Saturday, June 18, 2011

This I find offensive, viscerally!

That after filling an appointment form (e.g. MD Anderson) you read:

"Medical and financial eligibility need to be established prior to confirming an appointment."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The US embassy in Turkey (take 2)

The American Golden Gate doesn't open to Iranians unless in Ankara, or Abu Dhabi.

I wrote about my share of Turkish grief last time

Here's a new and even more distressing account:

We need to obtain emergency visas for family members who are in Iran. We need all of us together, united, pulled in one pool of faith and energy, to unwrap the whirlwather that is dragging our loved one to the under.

The US Department of State has provisions for family emergencies; they honor such requests and at least on the front page of their web site, have procedure to expedite such visa applications. However, the story in Turkey is different!

We have been on the phone, fax, fed-ex with the US embassy in Ankara contacting the "Emergency application" line. We are repeatedly told, not only by the embassy, but also by the congress representative who looks into such constituent affairs, that we should just make an appointment and then call them back with our appointment date, so they can expedite the application! (My siblings have money, plenty of it, and ties in Iran, plenty of them, and a genuine lack of interest to uproot themselves from Iran, to guarantee they won't become 'illegal immigrants', burdening the American system. Therefore, it is no skin off of anyone's back to support their visit to the US).

To make an appointment, Iranian applicants have "only" between 8:30-9:00 AM Ankara time (Local east coast 1:00-1:30 AM), on the first Monday of a month. It took over 20 minutes to make an appointment for a family of four. In the meanwhile, and after the first call, the line was not available for another appointment. The line became available only after 9:00 AM, but the operator adamantly refused to make another appointment despite our "emergency pleas".

We called the Emergency line again; and they insisted that we COULD make appointments between 8:30-16:00. However, the appointment line was refusing to, denying such possibility, and refusing to let us speak to a supervisor. After a few calling back and forth between the two units of the same embassy; we were told that we should fax our request.

However, the fax numbers did not receive anything through.

This experience has made me wonder about the kind of reputation representatives such as these Turkish staff beget America.

We are residing in one of the most conservative ridings of the USA, however we have seen nothing but compassion, care and cooperation from the local population and their representatives (R). Also, the department of State has provisions for cases like ours; so at the policy level, the US government is sympathetic and humanitarian too.

So why is it that an Iranian cannot benefit from what the US government has provisioned to help people in need? Why is the bottleneck in Turkey? Why is it that we are advised "get an American staff of the embassy on the line", but we are stuck behind the Turkish operator who contradicts their policies and offer no sympathy or accountability?

This has made me wonder HOW MUCH should Americans trust the "local" people representing their policies and their values? Isn't this perhaps why things in Afghanistan and Iraq have gone awry? Fundamentally, is it possible for people growing in oppressed cultures to exercise democracy and respect when it is imported to them in an American bureaucratic box?

Why go as far as Turkish staff of the American embassy in Ankara when we can talks about the RUDE and disrespectful treatment our families receive in the Canadian and European consulates in Iran when interacting with the IRANIAN staff of these consulates. It's as if once in the "power" house, all the inferiority complexes turn into tyranny, and everyone else becomes a suspect unworthy of human dignity. If they wish to travel to the "cradles of civilization", they must be beaten to humiliation.

Desperate, we have resorted to famous Iranians with a foot at the door of the US State department. None have been able to do anything about Turkey expediting appointment. But in these interactions I have made another interesting observation:

The Washington crocodiles who shed tears of liberation for the oppressed people of Iran have been far less sympathetic (and perhaps even scorning) to our plea for help. Next to their apathy, the NIAC (which is often chastised by the first group) has shone a touching ray of attention.

I must add, American friends who hear about this are absolutely outraged and some of them have even called Turkey! No avail yet.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm in America

We are hit by crisis again, a medical one, a deadly one. The Bin Laden of all diseases has aimed at the core of our family. The ugly spider has grabbed my little sister's lung; and we are geared for the battle of our life, like legendary amazons.

We are fighting the battle in America; in one of the top cancer treatment centers of the country (and perhaps the world.) When it comes to medicine, somehow I trust Americans the most. Somehow, I trust the simplicity of their "good guy versus bad guy" dichotomy the most; and their "we can do it" attitude.

I am in America, where strangers are not shy to hug me when they find me crying in a private corner; where the senator is prompt to guide us how to use his leverage to obtain visiting visas for the rest of our family who are still in the axis of evil; where the highwayphobic neurosurgeon professor does the unusual adventure of driving to the other neck of the woods to bring food, supplies, laughter and encouragement; where hope is researched and invented ...

These days, I drive the vast suburbs of the South, fashion-free in shorts and tops, and contemplate moving closer to my family, abandoning my old European home, abandoning urban landscapes to which I am existentially dependent, abandoning the social systems that would perhaps not have allowed the kind of preferential treatments we can seek in America. I fear I will go crazy; but family comes first; and at this moment I would do anything for my little sister's comfort, survival and well-being.

These days, I spend hours and hours examining and re-examining the meaning of life. Many of my convictions are thrown out of the door: my platonic naturalism and my pharmacynicism, first and foremost. In fact, for the first time, I am grateful for the kind of education I have received, and it gives me purpose in working. And I no longer believe in things like "I would never pay taxes to war nations."