Monthly Archives: April 2007


What is depression? What cultural elements in our Iranian way of living lead to depression?

Definition of depression:

Any unhappy thought, feeling, emotion, or memory of events due to the loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, traumatic events, and grief/sorrow, or for no reason at all, that lasts for more than two weeks.

The feeling of being down, not willing to interact with others, not having any hope or solution for problems, not feeling loved, unable to make one’s own choices, or not having the resources to change some horrible injustice, all in all are causing depression for Iranian people and Iranian culture. There are some specific cultural variables and they may change from person to person, community to community.

Now, let’s talk about 27 years of such feelings! Let’s explore centuries of feeling oppressed, suffocated, and collectively depressed! Let’s talk about all the emotional, physical, and psychological pain brought about by immigration and adjustment issues! Some of these are:

Physical disturbances: The loss of appetite, lack of sleep, chronic pain, and health concerns, fatigue, and embodied pain.

Emotional suffering: The feeling of not belonging, isolation, loss of family bonds, sadness, fear, anger, shame, guilt, too many emotions leading to tears and devastation.

Social devastation: an inability to succeed in the tasks of life because of mental health problems that are being hidden and kept secret, loss of concentration in work, school, peer relations, and family relations. Social suffering also includes avoiding others, neglecting responsibilities, lacking the power to change horrible life circumstances many times leading to violent family life, physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Psychological disturbances: underlying personality issues may

Impact/increase/decrease the feeling of depression

Our culturally most horrible mistakes in dealing with depressed person are:

Family involvement in one’s decision making or having no possibility to make one’s own decisions at all.

Collective family structures with no respect for personal space and no validation of personal contributions.


· Family could be fearful, feeling unsafe because the depressed person acts strongly,

· family may lack understanding for the sings and symptoms, family may neglect in supporting the person,

· family may reject the person as he/ she does not participate in the regular family relations,

· family may give too much advise to the person of what he/she should do,

· family may not letting the person rest and find proper help,

· family may without knowing stigmatize the depressed person, telling him/her that: “it is bad in our culture and if others know about this, the family’s reputation is damaged, so the person has to put his acts together and act normal.”

And the list goes on…

More to come in the future…

April 29, 2007



Imagine…Just try to imagine…

WE Can Build If We Can Imagine…

Imagine a world and a Middle East in peace. A place where all people, regardless of religion, race, class, gender, or ethnicity had a chance to live their lives without any problem!

Just for a moment:

Picture Iran being a country where we have a huge wall of protection in place for our children, our women, our men, and even for our animals and for our enemies! By wall of protection I mean having laws in place, where nobody and I mean NOBODY, could violate others’ rights, and everyone’s rights are protected!   ESPECIALLY OUR CHILDREN.

Imagine, instead of focusing on having all people alike, we could respect all people being not alike!

Imagine, having an Iran with no “fight for this and that” ideology, an Iran where we could respect people’s choices for religion, whatever they may be!

Imagine, having a world and a Middle East where communities of people could have parades, carnivals, parties, and gatherings and without violence and hatred finding a place in that respectful atmosphere!

Just picture a Middle East and an Iran where human beings would be respected and valued as they are in the Western cultures! Are we not worth it?

Imagine our home country and our culture encouraging charity, hope, faith, and acceptance of different people and different cultures.

Imagine, an Iran to where Iranians from around the world can return. They could build schools and universities and hospitals based on the latest technologies of the world, and our children could speak all the languages they have learned. Iranians reside around the world and they are successful everywhere they go. Imagine the day they could freely move back to Iran and feel safe there, not fear any hatred or exclusion, and could build up a national platform again!

Imagine Iranians, us, practicing democracy by letting go of old labels and names and instead focusing on community building and creating hope.

We need hope more than anything else!

Imagine, a world where we value life instead of death!

Just imagine…

April 27, 2007


In Raising Awareness

What Do we know about Child Sexual Abuse?

What is sexual abuse?

How much do we care to know about and to understand the huge issue of child sexual abuse?

How is it that no one is taking responsibility for child victims of sexual abuse?

How is that we do not admit we have such problem?

How can we be blind to the pain of our children in Iran?

What is happening to our children and how can we prevent it from happening?

We have never in our entire history talked about child sexual abuse, or sexual abuse as a societal problem. This topic and any topic related to our bodies, especially our sexual bodies, is taboo (haram) to talk about! How come? The problem is bigger than this one single article can tackle. I am sure others have tried to open this topic, however, the problem and the reasons for this issue are very deep.

