I dedicate this book to all the Iranians

- who suffered the death of a loved one because of the revolution of 1979
- who suffered the death of a loved one in the war of 1980-1988
- who since 1979 have fled their homeland and sought refuge elsewhere
- who continue to live under the repressive regime.

M. Hossein Tirgan


Among all the subjects we studied in high school, history was the one that I always struggled with, because history is for most part the study of events that occurred in the remote past, whereas I was more concerned with the present, and even more so with the future, my future. So it was ironic that as the years passed, I wound up personally observing some extraordinary historical events, life-altering, world-changing events that evolved before my very own eyes. When you are a teenager, busy daydreaming about all the exciting things that will happen to you in your life and all the successes you will achieve as an adult, you never stop to consider for one moment that someday you may become an eyewitness to events that will undoubtedly change the course of history, not to mention your own life.

All my life, I believed that to study history was to study the past fruitlessly. Then, after high school, history came crashing unbidden into my world. I saw with my own eyes the fall of the Shah of Iran and the change of the governing regime of my country that occurred in 1978 and 1979. I then realized that history was not only a thing of the past, it was something constantly developing, unfolding right in front of us all. Suddenly, I understood that we are all part of it, every one of us, whether we give our consent to be involved or not.

Thousands of Iranians, citizens of all kinds who refused to live under the new regime, chose to leave their homeland, legally if they could, or illegally by crossing the borders of Turkey or Pakistan, seeking refuge in other countries. Such travel was not without severe and unforeseen risks. As with Mexicans who illegally cross the U.S. border to come and live in America, many Iranians risked their lives in their journey to escape from the oppressive regime and find freedom elsewhere.

Chapter One

In the quiet of early-morning Tehran, Hamid ambled lethargically to the bus station. His bus arrived soon after he did. The driver waived the fare for him, one of the few advantages that came with wearing a military uniform, and welcomed him warmly onto the bus.

"We are proud of you, son," said the driver. "The country is proud of you. Without you, we could not fight against that bastard, Saddam Hussein." The driver pulled his window down and started spitting out of the window with great anger, as if he were actually spitting on Saddam Hussein's face. "The bastard, Saddam Hussein!" Hamid was transfixed. The bus driver was almost beside himself with fury. After several more expletives, the driver calmed himself and said, "Take a seat, my son."

Hamid walked back to take a seat as far away from the driver as he could. He was in no mood to have a conversation with him. The early-morning bus was almost empty, and Hamid wrapped himself in isolation and gazed out the window.

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