Looking for home
I learnt to try and disguise my
Middle Eastern appearance until I became Spanish or Italian or
Greek. Not any more.
March 10, 2005
I am overwhelmed this morning waking up to more
e mails from Iranians from different counties and reading their
experiences. I am so
pleased I found your web site and have found myself now sharing
my experiences with others who actually empathise and understand
of kinship"]. I have replied to them all and thought
that two of my responses might be of interest to you. Hopefully
now we have tools like the internet, the world will hear the voices of the
Iranian people who are struggling in Iran and who, for so many years have not
had a voice.
My memories of Iran in 1990
When I was in Iran I was amazed at how beautiful it was. I went
up into the mountains, to the beaches by the Caspian sea visited
so many wonderful ancient buildings and mosques in Isfahan and
was stunned by the well kept parks and fountains. Most of all I
was overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of it's people.
I know that when my Father tried to sell me as a bride he
was a man in desperate times but it is one reason I am too scared
My dad joined the Iranian navy when he was a young boy and served
all his life. He had known no other way of living. When the war
Iraq broke out in 1980 he was put in army uniform and sent to
the front line. As soon as he survived that, he bought his way
navy. I think this cost him dearly. I sound like I am making
excuses for him and I suppose in a way I am.
I met some lovely Iranian girls on the flight over who were from
a wealthy family and I spent a lot of time with them. All the children
from their family were educated in England or America and the two
cultures mixed well inside their home.
They had a hidden disco with a bar behind a bookcase where they
played a mixture of Iranian and Western music. I felt that Iranians
know how to enjoy themselves even with the restrictions on
The two sisters told me of a time when the government first brought
in the law that women should cover themselves. They were at school
and paraded in the streets with banners in protest. They were all
arrested and put in prison for weeks. They and three others were
the only school children that survived in their class, their family
had money and the others didn't. I cried when they told me and
so did they.
One day we were walking down a street in Tehran and one of my
companions told a joke. I laughed. Both girls grabbed me and one put
her hand over my mouth. They looked so frightened, really frightened.
They whispered to me and told me I must not laugh in public!
What was that about ?
I remember feeling really awkward because I walked into
a post office and on to a bus through doors for the men's section.
much to understand it all -- because I felt I sorta belonged but
not really (that's the only way I can describe it) -- I don't think
Western society has it right either, but the mix of culture that
I saw in the girls' home was wonderful for me to see. They celebrated
their own culture but enjoyed another's as well.
If I hadn't met them I may have left Iran with a different opinion
on the country all together. Their family was so proud to be Iranian.
They took me to one of their orchards in the middle of nowhere.
An old man, with no shoes and clothes that were torn, worked the
orchard. He used to walk the ten miles every day to get there.
us back to his village. He lived in one room with a
wife and 8 children, he had no furniture. He had nothing, and yet
he insisted we stay for something to eat. We had yogurt and bread.
There was one tap in the village where everyone washed there
clothes, plates and themselves. They were simple, loving people
really understand politics or governments, just that life was very
hard. That was a very special day for me because until then
I thought my dad was a poor Iranian. I wanted to embrace that family...
left there and went to the other extreme: one of the former Shah's
palaces. I cannot remember what it was called but it was round
and all the
furniture in it was round too.
I also went to see Khomeini's tomb which was still being built.
It was a huge golden mosque with the biggest chandelier
I'd ever seen. The floor was covered in beautiful Iranian carpets
and the whole building had air conditioning.
I saw the "blood" fountain at Tehran's main cemetery,
the place Khomeini first spoke to the people and walked amongst
the many graves where martyrs had photographs on stands... there
were so many young faces, some looked barely 16-years old.
I managed to see the diverse Iran in the short time I was
I could go on for hours about my experiences, probably
because I've never felt anyone wanted to hear it before. I
am amazed at the responses I have had from Iranians living in the
am so proud to be able to say that my dad is Iranian
My experiences living in England
I have never spoken to anyone about
my Iranian half, until I wrote "Kind
of kinship". I learnt to try and disguise my
Middle Eastern appearance until I became Spanish or Italian or
Greek which was
much more excepted in England when I was young.
Growing up I had
a very dark "moustache" (best way to describe it), my
eyebrows met in the middle and my skin was darker than any of my
school friends. My mum is very English and looks nothing like me.
She has no knowledge of Iranian culture and neither did I. My dad
was a man I had read about in flowery love letters.
I was labeled Pakistani at first.
I went to school with chants of "paki paki paki". I found
that I had more in common with children from Jamaica or Africa
then I did with English kids
so I started mixing with them. I was then labeled a "nigger
lover", and that went on for years. I could only safely get
home in one piece if I had friends with me, otherwise it was a
Our country went to war in the Falklands against the Argentians
in the 1980's. Suddenly I became an Argentinean and was called "argie
argie argie". The thing is no one knew where Iran
was. We had no Middle Eastern children in my school, college or university
at the time. It wasn't just my appearance that confused everyone,
it was the way I was as well.
Now I have been to Iran it all makes
sense: my sensitivity, my high emotions, my love for poetry and
the way I cry (I wail) and when I love, I do with so much passion.
I know I am generalising but most English people are just not
like that... even my mum couldn't get it. My trip to Iran sorted
of things out for me. It gave me an identity which I am proud of...
I am so very Iranian in so many ways, the laughter in me
and the want to celebrate. The generosity in me has been mistaken
and I have been taken advantage of because of it but it is in my
nature. I am proud to say that my dad is Iranian now but even in
my adult life people don't really understand where Iran is or that
Iraq is a different place.
People around me just think that Iran
and Iraq are full of mad people who want to destroy our Western
way of life and because I am the only person they know with any
connection to the Middle East then I become Khomeini or Saddam
in their eyes. My peers wouldn't want to hear about my trip to Iran
or how wonderful and beautiful the country is... they believe everything
they see on the news!
I will not say I am half Greek, Spanish
or Italian for an easy life now. I know that the Iranian culture
is rich with history, love and compassion and I will never deny
that I have an Iranian father.
I have travelled extensively, subconsciously looking
for a place I
feel I can belong to. Fell in love with Asia, Africa and South
America but you are still a foreigner in someone else's country.
I am now going off to New Zealand for 6 weeks... researching
another country for a place I can call home.