The main reason for why we are not talking about this issue is that we are shy and we are ashamed of discussing sexuality. Men in our society have their hands on our daughters and we do not dare to stand up for our girls!

You may say, “why men?” Well, who else?

There are few, if any, girls who have come forward to disclose this problem, and those that have, have been shut down or blamed for the abuse! In fact, in a country like Iran where the legal age for marriage varies from 9 years and above, how can we talk about sexual abuse? We are “legally” letting our girls be sexually abused, raped, and exploited by those men or “husbands.”

In a country like Iran, where the majority of women have no voice, where they are blamed for not giving enough service to their husbands, where they have to line up in the court rooms day in and day out to apply for divorce, where the judge, who is most probably a mullah, gives women the advice to “think twice” and go back to their husbands or lose their children, and where children are given to women for only a short time (girls up to age 7 and boys up to age 2), how could anyone be interested in dealing with sexual abuse as a problem?

What is child sexual abuse anyway?

Child sexual abuse is when a person responsible for a child, being the father, uncle, brother, grandfather, or whoever else, uses a child for sexual purposes.

An abuser is usually someone who is known to the child, someone who has power over the child, and someone who threatens the child if the child tries to speak up!

Abusers always put the blame on the child and they seek children who are not being cared for properly anyway.

Sexual abuse and sexual harassment occurs also when an adult lets a child touch the adult’s genitals, lets the child watch pornography in order to use the child for sexual purposes, or even when an adult uses sexual language all the time.

Children are the silent sufferers in our culture; no one cares for them and no one protects them, because basically our Iranian culture does not give many rights to our children anyway.

In Western cultures, there are walls of legal protection–not that sexual abuse isn’t happening–but at least families are being educated about the problems.

If you know of any child here in Canada or elsewhere that is being sexually abused, please do not close your eyes. Please help the child to find help. The least you can do is to acknowledge the child’s pain and let him/her know that IT IS NOT HIS/HER FAULT!

Please help to open this discussion. Maybe we can save some of those millions of children!

April 26, 2007


Victim Services

Since year 2000, I have worked and volunteered as a victim service worker for both Police and Community based victim services. This is a position and a profession that is unknown for many in the Iranian community. I will introduce this work to my community in a broader term and I will try to present a domestic violence / crime story. The purpose of this article is to help to define some aspects of our culture and the need for a discussion about domestic violence.
I work for the B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse as a victim service worker since 2004. This is again a job and a place almost non-existing for many of my Iranian friends. This kind of services does not even come to the mind of an Iranian, because being victim and victimizing is part of our daily life back home. We also become victimized with the notion of migration, dislocation, accidents, and many sudden and unpredictable incidents. Trauma (Bohran) is somehow a part of our Iranian way of living. It is sad and unfortunate yet our lives have been changed in many ways due to sudden changes and lots of cruelty we have been through. Still we do not need to get stuck in that role of being a victim or being victimized.

I work for this agency BCSMSSA and  we provide victim services and counseling services to men only. This organization is under a larger community who are training people to provide support services to the victim of crime and trauma. Our agency provides victim services to men who have been sexually abused as a child, as well as counseling services. Of course, this is another mystery; we do not think or believe that men can become victims! Yes, they do! That is why they victimize others; women and children!

Anyhow, long story short, the Provincial and Federal prison system in British Columbia provides information workshops (Info-Fair) twice a year for men in prisons, because these men need to learn to have a smooth transfer to outside life, when they are released.

Twice a year, our agency as well as many other service providers are invited to this info-fair which is offered through the John Howard Society of Canada. The idea is that these men who are in jail for various crimes they have committed could find information to services out there so when they are out, they will not (hopefully) walk down the streets and do the same horrible things like they had done before.

This is a chance to know what kind of help is out there and how to access that help so the life in the society would be peaceful compare to before! This is a chance for these men, special for those who are on their way “out” to learn about how to plan for housing, work, education, counseling, and more once they are released from jail.   In this combination, I have been able to attend these info-fair workshops a couple of times. I have been able to meet murderers, rapist, and most vicious criminals in those short hours. God, what faces!

Usually April and October are the time of year these workshops are being offered to these men who have killed, raped, kidnapped, beaten, and abused others. Yet, still they get the chance to learn, they have the right to education, and they attend certain programs.

When you talk to these men, you will hear stories of how these men once being a child or teenager, they were all beaten, raped, sexually abused, neglected, rejected, ignored, forgotten, bullied, and hurt repeatedly. Their stories and the research are congruent about the fact that “hurt people will hurt”. These huge men whose faces are witnessing the crime they have done are all those children who were never loved or men who were never respected by anyone!

