shama anwar, 2014 shot by matteo scaglione
This man was driving me across Tehran yesterday, when I learned that he’d lived for 8 years in America— incidentally on the same STREET as me in Georgia.
He first crossed into the United States from Mexico— paying $1,500 to be transported across the border. He wanted to go to University and be a dentist, but learned that the idea of America was much more bountiful than the reality. He worked at a factory job for 8 years, without ever being able to get a drivers license. He wasn’t able to find a foothold in society. After 9/11, he said things got much tougher for Middle Eastern immigrants. “I had a great passion for the American people,” he said. “When 9/11 happened, I had no money, so instead I gave my blood.”
Five years ago he spent a night in jail for driving without a license. He decided he was tired of being nervous all the time, and he went all out for a green card. When he was turned down, he returned to Iran.
His fee for a 45 minute taxi ride across Tehran was only $6. I paid him the rate he’d have received in America, and asked for his photograph. He was the kind of man I most admire. The kind that realizes you get one shot at life, and risks everything to make the best of it. I was sorry it didn’t work out for him.
"It was my destiny," he said. He didn’t sound like he believed his own words though.
"Are you married?" I asked.
"Yes. I met my wife when I returned to Iran."
"Well there you go," I said.
As I prepared to take his photograph, he made one request: “Don’t photograph me with the taxi,” he said, “it’s a low class job.”
"It’s not a low class job," I said. "It’s the job of people who take huge risks so their children can be lawyers and surgeons."