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99-year-old Iranian woman is one of the newest, oldest US citizens

At 99 years old, Khatoun Khoykani is one of the newest U.S. citizens.
At 99 years old, Khatoun Khoykani is one of the newest U.S. citizens.
Dave Coelho/KPCC

When Khatoun Khoykani was born, Charlie Chaplin was making his first movies, no one had ever heard of a world war, and Iran, her home, was still called Persia.

99 years later, and half the world away, she has become an American citizen.

Khoykani moved here 15 years ago to join the rest of her family, and this summer, she became one of only a few dozen people of so great an age to be sworn in as a naturalized citizen. She spoke in Armenian, her family’s language, in the Glendale office of her lawyer, Peter Hosharian.

Among the biggest changes she saw in her lifetime were for women, and not for the better. As someone who made clothes for a living, that became her political tape measure.

“When the Shah was in power, things were good,” she remembered. But when the Islamists took over in the 1979 revolution, “they don’t let women be free, they have to put on headgear and close their face.” It was, she remembered, an age of “many hardships.”

She was a little girl, living in the fabled city of Isfahan, when she first heard tales of the United States. A doctor, a friend of her grandfather’s, had gone to medical school in the United States, and he brought back stories of America that her grandfather shared.

“They told me that no other country is like the United States. No country can compare …. From the children to the elderly…this country takes care of them.”

They told the little girl that the United States was so wonderful that if everyone from Persia was allowed to leave, to go there, “then nobody would stay.”

And so she, in her 10th decade of life, finally became a citizen of this country — the one, she said “that is the only country that is able to govern so many people.”

So many — and now, one more: citizen Khatoun Khoykani.