Get A Grip: Iranian man running for peace
Miner News Editor
I suppose he thought we needed more of him.
After all, he had been through 55 countries and traveled 46,000 miles without major problems until he came to our fair land.
He pitched a tent on the wrong side of an invisible line and was treated to a swift and dramatic helicopter-assisted arrest followed by four months in jail.
So yes, I suppose we do need more of him.
Reza Baluchi is running for peace. Running more than 30 grueling miles every day – more than a marathon. His feet are bloody but his determination is unswerving.
“I run,” he answers matter-of-factly when asked if it isn’t too hard to do what he’s doing. If it isn’t too painful to run on feet that, despite good running shoes, have been reduced to a fleshy pulp.
He traveled through the other 55 countries on a bicycle, zipping across country after country after riding his bike out of his native Iran.
But after emerging from four months in a Florence, Ariz., jail, where he was held on immigration charges, he announced a change of plans.
Where is he running, and why?
Reza, 30, is running to Ground Zero in New York City. He plans to arrive by Sept. 11 – a feat that will require him to keep up the punishing pace he has set for himself.
All for peace.
Peace in a country mired in violence has become an almost laughable ideal. But Reza still runs.
He passed through Kingman last weekend. Head down, feet moving rhythmically forward, he made his way down Interstate 40 through thick summer heat.
Cross-country travelers passing through Kingman are not an uncommon sight. We’ve had them walk through, bike through, golf through, lawn-mover through, donkey-train through. They make this personal and public journey for different reasons. For charity, for country, for fun.
But from the sheer physical demands of his journey to his simple, timely message Reza seems different.
While you eat your breakfast tomorrow, drive to work, talk on the phone, read a book, Reza will be running. And even if you are a fan of war, especially then, Reza is running for you.
Through a Farsi interpreter he told me, “I’m bringing a message of peace and freedom from the Iranian people.”
He knows about freedom and tyranny. He comes from a country where, thanks to a melded church and state, most freedoms are denied. In fact, while he does not align himself with any specific religion, Reza said that it was because of religious persecution that he left Iran.
After his four months in a U.S. jail, he was granted political asylum here because of the persecution he endured.
Despite his arrest, Reza said individual Americans have been very friendly and welcoming.
One such American, Dave Hyslop, was so taken with Reza’s mission that he assigned himself the role of Reza’s protector.
Dave left his business in Los Angeles to drive a donated Winnebago as a support vehicle for Reza.
Dave said he believes in Reza’s message of peace and was concerned for an Iranian traveling alone through the country in a time when it’s more dangerous than ever to look and act different.
Reza wants to stay in the U.S. after his journey is complete and go to school. A mechanic, his parents are farmers in Iran.
In his travels since leaving Iran, he said he has found aid from peoples of all religions – a situation that has reinforced his belief in the critical necessity of keeping religion separate from government.
“All religions have helped me,” he said. “And when I go to New York I will raise the flag of all religions - Bahai, Jewish, everyone.”
He also knows that violence isn’t the answer.
This is a message the American people and especially its leaders need to hear.
Thanks to U.S. intervention, despotic leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq are gone. But we’ve left both countries in shambles and now our hawks have Iran in the crosshairs.
But one Iranian is not intimidated by the massive scope – physical and philosophical - of his mission.
“I love all people. I run for peace.”
©Copyright 2003, Kingman Daily Miner News (Kingman, AZ, USA)
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