Age 18, Age 24, and Today
I came to know the word, 'Revolution,' and its meaning as a teenager while reading my favorite book; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. At the time, the story's theme of duality resonated to my tale of two cities; Tehran and London. The monarch in this classic tale, Louis XVI, took the title of "King of the French," whereas our monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, took the title of "King of Kings." (Shahanshah in Farsi). Both ruled with absolute authority and implemented rapid reforms to transform their nations into an emerging leading power.
I was born in Tehran in 1961, to an Iranian father and a British mother. In Farsi, that makes me a "doerageh" (binational). In English, that makes me a "half-and-half." In a Middle Eastern country where its people are predominantly Shia Muslim, my family belonged to a Jewish community that made up only about one-third of one percent (that is, 0.29 percent) of the population of thirty-five million of that time. But my family was also a rarity within this minority community because in my father’s generation, marrying across continents was a practice that was unheard of and simply not done.
As a child and a teenager in pre-revolutionary Iran, I had a privileged upbringing. As the daughter of a respected university professor, I grew up in the exclusive mixed neighborhood of Yousefabad, vacationed abroad, and received a private school education. My life resonated to the first half of the beginning sentence of the Tale of Two Cities because it was 'the best of times.'
Little did I know that the other underlying themes of Dickens' classic; revolution, war, aristocratic (taghoot in Farsi) versus the peasant (mostazafin in Farsi), was soon to impact my personal life to become "the worst of times."
Both Louis XVI and the Shah of Iran gradually lost the admiration of their people as discontent grew against the concept of aristocracy and absolute monarchy. These influential rulers went down in history as the last kings of their empires due to the French and the Iranian revolutions.
Beginning in late summer of 1978, the fomenting revolt of the masses gradually gained in fervor. Daytime in Tehran was chaotic as demonstrators burned tires in the streets and the military fired into the crowds. Schools were shut down, and food, water, and electricity were rationed. Nighttime in Tehran was pulsating, as residents chanted Allahu-akbar from their rooftops.
1979 was the year that everything changed. On January 16, 1979, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was forced to leave the country. Two weeks later, on February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after fifteen years in exile. The Ayatollah became the Supreme Leader of an Islamic theocracy where the clergy dominated all spheres of the government.
I remained in post-revolutionary Iran for eight more years. During this time, I adapted to a flurry of political dictates and the implementation of new restrictions such as the law of mandatory veil for women enforced by the morality police, the American Hostage Crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, and much more.
I began public speaking when I realized that there is an immense interest in my story and unique background. As a witness to the Iranian revolution, I have a unique perspective on the country's modern history and the internal and external challenges posed by Iran.
Her forthcoming book, FROM MINISKIRT TO HIJAB: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran, is scheduled to be published by the University of Nebraska Press – Potomac Books on October 1, 2019.
Jacqueline's opinion columns and essays appear in several publications including: The Forward, American Thinker, Breitbart, and Persian Heritage - magazine. She had also been featured in Yediot America, Niagara Foundation publication, Jimena, Aish, and JUF News, among other publications.
Jacqueline is a frequent lecturer, panelist, and instructor for various organizations. Her passion is to help people feel more confident about the events we hear in the news about the Middle East and to make sense of a complicated region on earth. As an academic, she serves as an educator at Oakton Community College in Illinois. Jacqueline introduced, analyzed, and was the discussion leader for the movie, "Before the Revolution," at the Chicago Jewish Film Festival.
In light of her dual fluency in Farsi and English, Jacqueline serves as a volunteer for the National Immigrant Justice Center, working with supervising attorneys as a translator/interpreter for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. She has worked with the Chicago law firm, Foley & Lardner, LLP, and has also collaborated with SCCADVASA, the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault on college and university campuses. Most recently, she has completed her cooperation with Left Brain/Right Brain Productions in the translation and subtitling of the award-winning feature movie,
Alex & Ali.
2018-2019 CWA Speaker's Bureau: A go-to resource for venues seeking quality programs.
Niagara Foundation: An organization that strives to promote social cohesion and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths.
JIMENA: An organization committed to achieving universal recognition for the heritage and history of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
Myra Talks: Chicago’s all-female speaker’s bureau.
Limmud: A global organization dedicated to a lively approach to Jewish learning. In November 2016, Saper participated as a lecturer at the conference.
Illinois Political Science Association: IPSA seeks to represent the full range of fields and specializations in the political science discipline to discuss research and ideas on government, politics, and policies. Saper has been a panel participant and lecturer at the conference.
Saper has had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill and has met with her state representative to discuss the status of religious minorities in Iran.
Distinguished Alumni Award: (November 2018) Jacqueline is the recipient of Oakton College's Distinguished Alumni Award. The award, presented by the Oakton Educational Foundation and Office of Alumni Relations, recognizes former students who have excelled professionally and provided inspirational service to the community. Read more at Oakton Community Profiles
Toastmasters International: (March 2013) Competent Communicator recognition for exceptional achievements.
Bachelor of Science degree in Business: Northeastern Illinois University (Summa Cum Laude)
Certified Public Accountant: Board of Examiners of the University of Illinois.
Hadassah Leadership Academy: Two-year leadership engagement program designed to inspire and cultivate future leaders.