Magazine for Sexuality and Politics

#WoMen, Life, Freedom - Where to belong ?


My personal story started in Münster in Germany in 1970. I was born to Iranian parents, who were second cousins through an arranged marriage as it’s based on a system of mutual trust and loyalty towards the family. Soon after my birth, we moved to Tehran for five years. After my mother divorced, in Aug 1977 my entire family: grandparents, uncle, aunt, cousin, mother, sister and I moved to the United States. First to Salt Lake City, Utah until 1985 and then to a warmer climate Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to my great uncle’s side of the family. The intention was for my grandparents to start a business together with them. My family and extended families have expectations and loyalty, regardless if members like each other or not.

When we came to the US, we knew only Iranians and did not have much contact with Americans. We kept our stereotypes about the Americans as they maintained their stereotypes about us. During the Iranian revolution, the discourse in American culture became very hostile towards Iranians. Once at school, my cousin, only 14 years old, got a pie thrown into her face. My grandfather did not have any intentions to speak English either. So my family in the Persian diaspora was the center of my world as a child. For most of the family, it remained that way until today with barely any American friends. So it’s inevitable that the family creates the sense of belonging and you try to fit into the role that is given by them. Only rarely are people allowed to show their true self or more authenticity. We all depend on each other: you become a piece of the pie and not the pie. The collective - the family is what counts in this racist environment. It’s all about how other people around you make you feel. When I think about others and not myself, I am a selfless person and I feel a sense of belonging to the family and that is highly valued.

Nowadays, however, I feel quite the opposite because I don’t want to meet others' expectations anymore. Because of my cancer diagnosis (three years ago), I have become more emotionally independent and do not feel like I belong so much to my family. The fact that I moved to Berlin in 2015 marks the process of individuation from my family. Through my friendships I was able to express who I really am and create my own values and life.

Viewing from Berlin the political situation in Iran, I can see that it is not a women’s issue anymore. It's much broader. It’s a human rights issue. How many young men have been killed, how many girls between 14 and 20? Watching from here through Tik Tok makes me proud of the young generation because they are rising up: they want to be the pie and not just a piece anymore. They want to belong to their friends and not just become subservient to their family. It's an act of emancipation and they are able to do it because they are teenagers and the future belongs to them.

The Iranian government has even stopped the internet to quiet things down and suppress the movement. They do not want the world to know about it. Nevertheless, on Tik Tok under the Hashtags #Masha Amini and #freeiran you can see young women talking about how they feel trapped. They don’t want to be there anymore so they want to wear what they want to. A lot of them talk about clothes that symbolize their critique of the regime or how they have cut their hair. At demonstrations, there are also a lot of men supporting women for the very first time. They are the same age as the women and the movement is growing and growing.

For everyone like me living outside the country, this is painful to see. We feel a bit guilty because the older generation has been too quiet and scared to speak up and provoke social change. The Muslim religion has kept them in fear and brainwashed them, made them numb and motionless.

It's sad that we have not been as brave as Generation Z. I see the pain and I feel connected because I am still Iranian. This is also where I belong.

Tik ToK Links:

Photos: first page + header:  Craig Melville (unsplash)

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