This time in April 2007, I met a man from the Iranian community. Why I write about him, first of all he is our home country, he migrated to Canada like all of us, and his story matched the cultural difficulties many of our men have in dealing with their wives! They can not let of the woman who wants out!
Still this man, he is different from the rest of us, because he acted upon his anger, hatred, and resentment issues. He killed his wife and other innocent people, his wife because the woman wanted out.

Why I am writing about him, just because I want to make a point.
This man killed his wife plus other innocent people a couple of years ago here in B.C. Now in this meeting he was talking about why he thinks he did that horrible crime. He said: I did not know how to resolve my anger issues.

This article is not about judging this man or glorifying him. This is not an attempt to even picture men as murderers! However, most crimes happen by men who are not able to control their anger.

His way of reasoning could be a lesson for many other men whose women want “out” and they would not let go of the woman.

This is what he told me, I have changed some details for not revealing anything about other people around him.
He was given the power to control others, although he was the youngest child! Mother gave him all the power, yet, he was big time dependent on the mother who had no ability to teach him better. He remembers his mom as always worried, always fearful for many things, mother passed down the culture of worry and hate toward those who bullied him and teased him.

Now the victim who is the wife is not here, to talk about her pain.
He says: “She was tired of the entire anger problem I had. I was an abuser and violent person toward my wife.”
He says: “I did not know how to talk to my wife. Families were fighting for noting and i did not know how to handle this cultural involvement of parents in our lives.”
He admits that he blamed the wife for different things and he would use his only technique; yelling, kicking, violating, name calling her, and blaming her for the entire problem in life.

He says now: “I thought she was trying to provoke me and working against me! She was tired and she wanted to leave”, but I would not let her go.
He says today, that he loved her too much for letting her go. He had learned to be dependent on his mother, now his wife, and at the same time, both women in his life were different. He could not be rejected as wife planed to leave this relationship, he could not tolerate being rejected.

He says now, he never had learned to talk about his fear, his feelings, and his mind before.
“If I knew how to talk about my feelings, I would not use anger and hatred toward my wife or anyone else.”
He says: “our parents were in different argument all the time and I was in between.”
Of course, because of his male pride he would not think one second that he was wrong. Now that his wife wanted to leave, he had to stop her and he did.
He killed her and other innocent people.

Now, he says; I am sorry that I have ruined so many lives. He feels for his children who are in pain and suffering due to loss of mother and also father (who is in jail for rest of his life).
For many years, I wanted to know what goes into a murderer’s mind and why these men act like they do?!
Another time, 2 years ago I met this man who killed a store manager because he tried to help his employee, or the murderer’s wife who were actually the real target.
This is another example of a man wh

o did not want to let go of his wife, who probably preferred to kill but not be rejected by wife! He killed since he also could not handle his loneliness after wife leaving.

Again we encounter the need for expressing our emotions.
Now, I think, I had my answer!
We are all born as good, caring, and loving human beings. What happens to later on and how we do is a mystery that we need to reflect more on it.

Other men in this prison talked about how they were abused and bullied as children. These men did the same: they learned to abuse, mishandle, kill, and rape. They taught who to become because they were left traumatized, depressed, and hurt.
I have met many families in stress and pressure, because of domestic violence in our Iranian community. We tend to not want to know, to ignore, and to not willing to admit having a social problem. Examples above are a few samples of what domestic violence can do to us…
I know there are many families who work hard to raise good sons to be this and that person when they are grown up.
But we have to remember, we need men who are men and men who are humans.

We should raise children who are caring and able to deal with challenges of life! We need to teach our kids how to express emotions.

Although, the cycle of abuse and violence has no borders, and the reasons behind aggression and resentment are universal, however, how various cultures raise their children is the key point.

We have to learn to talk, to share our minds, to express our feeling, to take our emotions seriously. Our Iranian culture has given men too much power.

Our women have to learn to protect themselves and be safe, if and when they want to leave such men.
Parenting in our culture has to be taught as a skill. We have to raise independent boys and girls, give them wings to fly, and give them self-confidence in being who they want to become.  We also need to teach our sons to have respect for our girls.
There is much we need to do and discuss, what do you think?

May 26, 2007


Survival of a Culture

Survival of a Culture, the Iranian culture, depends on us. Who else?

Our Iranian community has an outstanding need to talk about many topics. Victimization is a concept we do not know much about, although all of us, nine out of ten of us, have been victims of crime, trauma, sexism, oppression, gender apartheid, racism, and violence. We have carried the burden of these crimes without any chance for addressing the pain and feelings associated with them.

We have never been told that we are not to blame.

