While the fate of refugees hangs in the balance of a fierce legal battle, I am compelled to reflect on my past.
America is my home. When I chose to become a U.S. citizen 20 years ago, I swore to protect it from enemies, foreign and domestic, and I take this oath very seriously. If refugees posed a credible threat, would I vehemently oppose their entry into the U.S.? Absolutely. But there is no evidence suggesting that refugees from the seven banned countries are, or will be, a threat to America. These refugees are escaping terror, and the robust vetting process protecting our borders ensures that this is the case. Yet many of my fellow Americans support the Muslim ban.
I am a refugee from one of these banned countries. This is my story.
I was a rebellious teen. What set me apart from millions of other rebellious teenagers around the world was that my acts of rebellion could have gotten me executed.
That’s because I was a 13-year-old in post-revolution Iran, where the laws deemed any sort of opposition as an act of treason. And not any kind of treason. It was treason against God and therefore punishable by death. Acts of treason included, but were not limited to: playing chess or cards, listening to unapproved music, fraternizing with a person of the opposite sex to whom you were not related, women displaying unapproved body parts such as hair, possessing contraband literature, and expressing any negative opinions about any of the above.
I was guilty of a number of these infractions, but most were committed in the privacy of my home, which was only raided once. I had lived under these laws since I was 6, and I had all but forgotten what freedom was like, even though deep in my belly I knew this wasn’t right.
My resistance began when I was 7, founded on a fierce belief in equal rights. The new law had me cover my hair, while boys could dress as they pleased. I defied this law by pretending to be a boy from time to time — until people began recognizing me…