'They Are Worse Than Hitler': Telling Words from an Iranian Émigré

In the melting pot of the Beltway, anyone branded with a press pass regularly gets an earful from cab drivers and the like about international politics.

I wasn't wearing any media badges, though, when I sat down for a leisurely patio lunch with my puppacita on Saturday. The restaurant had just opened, and I got a secluded table at the back of the patio area ringed with hedges to enjoy a Pellegrino and grilled chicken with red peppers and gruyere. As you can see in the photo below, the puppacita got doggie ice cream and a dish of water from the waiter.

My waiter, for whom I'll use an assumed name because his wife still needs to deal with Iranian authorities in her quest for U.S. citizenship, came to check on "the baby," as he called her, a couple of times, remarking how much his wife would love the puppacita. He began to elaborate that dogs aren't traditionally kept as pets in his home country of Iran despite a modern shift toward more people desiring pet ownership -- "If the police see you with a dog, they will take it from you and put it in the pound," Farid said.

The regime brands dogs as un-Islamic, though my waiter noted that's not in the Quran.

And that got Farid going.

If Iranian society had continued as it was under the shah, he theorized, today Iran would a booming center of intellectual capital, math and science, arts and entertainment, and an international destination. It would celebrate the roots of the Persian culture instead of a history that began in 1979. A revolution that, Farid stressed, ruined the whole image of the word "Iranian."

"Because of the revolution, when I go to an airport and my U.S. passport says 'Iran' for country of origin, I am always pulled out for the security check," he lamented. "They are nice about it and I'm happy to do it, but it is because the mullahs ruined it for us."

We shared frustrations about how some people consider Iran's elections to be legitimate even though the candidates are screened and handpicked by the Guardian Council, and how people erroneously consider Hassan Rouhani to be a "moderate." We talked about how some people in the West still don't comprehend that it's all in the hands of the puppetmaster, the supreme leader.

"They are worse than Hitler," Farid said emphatically of the Ayatollah Khamenei and his minions.

Farid knew by the middle of the conversation that I write a lot about Iran, but I found myself hoping what he did: that his warnings about the regime might meet the ears of a person less educated on the nefarious government in Tehran, the one that hangs opponents from cranes and sits down at a negotiating table with the administration.

And speaking of tables, any waiter who spends that much time calling out the ayatollah gets a 35 percent tip.