Thursday, July 19, 2007

Question 7: Who are we?

We have now taken up residence in the West and are adjusting to our new lives here. I have been slow about revealing our identities because I got used to being Esther for so long. My husband has been eager to end the anonymity, so I am finally going to take his advice and make a clean break of it.

Esther (ET) is Tori Egherman and Keivan (K)is Kamran Ashtary. I am currently at work on a book about the time we spent in Iran. The two of us published the book of photographs and essays: Iran: View from Here that we announced in a previous post. We were interviewed by David Inge on Focus 580 for those of you who want to hear our wonderful voices.

BTW, while we were in Iran, most of our friends did not know that we kept this blog. In addition, we did our best to hide the identities of others. So if you are one of our friends discovering this now... don't feel bad.


Marie said...

Dear Tori, welcome back to the U.S.: I presume this is where you've taken up residence. I have enjoyed your blog so thoroughly. I am sorry that you left, and I probably understand your situation more than most. When I saw your book yesterday, I figured Esther was you, Tori. You've done a beautiful job putting a human face on a country that has been described as an 'axis of evil'. I look forward to what's next. All the best in your new next chapter.

Marie said...

I did not mean to exclude you, Kamran. Congratulations on publishing your book. I have boxes of photos from my experiences in Iran during 1979 and 1980. I have planned for years to publish them, but initially I was too emotional and distraught to concentrate, and then life went on with too much work and too many children. I will one day put them together as a historical look at Iran. (Perhaps it will bookend your publication:) If you don't have my email address, let me know how I may email you in case you two are in the New York area, you can contact me. All the best.

Anonymous said...

You guys will always be Esther and Keivan to me. I'll try to pick up a copy of that book when I have a chance. Welcome back and keep in touch!

serendip said...

Congrats. I wish someone was doing a book right now with the new political climate as well.

Marie: Please do publish your book. There is so much to know about Iran before the 1978 revolution. You'll be doing a great favor to thousands of Iranians who have never known anything else but the IRI. Thanks for stopping by at my blog, btw. Do visit again, if you can.

K said...

Dear Dear all
Thanks for your lovely post about Tori and I.
I would love to see your photos, is there anyway we I can see some of those photographs. my email:


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on publishing your book. I'm wondering why you chose to try to conceal your identity on this blog. I assumed it was so you could express yourself more openly with less fear of trouble with Iranian officials, but I don't know that. However, if that was the case, why come out now? I know you are not in Iran currently, but don't you plan to return to Iran? And aren't K's family members still there now? This is C from KA, so you know that I also have had to consider this issue when communicating about my experiences. Anyway, I hope you keep writing in this journal. It's great!

Tori said...

C, From the start we knew that our identites were known. It was just too difficult to keep them unknown. I wrote an article about why we decided to conceal our identities at Reconstruction.

Our anonymity was a kind of Halloween costume: if you knew us, you knew who we were but you could pretend that you did not.

Why reveal them now? Of course we would like to go back to Iran. That goes without saying. We left great friends, great family, and a great country behind. Unfortunately neither of us is willing to live with the kind of insecurity that exists in Iran at the moment. It is unbelievably stressful and exhausting to wake up each day unsure of what will happen. (I know, we all do that... none of us can be sure of the day's events... It's just that in Iran, you are even more unsure.)

ddmmyyyy said...

I only recently come to learn that you guys went by aliases and now I come to learn that you've been in contact with me genuinely as yourselves - had I'd have known... I did reply and request to meet but had no response(?). Just out of interest, have we ever been in the same room?

I hope you're resettling well back in the land of the 'Great Satan'. Out of the frying pan and into the fire some might say.

It's funny, people are way more worried about my being here than I am - even Iranian citizens. You mention that it was "unbelievably stressful and exhausting to wake up each day unsure of what will happen". I don't find this myself, but then I'm not a woman, not American, don't run my own business and have a lot of family here. Also my writing is not as close to the bone as you guys - we have different approaches to the same cause.

Regardless, thank you for the great service you have done in enlightening the world as to the day-to-day here. I'm sure I speak for many when I say that I look forward to your return and further words.

Take care,

ddmmyyyy AKA David Yaghoobi (or am I?)

ddmmyyyy said...

I just wanted to add a comment regarding your "My Life in the Panopticon". You make a point about being watched, again, I am a different case to you for the previously stated reasons, but I myself find that I am significantly less watched in Iran.

Like you I cannot verify this to any great degree other than knowing that I had a specific person following me here, and I quite like the guy, we hung out, but now I don't see him - I must be safe.

I've had odd phone calls also that were very likely information gathering calls. Other that this and the usual methods I feel less monitored.

As for the UK, I sneer at returning, I am only too aware of the foot prints I leave everywhere, with card payments, CCTV, signing paperwork, car plate readers, membership cards, loyalty cards, government paperwork... the list goes on. I know that my card transactions trigger at least 300 business to know my spending trends, then there is the credit information collection centres of which perspective employers can check all manner of personal details at a small fee.

I expect that America is worse and thus find your opinion odd. How about the Patriot Act? Surely since your return you've been more in the governments eye what with being associated with a "terrorist" nation - you have just as much reason to be in Gitmo as any of the other poor souls plucked from the region.

I believe I'm a healthy and productive citizen and have no reason to feel followed but psychologically these things effect me. I have nothing to hide but I detest being watched in this manner, this is not the price of our collective safety.


Tori said...

david, you make good points. All of them true. We are all being watched too much everywhere. I find it exhausting. There are such dramatic differences though... you cannot imagine!

btw, I do not think we were ever in the same room. We'll have to meet some time...

Anonymous said...

From C from KA: Maybe you folks have had enough of this topic, but if not, you might like to read Vol. 1, Issue 3, of Surveillance and Society, titled, "Foucault and Panopticism Revisited." Here's the address:

Tori said...

C from KA, will definitely read that... hmmm, are you who i think you are?