Leading from the Left

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hoping for Compassion

By now, most of you are aware of the deportation procedings being initiated against local resident and artist Sima Fallahi. For those of you who may have missed the story, check out the N&O article.

I don’t know Sima well. I’ve met her on a number of occasions: when she displayed her artwork at Carrboro Town Hall when I was still Mayor, at Weaver Street Market, and at Carrboro Day. So, I can’t pretend to know why she left Iran or why she chose to live in our community.

But I can say, unequivocally, that she does not belong in Iran. Some people don’t ‘fit’ their place of birth. They’re the round peg trying to fit in a square hole. The lucky ones can strike out on their own and make a life for themselves in a new town or a new country. Sima is one of those people. She doesn’t belong in a patriarchal society that does not value the worth of women. She doesn’t belong in a place that punishes women who step outside the approved social and religious mores. In true Carrboro style, Sima is free spirit who wants nothing more from life than to create art, live happily, and raise a wonderful child.

Did Sima break the law by staying in the US without an appropriate visa? Yes, of course. But laws must be tempered with compassion and with understanding of the complexities of the human condition. I believe we must ask ourselves a series of questions. Does any public good come of sending her back to a country from which she is estranged? What does the US gain by forcing her to return to a lifestyle and country that does not value or understand women like her?

This case calls for compassion and flexibility, two things all too often lacking in US immigration law.