I was born in one country, my parents are from another.
Now, I live in a third country.
My skin tone betrays me as foreign, while my accent hides it pretty well.
While I was born and raised in the Western world, my Iranian roots haunt me.
I can speak but not write it, I barely know anything of its history, and secretly, I feel guilty.
“You can’t just pick and choose your nationality”
my friends would say,
“Some days you say you’re Luxemburgish, some days you’re Iranian.
Which is it?“
From an early age, I felt like I had to choose between my identities.
Unlike my siblings I had never lived in Iran.
I would read of the atrocities of the revolution, the political prisoners and religious prosecutions with perverse curiosity and yet an undeniable coldness.
I felt tied to the people in faded photographs who looked like me, who sounded like my parents, but had lived a life that I could not even imagine.
Iranian people are notorious for their silence.
The pain runs deep, so they do not talk about it.
Every family in Iran has someone who died in prison.
Obviously, the same cannot be said of Luxembourg, my country of birth.
Every single Iranian person of my parents generation was obsessed with giving their children a better life. And this did not include talking about their past.
I was watching Born In Evin tonight, a great documentary of an Iranian woman born in a Tehrani prison whose mother refused to talk about her time there.
Our history is so sad, its understandable why we do not like to talk.
And yet, if we do not we will forever be terrified of ghosts.
Here’s the worst part:
I do not like Iranians.
I do not like them because I do not understand them.
I speak the best Farsi out of my siblings, fluent, and still did not understand the employees at the Iranian embassy.
I tried going to Iranian movies here in London, excited to sit among a room full of fellows, but their comedies are crude and silly. Probably to counteract all the sadness.
I have stereotypes that are heavily based on my own family and their acquaintances, of heavy judgments, backhanded comments and gossiping.
But most of all, I do not like Iranians because I expect to feel at home with them, and I don’t.
And that’s hardly their fault.
I do not have just one nationality.
I’m not any of them fully.
And I don’t have to choose.
It’s fair to say I have a complicated relationship to my nationalities.
Especially now that I don’t live in the country my parents or I were born in, and identify most with where I’ve spend the last 9 years.
How do you stay connected to your heritage?
Do you have any internalised bias or opinions from others that you had to face?
It’s not your fault though you didn’t grow up with Iranian ways, are you forced to act and talk like an Iranian?
But it’s great that you acknowledge your nationality. 😊
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Thanks for your comment! It’s not that easy, I did grow up with Iranian parents after all, falling asleep to Farsi lullabies, cooking their food and learning their dances. There is a part of me that’s undeniably Iranian, just not all of me. My unease is about society’s (and hence my) expectation to be either or. All the best! x
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Oh yeah I get you, they expect you to know a lot about your roots.