Dr. Neema Nori, professor of criminology and sociology at UWG, teaches about the Middle East. His Iranian American identity and his knowledge of the culture motivate him to speak out against the Iranian regime.
“My father immigrated from Iran in the 1950s and met my mom in Colorado,” said Nori. “When I was about four or five, we moved to Iran.”
His father started teaching at the University of Isfahan. In 1977, they left the country and later returned in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah’s regime due to foreign intervention, inflation, and political repression and the Islamic Republic of Iran was installed under the rule of Ruhollah Khomeini.
“I remember seeing excitement in the air because nobody knew what the new regime would be like, so people were very optimistic about the future,” said Nori.
However, the country became militarized and children, including Nori, collected bullets on the ground that were leftover from shootings. Over time, the supporters of the Islamic Republic began taking power. Nori remembers seeing his own mother being forced to use an Islamic veil and how radical students controlled universities.
“There was a University professor who was Baháʼí, a religious minority in Iran, and the students started targeting her. My father tried to defend her, but he realized that this was a place where there´s not a lot of room for being religiously or politically different,” said Nori. “He could tell that the atmosphere was becoming more and more repressive and that this would be a very difficult place to raise a child or for his wife to be free.”
They left Iran, with some money sewn in Nori´s coat, since the country prohibited Iranians from taking money out of the borders.
Nori now lives with his wife and children in Carrollton. His daughter goes to college and his son attends high school. They are rooted in a country that has freedom and democracy, something that his father always dreamed of.
Nevertheless, his ties with Iran are still current. His cousins still live there and speak with them once a month through Telegram. However, the Iranian Government has been shutting down access to Telegram to control the protest movement in regards to 21-year-old Mahsa Amini´s death.
The protests began on Sep. 16, 2022 when Amini was detained and killed by the Police Morality for allegedly using her hijab incorrectly. Since then, many women stopped wearing veils and began protesting, along with other Iranians who were discontent with the regime´s results. Religious and ethnic discrimination, inflation, water shortage, almost-non-existent political representation are just a few symptoms of the regime’s control.
The government suppressed protests by killing over 500 people and injuring or arresting over 19,200.
Nori does not talk to his family about politics through text message, as he thinks they might get in trouble with the government. When they see each other in person they complain about the exponential inflation, despite making ends meet. The last time Nori visited Iran was in 2009.
“Over the last decade, people who have an Iranian parent and an American one have been targeted by the government for silly things,” said Nori. “I am a little worried about going back because they could send me to prison and call me a spy.”
Even though Nori´s family are not activists, one of his cousins contacted him last fall.
“My cousin wrote to us and said ‘I am not wearing the scarf anymore,’ but I don’t know if she is still doing that or not,” said Nori.
His family contemplates moving elsewhere but are reluctant because of their economic situation, deep-rooted fear of homesickness and the need to take care of their older relatives.
“It is about balancing a lot of different factors,” said Nori. “It’s not an easy decision to make.”
Meanwhile, it is uncertain whether the protest can overthrow the regime or if there is going to be an improvement in Iran’s policies.
“The government still has a lot of support and there are constituencies who are economically tied to it,” said Nori. “It’s really unclear what the future holds.”
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