- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) - Zahra Zamiri worked for five years to earn her U.S. citizenship, so a few weeks ago, she asked if she could wait a little longer.

She wanted to look nice, Zamiri told officials.

When a woman who survives being shot twice in the chest at point-blank range asks for a little time, she gets it, the Post-Bulletin (https://bit.ly/1Tycyay ) reported.

Zamiri, a native of Iran and resident of Rochester, is now the newest U.S. citizen. She was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank on May 9, just two months after her ex-husband tried to kill her.

The special one-person ceremony was attended by Zamiri’s daughter, multiple members of the Rochester Police Department and fire department who responded to the scene of the March 7 shooting, medical professionals who treated her and several of Zamiri’s neighbors, whom she now calls family.

“I believe in the end, communities are judged by the help they offer in times of need,” Frank said. “How we treat those in difficult situations like yours, that’s how we’ll be judged. That’s how communities are supposed to behave.”

He spoke, too, of Zamiri’s courage, telling her, “This is going to help other victims and people when they see this. You’ve set a good example, so we should be thanking you.”

Mayor Ardell Brede said in his 14 years as mayor, “I’ve welcomed a lot of very important people to Rochester: former presidents, people who want to be president. . But I’ve not been involved in anything that’s more important in Rochester. We’re so honored to have this new citizen.”

Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin echoed the sentiments.

“How fortunate we are to be here today,” he said before the swearing in. “March 7 should have been a tragedy. I can’t think of a better word to describe it than ‘miracle.’ This is a story of survival, a story of citizenship and a story of the best of what our community has to offer.

“This horrific incident exemplifies what makes Rochester such a great city,” Sherwin continued. “All those folks who noticed something wrong, who stopped to render aid. In my 18 years in law enforcement, I’ve never experienced a more important event.”

Zamiri, who was hospitalized for several weeks then continued her recovery in a nursing home, was able to return to her own home two weeks ago.

She sat in a wheelchair Monday morning, standing only for her swearing in, then the Pledge of Allegiance. Frank told her she could remain seated, but Zamiri refused.

The paperwork was signed even before Frank administered the oath.

“The minute she’s done, at that second, she’s a U.S. citizen,” he said. “In just a few minutes, we are going to be a better country, with you.”

Zamiri wept during the final moments.

When she came to the United States about five years ago, she didn’t know any English, Zamiri said.

“My teachers helped me every day,” she said as a new citizen. “I worked hard. …

“You all know what happened. My husband shot me.”

The room instantly stilled, and Zamiri paused to compose herself.

“Everybody helped me,” she said. “I was in a coma.”

Zamiri was home that morning when Fereydoun Behnam, 71, appeared on her doorstep with flowers. He shot Zamiri inside the home; she escaped outside, where a neighbor and passersby saw her collapse. They called police, then rendered aid until she was taken to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus.

Zamiri lost a lung as a result of her injuries.

Her daughter, Asma Tahery, arrived from Iran about two weeks ago. She’ll be able to stay with Zamiri for about five months, until her visa expires.

Tahery repeated what her mother emphasized: Zamiri had no family here when she was shot; the neighbors have become her family.

Still, Frank said, it’s important that she carry in her heart and in her mind the traditions she grew up with.

“Please, not only keep them, but share them,” he told her. “The true strength of this country is the diversity of the people who live here. Our wish for you is that you develop that same pride and love for this country, and you live the way you want to live.”


Information from: Post-Bulletin, https://www.postbulletin.com

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