Humanity and human rights is a strong agency, we have to wake up to it! It exists!

Each of us has stories of embarrassment, of humiliation, of hurt by people who use their selfishness to tell us how we should be! Times have changed. We need to speak out about the impact of that victimization on our physical, mental, and psychological health.

What is happening with our culture, our interactions with the world and our personal and national growth? What can we do to spread the language of love, joy, help, altruism, forgiveness, humanity, justice, and respect? How can we let go of our egos? We are fighting in the name of this and that religion, ideal, belief, and political interest instead of working for and with our commonalities!

We are survivors; our history is about survival and coping. We have existed and we continue to exist. We need to pass down the culture of survival instead of the culture of victimization!

A true, genuine and multifaceted help! We need to learn our own history again. We need to find those positive sources of knowledge and logic so that we can rewrite our history based on what we know now! We were taught as children that kindness, love, and respect work. Where is that kindness, love, and respect?

People are tired; we need peace: peace in our language, peace in our actions, peace in our thoughts, peace in our behaviours, peace in our families, peace in our hearts. Enough is enough! We should be able to discuss these issues! Let’s discuss them!

May 24, 2007


Being no one

“being no one”

My heart was sad,

That day I moved to the future.

My heart was sad

That day I left.

My heart was cloudy, cold, and frightened

With no sight of spring

My spirit was in revolution

And heavier than the rainy sky

There was no difference any more,

Who knew who I was?

What I wrote,

Or how I thought

Now even my written thoughts

Was sad and depressed

Now, I was noting,

With no identity,

With no name.

A lonely woman, with no connection

My loneliness had even reached the ocean

Now I was noting,

With no result of all the struggle.


About Being No One

Being No One is a poem that was written back in 1996 and it was put on the website for ( ) for a couple of years.

This expression of emotions was originally written in Persian, yet, in year 1998 it was translated to English with reservation for lack of transparency or weaker tone of voice. The poem itself is a snap shot of a life for years of immigration, lack of identity, and hopelessness that came along with many other new unexpected life situations.

Being No One describes years of darkness, when life for many Iranian was dark, special for those who were forced to leave in early 1980’s. The depressive tone of the poem is due to the loss of identity and loss of the self for a young woman, a young mother, and a young human being. This poem itself relates to the notion of identity crisis for huge number of immigrants who have to pass the pathway of “being no one” when they migrate. I have observed many people who in every walk of life during first years of migration express the level of loss and grief. This poem has to be studied with the expression of hope, resiliency, and strong will arriving at the intersection of despair and devaluation of the new life. The result could be positive if /when we learn to walk again.

April 24, 2007

Poran Poregbal


Communication Skills

Communication Skills are not always clear to us. Some of us are more skilled in talking, some of us just talk.

What are communication skills and how do we need to work on ours?

Have you ever noticed how we Iranians (of course not all of us!) speak our minds? I have a friend who uses the term “back-door language politics!” What is that? After you read this article and have a chance for clarity, you might agree with me. I am interested in listing every single example of how we can speak our minds more clearly, straightforwardly, respectfully, and positively without offending anyone!

Why are we not direct in saying what we want and how we feel?

The ways in which we describe how we feel, think, behave, act, or even respond to the tasks of life, often become long stories that make the listener tired.

Why is that?

Of course, it isn’t because we do not possess the skills of speaking. No, it’s because there exists a cloud of culturally structured inhibition that stops us from speaking our minds out loud.

We have been always stopped one way or another from being outspoken. Women are said to be khanom, meaning gracious, when they are silent; children are “polite” and “disciplined” when they conform to everything. Being a Khanom also is about not expressing any desires, not having any wishes, and not feeling the importance of self.

Men are raised to be the spokes-persons of the family, because women traditionally are considered to be ones who need protection from men. Men are also raised to be “men” meaning not having any feelings and emotions. Being a “man” in our culture means to suffer alone, to not feel pain, to not cry, to not complain.

We have many good examples of Iranian men who are “real” men and who work hard to raise their families and be the father figures that they are!

We have been sentenced to death, forced to leave our communities, and called many names for being outspoken and expressive. In past times, all our writers, poets, actors, and activists have been labeled and re-labeled, because they choose and have chosen historically to speak their minds and because they did not abide by the cultural stop signs!

These experiences have taught us to use metaphors, poetry, narratives, quotes from unreal sources, or even examples of others who have gone through similar situations, to say something about our inner fears, insecurities, and unhappiness.

Communication is a basic life skill. We view ourselves in the mirrors of other people’s eyes. We need to see confirmation and belonging in those mirrors. We say things to make other people happy, to show how good we are, because we fear to be viewed differently!

