In 2004, I journeyed with my wife and daughters to Iran, where I’d been invited to speak at a pulmonary conference hosted by a prominent physician, Dr. Amin Ehteshami Afshar. The trip was arranged by my Yale friend, Dr. Vahid Mohsenin. I rounded in hospitals with trainees, learned from colleagues, and was interviewed on national TV. We visited with the extended families of Drs. Mohsenin and Asghar Rastegar. We sampled saffron ice cream and feasted on fesenjoon and jeweled rice. We shopped in the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, sipped tea above the famed square in Isfahan, hunted for wild boar (unsuccessfully) outside Shiraz, and drove across the desert to Yazd. In the home of Dr. Ehteshami Afshar and his wife, Norah, we met a 14-year-old girl named Solmaz, who joined us 14 years later as a resident.
To this day, Heide regularly pays homage to our trip in her Persian Spice Market Class. I’ve been privileged to recruit many brilliant Iranian residents into our program.
Since our visit, Iran’s political climate has collapsed. In September, the government murdered a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Ahmini, after she was detained by the “morality police” for appearing in public with her head uncovered. Protests then erupted nationwide, led by young women and men—many of them teenagers—demanding basic freedoms. In a desperate attempt to intimidate the protestors, the government has cracked down. Hundreds of young people have been killed and many more imprisoned. Physicians have risked their own lives caring for them. Despite the danger, the young people persist.
The violence may feel far away, but for many, particularly the Iranians in our community, the news hits home.
We Americans are privileged. We can speak freely without fearing violent retaliation. We can practice religion as we see fit. We know that our government, despite its flaws, respects basic rights.
As physicians, we know that health is inextricably tied to physical and psychological safety, and we know that disease, whether microbial or social, inevitably spreads if not contained.
Today, please join me by supporting our Iranian friends and colleagues, in the Middle East, New Haven, and throughout the world. Their courage inspires us, and we pray for their safety. May their struggles deliver them the rights and freedoms all people deserve.
Jin, jiyan, azadi (women, life freedom),
For further reading and listening:
- Iran Uses Rape to Enforce Women’s Modesty
- Iran Turns to Public Executions, Enraging an Already Protesting Public
- The Revolt Against Iran's Theocratic Regime (an interview with the Yale lecturer, writer, and activist, Roya Hakakian)