By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

A heart full of affection for Iran beats in U.S.

May 4, 2020 - 11:10

What words and phrases can describe the kindness of a man who has begun his every day over the past 12 years after his namaz by editing articles for the Tehran Times fi sabilillah – for the sake of Allah? He is Brother Yuram Abdullah Weiler, a man with a heart full of love for Iran, who lives with his kind wife, Batyah, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

He has shared his experiences of contributing to the daily with the readers in an email interview on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the Tehran Time.

Q. Brother Yuram, you commenced your collaboration with the Tehran Times over 12 years ago by writing articles and news editing and the daily now turns 41. Do you have an idea about this fact that you have played a role as much as 12 years in this 41-year history? 

A. Congratulations to everyone at Tehran Times on this occasion of the 41st anniversary of the founding of the “voice of the Islamic Revolution”. It is hard to believe that 12 years have passed since the start of my association with you, and that, for the most part, every morning I am still editing news items for a newspaper located some 7,000 miles away, while assisting my colleagues who have actually become more like close friends and family. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to be of help, taarof nemikonam.  

I still have a printout of Brother Hamid Golpira’s email of June 21, 2008 asking me to do some editing, because my “English seems good.” Of course, my college majors were mathematics and physics, and quite candidly, I did not take any English courses beyond the usual undergraduate curriculum. However, my mother was a stickler for good English, so perhaps some of her instruction has remained with me over the years.  

When I edit a news item, I try to infer what is happening from the text and make any changes accordingly using English vocabulary that seems appropriate for the context. Most often, the changes are minimal: an article “a” or “the” here and there, and perhaps a comma or two. By the way, take it from a linguistically-challenged person, for the most part, the English I see for editing is very, very good. I wish my Farsi was that good!

Q. What was your motivation for this collaboration and what inspires you to continue it?

A. There were a number of events leading to a realization that I had to do something about the injustices being perpetrated in and by the United States. Certainly, the illegal and immoral U.S. invasion of Iraq was one critical point. For reasons only Allah (swt) knows, I became outraged by the wanton and unprovoked U.S. assault and occupation of Iraq, and felt compelled to do whatever I could to try to prevent the same thing from happening to Iran, which at that time seemed like a very real possibility, and, with the lunatic fringe running Washington, still does.

So I began to write letters critical of U.S. actions to editors, first to local newspapers and later to national news outlets but without success. I began to broaden my efforts and happened to connect with Tehran Times and the late editor and my good friend, Hamid Golpira, who encouraged and guided me, and published my first article, “Unbalanced U.S. policy on Palestine” in June of 2006. At that time, I suppose I thought maybe I would write five or ten articles at most, never dreaming that I would have over 200 articles published.

A crucial event in my life was the chance meeting in November 2003 of Hajj Agha Ibrahim Kazerooni, who was born in Najaf, Iraq and studied in Qom and Tehran.  Sheikh Ibrahim, as I refer to him, has been my guide, mentor and a dear friend for 17 years, and is currently an imam at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. I found him to be an invaluable resource not only for learning about Islam, but also about Middle East [West Asia] history. Additionally, I have learned such diverse subjects from him as how to cook chelo rice and how to blend loose-leaf tea. He also has reviewed many of my articles and provided many valuable insights and comments. I doubt seriously that I would be where I am today without his friendship and guidance.

As far as inspiration to continue, I really can’t imagine not continuing to edit for as long as I can.  This has been the most intellectually broadening experience in my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to connect personally with people, culture and country literally half way around the world.

Q. The articles you have written for the Tehran Times are mostly anti-imperialist and in support of the oppressed. What’s the feedback you have received about the articles whether from your Iranian friends in the U.S. or other friends and people across the world?

A. Of course, I have received a fair amount of negative feedback, mostly from Americans. I remember one in particular who insisted that he knew all about Islam because he had read a long list of books, all written by authors who had extremely unfavorable views of the religion. After one interview in which I was highly critical of the Israeli apartheid regime, I received feedback in the form of a rock thrown through a window of our home. The other extreme are those friends that I have made over the years who not only have agreed with my perspectives but also have asked me to write articles on specific topics or to give presentations.

What surprises me is hearing from individuals from the Middle East [West Asia] who hold favorable views of U.S. imperial policy in the region. There is one Pakistani who read one of my articles years ago and I am still in contact with him despite differences on Islam and Iran. Nevertheless, he has always been respectful to me as a brother in Islam while disagreeing with his more positive views of the U.S. and its policies. Like most Americans, he seems to view Washington’s hegemonic escapades as motivated by the best of intentions, but occasionally causing unintended, harmful consequences.