We never say how we really think, we agree with people for trivial yet we have pivotal differences in our opinion. We find similarity and commonality with others, yet we do not mention it. We can not communicate properly because we have always been what to do next, how to feel next, and how to manage our life in future that is not here. Communicating properly is an art.

This is why many times we do not say what we really mean.

It is hard for us to say, No, thank you”, first because we become bombarded with Taaroof politic, second because we have not learned to say that, and third because other people will find us rude!

We are raised to adhere to everything; we have to accept what is forced upon us, without saying a word, without opposing, and without having any self rights!
How are we communicating in our multicultural style of life?

April 25, 2007


Hard questions

Questioning our own belief system is a positive way of evaluating ourselves.  We need to do that.
Why our Iranian culture is in need of a “community” center?

We keep saying it.  However we are not sure what a real community center is about, as much as we have not learned about having a communal life.  It is not our fault, that is for sure.
How do we deal with our family problems and our individual inferiority?
What is our view on cultural barriers in dealing with the hard topics in life?
How are we doing as a group of people who are in constant move?

Today, an estimated 4 million people from Iran are spread around the world (Farsi net, 1996).
Canada is after the united state the home for second-largest Iranian immigrant community in the world (Cooper, S. 2006).  Statistic Canada estimates a number of 88,220 people with Iranian heritage living in Canada including a number of 21,910 for British Columbia (Census 2001).

Considering the statistic being five years old and knowing that there is an increasing number of Iranian still moving to B.C, we have an estimated number of 40,000 people with Iranian origin residing in Greater Vancouver.  A recent statistic must show even greater number for 2006, as Iranian is the biggest number of new immigrants landing in British Columbia.

We constantly have new families in need of resources and settlement. Where do these new immigrants go?  Mostly they are being send to Multicultural society on North Shore and some few other organizations who do settlement work around the Greater Vancouver.  However, the services are being provided are not even close to the real need of this growing community. Funders and service providers have to be willing to evaluate what is being offered and who is doing what, because there are many talk about lack of support in form of  lack of competence of some individuals as front line workers.  Many new families face the frustration when they find services in level of helping with resume and some phone calls.

Counselling by professionals with proper education is absolutely a needed service for Iranian women and men who are coming to Canada after they have left Iran with all the issues around immigration.
Service providers on the North Shore are either not really sensitive to the problems or not understanding the gravity of this subject; being new immigrant.  It is this writer’s experience and knowledge that there is misconception caused by our community about what are our needs. We ignore the anxiety and pain of losing the resources back home while struggling to make a new life here.
Leaving Iran to reside anywhere else for a better life is a common shared reason for choosing to come to Canada and other western countries.  Families and individuals search for success and happiness that was not found in the place of origin.  Iranians are losing hope for a secular change in their home country.
There are numerous studies about how tragedies caused by terrorism, hurricane, and extra ordinary events threaten the underlying assumption of a safe and meaningful world (Doka, K .J . 2003).  But what do we know about the level of trauma in each one of us due to the circumstances that are beyond conceptualization for all of us.  Where is that discussion about what our needs to heal are and how we even want to find a healing? 

We as a community are traumatized.  On individual basis, tragedies come to the light when we are away from the source of trauma; our home country.  It is hard to make a general theory about how Iranians in general would define and share experiences of suffering.  This writer challenge all professional in the field of research to challenge their believes about why Iranian are here and how they make their lives in silent and in pain.
Iranians leave Iran because there is not much hope left that a peaceful life would be possible. Families are tired of all the promises and talks.  People depart from Iran and come to Canada because the Canadian Government encourages immigration.  This part is positive, however, people mostly do not have any concrete idea what immigration is about and how to deal with the loss and the challenges of becoming what they become when they arrive here.

The decision to leave Iran is equal to leave behind or “fleeing” from the trauma inflicted by the system on individuals and families, the loss of a meaningful life and general anxiety also caused by the system in Iran.  What little we know that what we flee from will not leave us until and unless we deal with it in a proper way.  It is a shame that families and individuals all have to go through immigration just because the socio-cultural and political life in Iran does not provide any safety and security.   People should be able to live in their own environment safe and sound.  Although immigration to Canada cost a fortune and families mange to handle this flow of cash to the Canadian Government, still, the reason for leaving Iran is under question and inflicting pain on many families.

