It's hard now to imagine Badiozamani screaming and crying. She's a lithe, self-assured, pretty young woman with large dark eyes that shine when she talks about her move to London in October. The prospect of life in the big city excites her. Her Stanford boyfriend, the son of a UN diplomat and a judge on the Indian Supreme Court, won't be far away. He'll be studying law at Cambridge.
"Of course, my career choice," says Badiozamani, "is totally off the wall for an Iranian girl. I want to work in international development, to work with an international, nongovernmental agency involved in either medical or economic aid to countries in the Third World. My father, who held an undergraduate degree in Romance languages and literature and a master's in public administration, had to drive a taxi when we first came to San Diego. He's a very resourceful man, so he didn't stay a taxi driver for long. He now has his own translation agency. He also works as a court interpreter, a notary public, and he's a licensed insurance salesman. He didn't get to use his education. Like many Iranians who came to this country, he saw that Iranians who were able to make the easiest transition, who were able to maintain their careers, were people with degrees in medicine, engineering, and science. So, there's this idea in the Iranian community -- an idea that comes out of an understanding that the world is often dangerous and unstable -- that you should choose a career that you can take with you. Sure, America is a wonderful country that's very prosperous and very safe right now, but 10 years, 20 years down the line, who knows?
"This idea comes from their experience of the revolution. Even though I'm American, I can understand it. I can understand many things like that. I'm basically a blend of two different cultures, a blend, I hope, of what's best in both. I can now understand my parents' position on dating, although when I was in high school it was difficult. My parents are completely secular. They want nothing to do with Islam. But, still, dating was something they felt girls shouldn't do. They used to joke, 'Well, since you won't be getting married until you're 40, there's no reason for you to start dating now.' So, when I was in high school, I didn't date. I didn't go to the prom. Not to be able to have that choice was hard. But without dating, I was able to concentrate on academics. I have friends from high school who now say, 'I wish I hadn't been so caught up with boys. With who liked me and who didn't. With dating. I wish I'd spent more time studying.' "
While at the London School of Economics, Badiozamani hopes to travel in Europe. She'd also like to visit North Africa and perhaps Israel. She has no plans to visit Iran.
"Why would I go there? To a place where women aren't respected, where women have no voice, where you can be arrested for wearing makeup? I may be from Iran, but I'm not from the country that it's now become. No. There's no place for me there. My father went back just recently, and I begged him not to go. I knew it would break his heart. He was there during the student protests, and he saw how the students were beaten. Everyone he talked to there was without hope. None. They're completely nihilistic. It did break his heart. He came back with a bleeding ulcer. I have no plans to go there."
Forty-nine-year-old Reza Khabazian has no plans to visit Iran, either. Tall, lanky, with long graying hair, Khabazian, like many Iranians, is hard to place ethnically. He could be Hispanic or East Indian. His accent, too, which is very slight, is difficult to define. He left with his wife and one-year-old son just two months before the revolution. Raised in Teheran, he was studying horticulture in Shiraz when the Shah's government began to collapse.
"I'm one of six children from a very, very religious family. Of my entire extended family, I'm the only one who isn't religious. I'd estimate that in all of Iran, there were only about 500,000 people like me, people who'd made the transition of coming from an exclusively religious environment into a secular one. Because I came from that religious environment, I knew it would be impossible for me to live under a religious government. I knew how narrow-minded religious people could be. I knew that using religion to run a government, a country, simply couldn't work. There were other students -- students who'd been opposed to the Shah's government -- who were optimistic about the revolution. They thought religious leadership would be only a transitional phase. But these people came from educated, secular families. They had no contact with religious people. They didn't know how religious people think.
"It was only after I left home when I was 18 that I could begin to study music. I had wanted to learn the violin, but to religious people, secular music is a sin. The violin was an instrument of the devil. My family would have never allowed me to play it. The funny thing is that when I first came to America, I went to Texas A&I, a private university in Kingsville, Texas. It was very inexpensive. There were about 1000 other Iranian students there, and 900 of them were religious. They were from lower-class families, and they came to the university because it was cheap. They were very happy with the revolution. They thought it was a wonderful thing. They wanted to go back to Iran. Secular Iranians were definitely a minority. We were afraid to speak out. Here I was in America, with freedom of speech, and I was afraid to speak out against Ayatollah Khomeini.