Q. What are the problems in working with the Tehran Times?

A. Of course, the time difference between Tehran and Las Cruces, New Mexico sometimes creates a difficulty.  Often by the time I have finished namaz in the morning and sit down to edit, it is already late in the afternoon or early evening in Tehran. Yet somehow everyone has managed to be patient with me; I do appreciate that very much.

As far as technical issues, perhaps the biggest one is my not having a sufficient command of Farsi to be able to clarify meanings of words or phrases, which may be idioms in Farsi that have been translated literally into English. When I have a question about a word or a phrase, I send an email asking for clarification, and since I insist on communicating in Farsi, sometimes I simply don’t have the vocabulary to properly ask my question or express my concern.

Lastly, I am well aware that my editing and writing takes place in the context of an ongoing 40-year-plus propaganda campaign by the U.S. against Iran, so the last thing I want to do is allow anything to pass my scrutiny that could be embarrassing to the Islamic Republic. I am especially cautious when editing statements by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and other officials. At the same time, I avoid using English language idioms that would make Iranians sound too much like Americans when their statements are read.

Q. You along with your kind wife, Sister Batyah, visited in 2012. You have many Iranian friends in the U.S. and Iran. As much as I know, you try to live an Iranian style. You try Iranian cuisine; you spread Haft-Seen and many other things. What pushes you toward Iran?

A. How could anyone, who claims to believe in justice and fairness, not be pushed toward a country, which has made such a valiant stand against U.S. imperialism? The history of Iran over the past two centuries has been a history of fighting against British, Russian and then American domination, and emerging victoriously by the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as a rightfully proud nation led by Imam Khomeini (ra).

My initial attraction to Iran was amplified after reading Steven Kinzer’s “All The Shah’s Men”, which details the U.S. role in the August 1953 overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Since that time, I have studied numerous books on Iran and the Islamic Revolution, and with each one, I feel my love for the country grows.  

Likewise, I am stunned by the Iranian people’s sacrifices and steadfastness during the Jang-e Tahmili, the 8-year-long, U.S.-backed war waged by Iraqi dictator Saddam against the fledgling Islamic Republic.  Who would fail to be awed and inspired after hearing the story of the martyrdom of the 13-year-old Basiji, Hossein Fahmideh, who threw himself under an enemy tank while holding several grenades in order to halt its advance?

So yes, I have fallen in love with Iran and have tried my best to learn as much as I can about this special country, and to the extent possible, adopt Iranian customs, traditions and cuisine, not to mention struggling to learn Farsi. But I’m not the first American to be Iranstruck, if I may coin a word; Howard Baskerville, who was killed leading a group of Iranians during the Constitutional Revolution over a hundred years ago and was buried in Tabriz, also fell in love with Iran and Iranians.

Q. We have regretted that your wish to live in Iran remains unfulfilled. How have you dealt with it?

A. This is clearly the most difficult question, since yes, I very much wanted to live in Iran, even more so since my wife and I visited in 2012. To some extent, I suppose living in Las Cruces, New Mexico is one way I have dealt with this disappointment, since living here is somewhat like being outside of the U.S. and the desert landscape reminds me of parts of Iran.

Another way is simply trying to live as much of an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle as is possible and continue to maintain my contacts with Iranians both here in the U.S. and in Iran. Let me be blunt: while I was born in America, I consider that to have been a geographical accident and do not consider myself to be American; I simply happen to live here. This statement holds even more so since my wife and I have visited Iran and have seen what a beautiful country it is and personally experienced the world-renowned Iranian hospitality. 

Q. I remember that you once asked Sister Batyah to edit our articles when you were away from home for a couple of weeks due to your trip to Iraq. What does she think about your collaboration with our daily?

A. As did I, my wife has fallen in love with Iran and continues to stay in contact with our enchanting Iranian tour guide, Fam Shah Hosseini. I asked my wife for her thoughts on all these years of collaboration with the Tehran Times, and she said she views it as a precious connection with reality. Life here in the U.S., even before the ascent of Trump, is a distortion of reality and, to a degree, surreal, especially these chaotic days of the coronavirus pandemic. She, like me, feels that Iran is a very special place — like a diamond in the midst of a region of rhinestones — with warm, caring people and a rich history and culture dating back thousands of years. So even if we can’t live there, we could never sever our connection with our Iranian family and friends.

Photo: Journalist and senior editor Yuram Abdullah Weiler poses at his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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