As there is not real discussion about immigration and no forum to talk about the reasons behind such mass immigration, many families are left out to deal with their own issues as they had to do the same back home.  Here, we have managed to think about the need for a “community”, yet we have no idea what this “community building” means as we do not have proper education and experience of being a group.  We have always been forced to take care of our own issues and “mind our own business” because every system governing life in Iran has discouraged group work and labeled people as this and that.
Becoming an immigrant means losing jobs, losing homes, falling apart as individuals and groups. Upward and downward mobility are both sides of the same coins.  Meaning some people are able to access services, utilize opportunities, and finding success, while some other people go down and never find their “dreamed job” again.

Many women coming here testify not having the pressure of the hard life back in Iran what concerns the personal choices and personal life, however, here these women have hard time to let go of the internalized oppression to find their “real self.” it is also to be addressed that the type of life here in Canada is very different from the life in Europe for many Iranian.  Why, mainly because, back in 1980 and 90’s many Iranian fled to Europe and also North America and settled down as “refugees”, however, here in Canada, mostly families come with landed paper in hand and they can travel back and forth between Iran and Canada. For the first group as refugees, the idea of one day going back to Iran was just a dream in those two black decades after the Iranian Diaspora.  Now, with the prevalence of technology and the impact of Internet on our way of learning, communications are much easier and that feeling of nostalgia for many families and individuals can be helped by “being on line.”
People have more choices, many Iranian residing in Canada and also elsewhere in the world, are constantly visiting their home land and the transfer of services and knowledge has made a huge impact on the quality of life as new immigrants here in Canada.  However, these factors are all not even some of the multifaceted factors why life as new immigrant has its own challenges on some individuals compare to some other people.
There was a very interesting article in Vancouver Sun last year: (just remembering) that it was talking about 51 percent of Iranian starting their own business here in Canada and B.C.
All the success stories have to be shared with others who are new comers and find it hard to know where to go and how to start even looking for jobs.

Iranian shares a common characteristic; everyone likes to find a safe place to live, to find good education for their children and to fulfill their dreams.  Immigration becomes the new challenge that families and especially many women have to deal with in order to fit in.  Although many families have proper financial resources, however, many families are isolated and find it hard to integrate.  There is a second generation Canadian-Iranians who are being in-between the two cultures.

Being a new comer in this country and province, arriving with all those dreams, hopes and desires to “find a better life” and facing the real life here is definitely causing problems for many families who are not able to adjust to the challenges.  Many families are dealing with anxiety, depression, and adjustment issues which are more and less a result of the new life struggles and challenges.  Having mental health problem is extremely stigmatized and having problems in general creates other form of shame, guilt and blame.
Considering many new situations families find themselves in, divorce, death of loved ones, losing financial resources, not finding “the ideal job” added with anger, resentment, and fear, all forms a circle of negativity and hopelessness.  However, as it is mentioned before, other side of this coin is a life in freedom which every one appreciate, at least we are not forced to live our lives in certain way due to this or that religion and world view.

Conflicts, tragedies and trauma inflicted by the Iranian government on families, are being passed down and carried with to the new communities these families move to.  It is writer’s experience that Iranian women who are fleeing abusive husbands or living in violence have a hard time to access services or know about the services out there.  Many families, specially women and children suffer multiple pains due to loss and separation.  These women, men, children and families are in huge need of a healthy discussion, education, and services to learn how to make the cultural integration without losing one or another.  We do not have to deal with the burden of immigration, separation and confusion individually.
There are opportunities here to get together and learn from those who are in charge and those who have experiences.  Many programs do not find funding or even support by Iranian because we are hesitant to get into groups, to learn from others and to let go of our egos.  Iranian community, if there is such thing, would afford creating own community center, in order to offer culturally sensitive services, to educated our fellow men and women, and also to take care of our youth who are in danger of not finding their own identify.

Those of us who have lived in the western culture longer, we know that seeking Counselling is much easier in western cultures compare to our culture.  Asking for Counselling does not come naturally to us.   Many men call their women as “crazy” and threaten them to be in need of “Counselling” or seeing a “mental doctor” s soon as women are complaining.  This way of approaching Counselling means; pathalogizing family problems and avoiding dealing with issues. In schools, Iranian youth who are being send to the Counsellor office, have no idea how much help they could receive.  School counselor need to be educated about the stigma and pain attached to the Iranian way of looking at Counselling.

Families make it harder by fighting school many times and avoiding the real problems.  There are many Iranian youth who are doing extremely well, and many who are challenged by the cultural and language barriers.  What do we do then when we grief, we go to see a doctor, we ask for medicine, or in best situations we see a psychologist. How do we handle our family problems? Well, we blame each others to death; we put a mask on our faces and try to avoid the real conversation.  We blame our past, we blame this and that authority figure hundred years ago or yesterday, but we avoid looking inside our own minds, our own way of thinking and acting.  We have to find the cure within ourselves, within our culture of guilt and blame, culture of hiding conflicts until it shows from somewhere else.

