Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Iranian "Little Sis"

Whenever Iran is in the news, I remember Maryam T.

Maryam was my "little sister" in my college sorority (Tri Delta at Cornell University) way back in the late 1960's. She must have been one of the very first Iranian women educated in the U.S. I remember her telling me that her family did not understand why her father allowed her to come here for college--or to go to college at all.

Maryam was an attractive girl and spoke English fluently but with a bit of an English accent and used more British than American terms when I first knew her. She was the first Muslim I ever knew, although she was not particularly devout. I remember being struck by how similar her dietary restrictions were with those of the Orthodox Jewish girl in the sorority (also a good friend of mine) and being distressed that these two "sisters" went out of their way to avoid talking to or eating with each other if at all possible. Apparently the ancient antagonisms between their ancestors were not overcome by the shared experiences in college and the sorority. But there was never any overt unpleasantness between the two of them.

From Maryam I learned that Iranians are not Arabs, but Persians and this was a very important distinction to them, despite their shared religious faith. There were very few Muslims or Arabs or Persians at Cornell or anywhere else in the country in those days. Now I live near a couple of mosques and have a number of Muslim neighbors out here in the Texas suburbs.

The last I heard, Maryam lived on the east coast and was married--but I don't know anything about her husband, family or life after college. I heard that her family fled Iran after the fall of the Shah so I imagine that she became an American citizen and made her life here. I hope it has been a good life.

What does Maryam think when she sees what is happening in Iran today? That young woman who was killed while attending a protest was probably the same age as her daugher, if she has one. Does she still have family there? Are they among the protestors? If the regime changed, would she want to return to visit or to live? I would like to know, but long ago lost touch with her.

My prayers are with those seeking freedom and democracy in Iran. May God be with them.


Presbyterian Gal said...


Averill said...

Great post, Moomie.

Mommy Shoes said...

I have been reading your blog for quite a while, starting because of the Prebyterian issues, and also being intrigued by the fact that you were an attorney turned SAHM. Now, I know why I really like you- you're a fellow Cornellian! Go Big Red!

joyknits said...

Amen! We had some Persian (their emphasis) classmates at Park College in Missouri in the late 50's, including 1 girl, but we've also lost touch with them.

Songbird said...

Have you looked for her on Facebook or via TriDelt or Cornell alum directories? I bet she would love to hear from you.

Quotidian Grace said...

Mommy Shoes--

Thanks for de-lurking and letting me know there is another Cornellian out there!

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

That must make it feel so much more personal.

Mary Beth said...

Amen. It's those personal connexions that make "the other" a real person.