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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘We believe in justice’: Couple who fled Tehran for Spokane express concern about U.S. approach to Iran

Fery Haghighi, shown in her carry-out and catering storefront Mar. 7, 2012, has been running restaurants in the Spokane area for decades. She and her husband, Ahmad, have expressed concerns about President Donald Trump’s handling of relations with Iran. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Following the Iranian Revolution, Ahmad and Fery Haghighi went from being highly regarded citizens to hiding for their lives, almost overnight.

In 1980, the family fled to the United States with one suitcase.

Forty years later, Ahmad Haghighi says he loves America and that he lives in the best country in the world. He also says Iranian general Qassem Soleimani – who was killed by the United States in a drone strike on Jan. 3 – was a bad person, someone he would never defend.

But Ahmad Haghighi takes issue with the way he was killed. Actions like this killing – even if the end result is correct – are improper because it goes against America’s values and morality, he said.

“We believe in justice, in code, in laws and regulations,” he said. “We could have trapped him, taken him to international courts, have a verdict and do what they do.”

And that’s not the only issue the Haghighis have with President Donald Trump handling of relations with Iran.

Fery Haghighi said she hates the current regime, but the kinds of sanctions the Trump adminstration has imposed and vowed to strengthen on Wednesday in response to Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops are not hurting the government.

Everyday citizens have a fixed wage, she noted, and the prices of food keep rising. Meanwhile, she said, the government gains strength by blaming the U.S. for the hunger in Iran’s citizens face.

Fery Haghighi said most Iranians love Americans, but don’t trust the American government.

“This is very bad, because now everybody is behind the regime,” she said. “There is no gas, there is no money. Somebody tell me a potato is a dollar, that was the cheapest thing in it all. They are really pushing them hard because of the sanctions. That’s the way it works, not just bombing.”

Both Fery and Ahmad Haghighi say they feel extremely lucky to live in the U.S., despite some initial tensions.

When they first came to Spokane, they opened Au Croissant, a downtown bakery that served pastries, espresso and other items. But with 52 American diplomats and citizens held hostage in Tehran at the time, some customers were eager to express their resentment of Iran in the Haghighi’s shop. When the store first opened its doors, people came in, took a bite out of a croissant, spit it out and left, Ahmad said.

Ahmad and Fery gave it time, and those kinds of problems passed. Some of the same people who had this initial reaction came back as friends, with gifts. They got to know the Haghighis, who later closed Au Croissant and opened Fery’s Catering in 1996.

Some come to Fery’s Catering for a cookie or two, others shuffle out with large trays of food.

Ahmad Haghighi said he and his wife know the customers and love their community. And he said Americans need to listen morewhen it comes to Iran and remember that people outside of the government are human beings.

While the Haghighis have questioned Trump’s approach to Iran, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement released Wednesday that she is confident the president made the right decision.

“I was briefed today by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials, and it’s clear that President Trump showed great restraint throughout the dozens of attacks carried out by Iran and their allies this year,” McMorris Rodgers, a Republican who represents Eastern Washington, said.

In a speech on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Patty Murray expressed concern that Trump did not involve Congress in the decision.

“Congress has the power to ensure a debate, press this administration for a strategy and check its power if they do not present a compelling one,” Murray, D-Wash., said. “It is well past time we used it.”

By contrast, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Central Washington, said in a statement he would not support a War Powers resolution “that weakens the American military or hinders our ability to fight against murderous terrorist leaders.”

Ahmad said the U.S. needs to remember that this regime was the “gift” we gave to Iran.

“We need to use our –” Ahmad Haghighi completed the thought by gesturing at his head, heart and ear.

Iranians are living in suspense, he said, especially the hungry and poor.

“The people who were not lucky like me to be able to run away are suffering, and it’s all our fault,” he said.