Often times when folks discover that I was born on September 11th they express a sense of shock and sadness for me since terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Honestly I have not celebrated my birthday since my bar mitzvah but rather September 11th has been a day of personal reflection for me because of the circumstances that occurred on that day in Iran 29 years ago.
While many folks are quite familiar with the events of September 11, 2001, the vast majority of people are unaware that one of the bloodiest days of the Iranian revolution was on September 11, 1978. In contemporary Iranian history, the day is popularly referred to as “Black Friday” (or in Persian as “Jome Sia”) because protesters clashed in the streets of Tehran with military forces loyal to the late Shah. Every year for as long as I can recall my parents retell the story with vivid details about how thousands of students and other protesters flooded the streets of Tehran calling for an end for the reign of the Shah and for an Islamic revolution. My father recalls that folks who were out on the streets of Tehran that night protesting were violating Marshall law that had been declared. As a result violence broke out between protesters and military forces sent in to end the violence. “There were many dead bodies laying in the ditches along the streets,” he said. My grandmother recalls many power outages during the night with electricity going on and off in the hospital. “Those where turbulent times my young man when you were born and we had to have the brit milah in the hospital because of the violence outside,” said my grandmother.
But the violence of September 11, 1978 was just the beginning of a blood bath that was to follow in Iran in the weeks and months following my birth. Hundreds were killed in Iran during the revolution and thousands after the revolution for being tied to the Shah’s regime and in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). While many Jewish families fled Iran in 1978 and 1979 at the start of the revolution, our family remained in Iran until the summer of 1980. At that time my father’s cousin was arrested and executed by the new Islamic government’s thugs for being a supposed “Zionist spy”. Our family only then realized that Iran was not the place for Jews to live peaceably and so we left all of our assets and fled Iran for good with only the shirts on our backs.
Ultimately I mourn the loss of innocent American lives lost on the tragic day of September 11, 2001. Yet at the same time I wonder how my life would have been different had there not been the Iranian revolution and the tragic events of senseless violence had not occurred on September 11, 1978.