Wednesday, June 01, 2005

From war and terror to commitment!

Many ask why I like my Canadian identity. After all, I wasn’t born in Canada!

I was less than 2 years old when the Iran-Iraq war started in the Middle East. I grew up learning how to escape and seek refuge in our basement during midnight raids. I grew up singing military music and watching drafted soldiers, bombed cities and dead body parts on TV for all my childhood.

As a child, I though that was how everyone lived! Lining up hours and hours for one bottle of milk, one bag of sugar or rice, I learned not to waste even one grain.

In 1987 we traveled to India to apply for an immigration visa at the Canadian embassy (which was closed in Iran at the time). For people who know how lengthy the process could be, is shouldn't be a surprise that we ended up living in India for a year. My parents lost most of their assets, raising three small children on their savings.

As a 9 year old, life in India was one hell of an experience. Meeting “people smugglers”, refugees and even the homeless, are not things that you can forget.

We had family in the U.S., as well. My cousins are mostly American. We decided to give the U.S. embassy a try. I will never forget the day I learned what it means to be treated like “trash” due to one's place of birth. Then, I realized Americans are too different from Canadians, being their neighbouring country. Much more than a geography lesson!

War ended in 1988 and my father decided to give our homeland another chance before moving to Canada for good. Another 11 years of political, economic and social instability convinced him that Canada was the best choice, after all!

I can still remember how we treated the Afghani refugee and immigrants in Iran who had escaped war, famine and disease. We accused them of theft and murder, didn’t let them enroll their young children in school and never cared if they starved to death on the streets. Although at the time I didn’t think it was such a big deal to treat “cheap labor” like that, I didn’t want to be called an immigrant in another country.

Man, was I ever wrong! The moment we arrived in Canada in 1998, we felt at home. My brothers enrolled in school, I started university, my father got a job as an engineer and my mom decided to go back to college. We received medical benefits like every other Canadian does and were respected like every human being should be.

Yes, they were difficult times. Working odd hours as cheap labor to pay for school was always part of the deal for me. I earned my title as a "young professional" here, but I have to admit that I have never lost an educational or professional opportunity or scholarship because of my place of birth.

Now, I know that many families who came to Canada, Italians during WWII, the Chinese, the Irish, the Polish, the Jews and the Sri Lankan, had only one thing in mind: escaping war, injustice and discrimination. That’s why every time I hear myself saying “I am from Canada”, I can still feel the butterflies on my stomach, even after 7 years.

I have written stories on what I have seen and heard of refugee camps, war ruins, genocides and imprisonment so that my children can the tell the tale of their immigrant mother.

Canada gave me a new perspective on how human beings should be treated, how valuable every life is and what it takes to make a commitment to humanity, like the Canadian Charter of Rights does. Today, this commitment is my mission in life. Hence the activisim for people that know me.

With all due respect for the soil that gave me life, I will forever stand on guard for the soil that gave me soul.

5 Comments:

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Farid said...

You were supposed to put this in Ghorbati :P
Good one!

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger Jackal said...

Plain English supporters around the world have voted "At the end of the day" as the most irritating phrase in the language.

Second place in the vote was shared by "At this moment in time" and the constant use of "like" as if it were a form of punctuation. "With all due respect" came fourth.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Gentle, Summer Rain said...

fozool o bordan jahanam, goft hizomesh tare :)

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger dokhtare aftab said...

well said! i too feel i have learned a lot about humanity here ...

 
At 5:54 AM, Blogger Jackal said...

I used to have a really funny photo of yours with your tongue out... but I can't find it :(

 

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