What is the solution?  We need to talk; we need to talk about how much we need to talk.  We need to discuss family problems, youth issues, and elder anxiety in our community.  We need to talk about the strength and weaknesses of being a new comer, to help each other to succeed and to help our children to grow to a whole person.
Our Iranian culture is used to solve such problems within their “own group”, in silence!  There is a huge stigma attached to have “problems” or “disagreement” in our new born “community.” What do we know about “building community” more than having some people try to create an “Iran house.”  what would this place do for us?  How are we going to be to the service of our people with a multifaceted problems and conflict?

Let’s admit that we “Iranian” are not used to the concept of “group work” or even close to the idea of “cooperation.” such thing has never been encouraged by any government or any system in Iran.  We have learned that we are lonely species, have to live in our groups and classes, can not involve in politic because we face executions and jail, and we have to “mind our own business.”
In the dialog about Iranian women, we might want to remember that mental health is associated with healthy family life, provision for children and interpersonal relationship.  Education is the key for Iranian family; main reason for almost every single Iranian family coming to Canada. Culturally, mental illness is being considered to be a deficiency which has to be kept secret and concealed.  Sexual education for children is a hard topic for many new comers specifically and even for them who have lived here forever.

Women tend to adhere to the social norms of their culture in various ways.
Belief in faith and destiny will sometimes keep many women to seek help outside their social network.  Due to huge impact of tale-communication services, women are more aware of the basic need for community building.  Distrust to authorities and distrust to human kind seeded by the system of coercion back home, has for a long time created a sense of not-trusting anyone. Navigating through the Canadian mental health services is not easy for many families, when they are new and immigration itself has created many walls around them.  Suffering happens when many women due to language barriers, internalized guilt and shame for disclosing the problem outside home, stay silent.  We have a culture of silence thinking about the patriarchal hierarchy many women may live in, meaning living with men constructed roles. We have learned to obey rules that are male oriented.

Women have to participate to create those rules; otherwise, those rules would become enemy to democracy and friend to oppression.

The social construct of mental illness for Iranian women has same pattern as other women everywhere else.  Stressed women who want to pursue divorce, or higher education or leave the traditional role as wife and mother, will many times face the psychopathology and diagnosis of various kind.

Many times we have no idea where to take our problems.  We know where to go when our cars are broken, or when our roof is leaking, but we do not know where to go when we have the anxiety, pain, stress, pressure, feeling of guild, fear, and many other scary things that are bothering us to death.
I have met many Iranian women here in Vancouver who have gone to this and that person who were calling themselves as a counselor , but the result of that meeting was devastating.  We can not pretend being a counselor or a therapist when we just have a position of helping with information out there.  Please be genuine, help people find ways and do not give advice!
I am talking to those, a number of people in the Iranian community who call themselves “Iranian Counsellor” or pretend to be a “therapist” without having proper education.

It is time to talk about what Counselling and therapy is about. It is time to learn having ownership of our needs, in form of creating a community, if we believe we are a community.  We can not own this community if we are not contributing to its growth, we need to talk about our problems and our needs. We may need to create that forum for us.
Seeing a Counsellor or therapist is not the first or even the last idea that cross our Iranian minds when we are dealing with family problem, divorce, relationship abuse or even parenting problems.  In any case, we have to define our strength and weaknesses in dealing with our problems by using our strength and strengthening what is weak.
We have many professionals out there, who are not visible, let’s invite them to come on-board and help.   Let’s challenge everyone to show up and give their platforms of how to build a healthy, open, and collaborative community.

Whoever you are and what you do; please be real and help your community to learn, to grow, and to be part of the rest of bigger Canadian community or the global community.

Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC


Census, (2001). Statistic Canada. Topic based tabulation. Ethno cultural portrait of Canada, table; 97F0010XCB2001001.
Cooper, S. (2006).

Middle East meets north. In North Shore Outlook. December 7. Doka, K.J. (2003). What makes a public tragedy? In Marcia Lattanzi-light & Kenneth J.Doka (Eds.), Living with Grief: Coping with public Tragedy (pp.3-14). Hospice Foundations of America.
Farsi net, 1996.

Note: This article was published by Goonagoon, a biweekly Persian newspaper in Vancouver. April 27, 07 paper, Page 56.
April 23,2007


Immigration and our Iranian life

Immigration and our Iranian life is a new concept. We have not had time to digest it, nor have we discussed it.

