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Iranian-American to visit Vashon to discuss Iran’s rich culture and history

Abdi Sami with Rick Steves in Iran. - Courtesy Photo
Abdi Sami with Rick Steves in Iran.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

When Abdi Sami takes American visitors to his native Iran, they’re surprised not by the country’s hardships or its political situation but by Iranians’ friendliness, Sami said.

Sami, who served as an associate producer and guide to travel celebrity Rick Steves during his recent visit to Iran, will be on Vashon this week to discuss his country — a nation increasingly at odds with the United States yet also a place that Sami says is shrouded in misconceptions.

“They’re the most pro-American people you’ll find in that part of the world,” Sami said.

The purpose of the tours he leads, as well as his discussions with people here in the United States, is to “transform all of our misconceptions.”

“That is my intention,” he said, “to demystify Iran.”

Indeed, he added, there’s no need for U.S. citizens to be the least bit afraid of Iran. Rather, he said, “it’s the conflict between the two countries that is of concern, and that’s not caused by just one country.”

Sami, 56, will speak about his life in Iran until he left for the United States at age 19, show photographs from his recent guided tours there and read works in both Persian and English by the Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez. His talk, entitled Contemporary Iranian Cul-ture and Society, will be held at the Vashon Bookshop Thursday evening.

Islander Merna Hecht, a storyteller and writer who works with refugee and immigrant high school students in Tukwila, is sponsoring the event. She said she wanted to bring him to Vashon because of his “deep humanism, his love of poetry and his commitment to try to create a more peaceful world.”

Sami, who is on the board of Mercy Corps, is helping to humanize a part of the world that many in the United States don’t understand, she said.

“I think it’s a chance for people to gain some perspective, such a rich cross-cultural opportunity at a very important time,” she said.

Abdi Sami will discuss Iranian culture at from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Vashon Bookshop. A reception with refreshments will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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