Far From Home: Portrayals of the Afghan Refugee in Iranian Cinema


by ajammc

Earlier this month, I completed a post discussing how works of literature from prominent Afghan writers voiced the conditions of millions of undocumented Afghan refugees residing in Iran. These members of the Afghan diaspora have been able to draw upon their own personal accounts as refugees to create narratives describing the struggles of every day life within their displaced communities in realistic and compelling ways. While Afghan-born writers have been able to record and document their own experiences in Iran, they have not been the only ones to portray refugees in Iranian art.

A movement of peoples does not only produce narratives for the migrant community, for the host nation is also exposed to the trauma of displacement and the uncertainties of diaspora but from a strikingly different perspective. Over the last two decades, the figure of the Afghan has been adopted into the Iranian social and visual landscape; Through cinema, Iranian filmmakers illustrate the plight of the Afghans while presenting them as a visibly prominent aspect of Iran’s heterogeneous society.

One of the first major portrayals of the Afghan in Iranian cinema occurs in 1988, when Mohsen Makhmalbaf released Bicycleran (the Cyclist). in the film, Makhmalbaf explores the conditions of Afghan refugees living in the suburbs of Iran’s cities. The main character, a poor Afghan refugee and former cycling champion named Nasim, decides to ride his bicycle non-stop for seven days and nights in the town square in order to raise money for his wife’s surgery.

As each day passes, more and more people come to witness Nasim’s feat. In the video clip below, an utterly exhausted Nasim continues to peddle through the day and night with the help of his son. The film is the first to bring to light the situation of 2.5 million Afghans in Iran and shows the desperate economic and exploitative conditions they have frequently suffered from.

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Thanks for the suggestion!

by ajammc on

Thank you for the reccomendation, I have never seen Heiran, But I will check it out.


This fits the scope of Iranian.com

by ajammc on


There is nothing not non-Iranian about this post. It is about Iranian
filmmakers and how they react to the idea of diaspora within their own
country. Also, as members of the diaspora I think it it is important to
understand that diaspora does not only occur in the West, but also in
our home country

In addition, it is very difficult to compare the "plight" of Iranian
diaspora to that of the Afghan one. However the purpose of this post is
to show that cultures come in contact with one another and interact with
each other.  This reflected in the cinema of our homeland.

If you have written an article on the Iranian diaspora I would love to read it!


What about the plight of Persian refugees??

by Cost-of-Progress on

How many are in diaspora? Let's elaborate on that instead.......... on IRANAIN.COM

Esfand Aashena

I'd recommend Heiran (2009) as one of the best movies here.

by Esfand Aashena on

There are many movies that portray the plight of Afghan refugees and their families in Iran.  One of the best movies that I'd recommend in this category would be Heiran (2009).  Very good movie, heartwrenching. 

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