Shervin Assari has been struck with a barrage of emotions over the last week.
The Iranian-born, United States-based 45-year-old academic has watched news coverage with concern as conflict between the two countries escalated over the last week following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani.
“It is extremely strange, upsetting, stressful, traumatic,” said Assari, a former University of Michigan assistant professor of psychiatry. “It could not be worse to just wake up and check the news and see that the country that you are located in is going to war with the country you were born in and that you really admire.”
Of course, war hasn’t been declared, and on Wednesday both Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Donald Trump expressed intentions to back away from escalation.
Still, the news hasn’t been the same in both countries, said Assari, who speaks Farsi.
Each side is seemingly playing a “political game,” he said.
“The Iranian government is taking political advantage of the situation and using this event to use it as a type of anti-U.S. propaganda,” he said.
In the U.S., it’s been about how the airstrike could hurt Trump’s chances in the upcoming election, he said.
Following the death of Soleimani, Iranian TV and Iran's FarsNews Agency called the attack an assassination and focused on the terrible act of the U.S., he said. They played songs of mourning and tunes Assari said are associated with war.
Soleimani was hailed as a protector of borders, Assari said. His role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq played key role in his rise, The Associated Press reports.
Iranian news reported missiles struck as intended
Iranian news also reported a very different version of their country’s Tuesday response to Soleimani’s death, Assari said.
Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, but U.S. news reported some missiles missed their target, while Iranian news reported the missiles struck as intended, he said.
Assari said Iranian news also poked fun at Trump’s initial, tweeted response to the attack, saying “All is well!”
As of Wednesday evening – hours after Trump announced new economic sanctions on Iran’s capital of Tehran – some Iranian media sites still stated there were 80 casualties in the previous night’s missile strikes, Assari said. The U.S. government has reported there were no casualties.
Though not unusual, the differences in news flowing in the two countries is troubling, Assari said. The younger generation may see both sides online, but some in Iran might not get reports other than those provided by the Iranian government, he said.
After receiving a medical degree in Iran, Assari, his wife and daughter spent about seven years in Michigan before moving to California two years ago. Assari now serves as an associate professor in the department of family medicine for Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.
His mother and in-laws still live in Tehran.
“They are scared to death,” he said.