Utah state senator Jim Dabakis just returned from a summer trip to Iran.
It comes after a tumultuous year with U.S. Iranian relations still considered non-existent after a $1.7 billion cash payout and the release of U.S. Prisoners.
Saturday the Iranian military threatened to shoot down U.S jets off the coast of Iran, Dabakis was in the country at the time and says his experience was opposite of what you see on the news.
“The people in Iran love Americans. We could not go down any city street without people following us, talking to us and inviting us to their home,” said Dabakis. He believes the people of Iran are ready to mend relations even if their government is not.
If you are wondering why a Utah senator would travel to Iran, he says the answer is simple.
“You come to a point in life where you say. Are you going to do something? Are you going to change the world or sit on the couch and watch the world change?” he said.
Dabakis, a Democrat, said his bills don’t get much traction in a Republican-heavy legislature so he’s looking outward.
“I have found one of the ways I can be of service to the people of Utah and the people of the United States is to make peace between people who haven’t talked to each other much,” said Dabakis.
The senator was invited by a university group at which he “jumped at it because if there is a gulf a divide, a misunderstanding in the world today it is between the Muslim world and the united states of America.”
A divide that could get worse, he said.
“What if Donald Trump had his way? And every Muslim was refused entrance into the united states of America?” said Dabakis.
Dabakis was surprised by many things on his trip, from the Victoria’s Secret in the mall to their questions.
“They were interested in Christianity and a lot about Mormons,” he said.
That’s why when he returns in May with a delegation of 12, he’ll invite a diverse group including “ community leaders and talk to the LDS church to see if they want to send a representative.”
“The way you make peace is to sit down and break bread and do business and talk and celebrate each other. It is not in isolation and name calling,” said Dabakis.
Dabakis says his end goal is increased business and trade opportunities in Iran and exchanges of people and ideas.