What’s Iran Have to Do With City Council?

My son Jackson and his friend Zak with a a group of university students that we met in a park in Shiraz, Iran.

As the year ends I find myself thinking about Iran more and more—which is funny because with my election to city council I have found my world shrinking a bit. No longer can I spend as much time as I used to gathering information on national and international issues. That time must be spent research the local issues for the many decisions I need to make on City Council. But As the protests and violence heat up again this week in Iran I am thinking more and more about my visit there in May of this year.

I spent a year-and-a-half preparing and fundraising for my son and I to go on a two-week peace delegation to Iran. After many attempts we finally got our visas and were ready to go in the spring. Our hosts urged us for various reasons to delay our trip until June, which would have put us there right in the middle of their elections. Those elections weren’t expected to be controversial. Fortunately we pushed hard for a May visit and were rewarded with a chance to see the country one last time before the current upheaval. I don’t know if we could even get visas now.

The trip was amazing. You can read more about it here. It was a life changing experience for both my son and I. A few weeks after returning I decided to run for City Council. We formed very strong bonds with the Iranian friends we travelled with and tried to stay in touch with them. Then came the Iranian election.

I know that some of our Iranian friends protested the election. I know that they are not what anyone would think of as radicals. They a good-hearted people who just hunger for less government encumbrances on their lives. I’m not talking about less taxes, I’m talking about being able to travel, write, and live their lives without threat of violence or jail time. They are just looking for democracy that would be watered down by American standards, but much better than what they have now.

We received a few emails from them but contact was mostly cut off. One friend emailed me and wanted to know how I was doing. Forget me, what about him? Was everything okay? Had he been hurt in the demonstrations? Did he want to see pictures of the solidarity peace vigil we had in Spokane? Yes, he said, he would to see the pictures of the solidarity vigil. I emailed some pictures of my friends and I, dressed in green, in support of the Iranian protesters.

A week later he sent back and email with bunch of generic official pictures of Iranian tourist destinations. That freaked me out. Could the government have realized he was emailing an American? Did he have to self-censor his emails? Was it really him I was emailing?

When we were in Iran there were places we didn’t go and things we didn’t do not necessarily out of concern for our own safety, but for concern for our hosts. We did not want to get them into trouble. Those concerns seem well founded now—considering a Iranian Newsweek reporter was put in prison for almost four months after being interviewed in Tehran by a correspondent from The Daily Show at almost the same time we were there. I would really love to talk to my friends in Iran but I am afraid that, as an American, if I email them or send them a letter I may be jeopardizing their freedom. I hope the current situation settles down. I hope Iranians get the democratic reforms they are seeking. I hope they get reforms without more people being killed. I hope I can visit their lovely country and see my friends again some day.

Fellow Iran travelers and Tom and Zak and myself at an Iran solidarity demonstration in Spokane in June.


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