Iran where my father’s family lived. The playfulness, love and joy were left in Isfahan in my grandparents’ rose garden .
It would be 40 years after the Iranian revolution happened, and from the night Jesus visited me in the dream until I became involved with God again. This time on a more personal level. The new God was not the same one who had forced us out of Iran. I refound God in Hindu mythology.
“Once upon a time all men were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the supreme god, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found. Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of gods to help him decide. “Let us bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods. But Brahma replied, “No, that will not do because men will dig into the earth and find it.” Then the gods said: Let us sink it in the deepest sea. But Brahma said, “No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and find it.” Then the gods said: “Let us take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” But again, Brahma said, “No, neither will, because eventually, they will climb every mountain and take up their divinity again.” Then the gods gave up and said: “We do not know where they will hide it, for it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that men do not reach the end.”
Brahma thought for a long time and said, “This is what we will do. We will hide your divinity deep in the centre of your being, for men will never think to look for it there.” All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since then, people have walked up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing and exploring – searching for something already in themselves.”
This God reminded me of my uncle’s description of Khoda around the dinner table many years earlier. A God I could relate to and investigate further. As the first step in our meeting, I decided to write God a personal letter.
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