My family is Iranian, I was born in Iran. The travel ban is personal to me.
“We are people, we are not a government. We are not doing anything. If our government does something wrong to this government, we are not responsible.”
These were the words of an Iranian-American contractor who has been a U.S. citizen for the past 12 years and had recently learned that his brother was set to be deported back to Iran because of Trump’s executive order to ban travel to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries. And he is not alone.
The ban is personal to me. I was born in Tehran, Iran. I came to Canada at the age of 10 with my parents, who are both anesthesiologists. I am an immigrant and a Canadian citizen and I am proud of both my Iranian heritage and Canadian identity.
In early reports, it appeared that the executive order meant that all dual citizens of the seven banned countries would be banned from entering the U.S—including Canadians. This meant that neither my family nor I would be able to travel to the U.S. to visit family. This was later changed; however, for all-too-long a moment, I too was painted as a threat with a broad brush of hatred and intolerance.
All things considered I’m not much different from other Albertans. I have been living in Camrose for nearly 12 years and am currently in my third year of university. I love my family, my friends and running.
Watching the interview with the Iranian contractor shook me to my core, yet I know that yet another retaliatory critique of Trump’s travel ban will not do anything. At their root, Trump’s policies are based on fear, misunderstanding and lack of empathy. Hence I want to briefly share my story and what Iran is to me.
For me, Iran is my childhood. It is a land of transcendent beauty rooted within an ancient culture. It is the land of my parents, my grandparents and a land of soul, music, love, beauty and poetry that will stay with me until my death.
In my last trip to Iran, I went to the mountains of East Azerbaijan. A land that possesses a mystic beauty that transcends you. The Iranians I know have a great love, compassion and an ancient culture of wondrous beauty that we Iranians value, cherish and want to share with the world. Unfortunately this sentiment is not shared by many people in the West with regards to Iran.
The Iranian people along with many of the others that have been targeted by this recent travel ban, that is described as both unconstitutional and unlawful, are the ones who suffer. They suffer because of the veil of ignorance imposed upon them by arrogant media, populist and divisive politics, and an irrational fear that speaks to the darkest aspects of our humanity.
When you go on Facebook and see a video of Syrian orphans being turned away from safety and returned back to the wartorn hell they’re fleeing or watch a five-year-old Iranian boy get detained by airport security and separated from his mother, it is hard not to get angry.
But it’s fear that drives us to do the most inexcusable acts of hatred. I continue to believe that fear is temporary, fear is fragile and fear never truly wins.
Recently I found some light in this great tragedy. Following the Quebec City mosque mass shooting last week, I attended a vigil in Edmonton. It was there that I felt a sense of unity that I had never felt before and a sense of love that did not discriminate based on religion, ethnicity, the pigmentation of one’s skin or sexual orientation.
It was a moment of shared compassion and solidarity. There was no political left versus right, just a shared sense of love and humanity. After that vigil, I remembered a quote by Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear”. The vigil showed me that we can come together, resist, and master the evil of fear.