Over two decades, we Iranian have lived outside the geographical borders of our homeland; Iran. Being a woman activist, I have been interested in the life situations, struggles and dreams of marginalized women who get stuck in between two or more cultures, two or more styles of life and two or more homelands.

My experiences of immigration and living with the notion of losing identity and losing “thyself”are written all over Iranian life stories. No one is exception, no one has made it easy, and we all have lost something, most of all; our selves. Our Iranian women, who initially were oppressed and doomed to obey men constructed laws, have a chance to learn here in the new societies they come to. No one has ever spoken about the level of trauma many Iranian families live with.

We know little about how to handle trauma, psychological suffering and depression. We blame ourselves, our husbands, our life and our god or whoever else for the destiny we have found ourselves in.

We cry by ourselves and do misinterpret the pain in our chest which is about the stress and pressure of migration. Our young children do raise the question time by time; who am I? or where do I belong to? Yet, the answer to this question is a real struggle.

Starting from noting is hard, we need a base, we need more than information, and we need to have the willingness to learn and to listen. We have to rise beyond our biases to do whatever it takes to find personal growth. This is something we have been prohibited to do for centuries.

It is important to (re)gain the required confidence and knowledge to succeed in the new society we live in. It takes time, effort and support to overcome that identity crisis and divided spirit. The feeling of inferiority as newcomers, who initially have to overcome internal and external barriers, would many times cause neurosis and mental health problem. At the same time as it has always been, any issue of mental health characters and individuals involved, are deeply stigmatized and disregarded within the Iranian culture, why many women and families suffer alone and do not seek proper help.

Our Iranian women and their families leave Iran with a belief that anywhere else in the world, would be a good place to find the peace and happiness they missed back home. Migration has its own process and we Iranian have little knowledge about how to deal with the burning pain of losing home, losing contacts and losing jobs. Parin Dossa, a professor of Simon Fraser University who has for several years researched Iranian immigrants here in BC, uses a concept as social suffering (Dossa, P, 2004). This notion of social suffering is exactly what this writer likes to talk about and explore it.

Charles Westin, professor of Migration and Ethnicity studies at Stockholm University has published many books about the stages of migration and the dynamic in the person,s life.

A summary of those 4 stages are:

Honeymoon/ introduction, where families or individual finds the new society they entered in interesting, fun, and filled with opportunities. It could also be a period of checking things out, studying, making connections and learning about the possible ways to form the new life.

Comparisons; either looking back and exaggerating the life back home or the original place of residence or making constant comparisons between here and there.

New look; either finding a way to accept the new society or having a distorted view on the new life with nostalgia for the past.
Integration or dissociation; here at this stage, which might take decades or years, in one way or another individuals live their life. Depending on the level of involvement with the new society, individuals either is integrated with a realistic notion of new and old place of residence, or life is dark and noting is possible.

Based on those definitions, the four stages, it is possible to see where some women and men get stuck. In either of these stages, individuals may develop mental health issues such as depression, lack of interest, loneliness, dissociation, negative attitudes toward the world and the self. Now level of education, background, family support, realistic view of life and self are all important and defining concepts that impact the style of life and the quality of life.

Do we remember, times in our childhood, whenever we asked any questions, we were hushed, meaning be quite. How many times we were told that children do not understand, teenagers are raw, and seniors have lost their mind.

Lack of communication, lack of support, and absence of good reasoning play important roles in how we deal with life in our adult life. Now, adding the social suffering of the immigration and isolation in the new society, being depressed or isolated is not a very hard concept to understand.

Iranian woman, who struggles due to mental health issues caused by migration and experiences hardship to make a new home, suffers multiplied, compare to other citizens with the same mental health problems. Carrying the pain of previous trauma back home due to injustice, sexism and gender apartheid, she would need a huge amount of support to make a new home and find integration in the new society she enters. We need to talk more about these concepts, we need to explore our burning pain in groups and learn to differentiate between physical and psychological pain. We do not need to suffer, help is out there, if we just let go of the socially constructed barriers we still carry here. If you like to talk more about these subjects, this write would be more than happy to attend groups and even talk on individual basis.

Poran Poregbal, RSW, Victim Services, Master student in Counselling Psychology, Adler School of Professional Psychology

This article was published in Goonagoon, a biweekly newspaper in Vancouver, April 13, 2007.


April 23, 2007


Mulcticultural view on Psychology

There are many areas of life that we could get help with if we have a multicultural or better to say an Iranian view on Psychology.
We would benefit from a new evaluation of the use of psychology for understanding human behavior and the human mind in our diverse cultures. The scientific outlook of psychology and psychotherapy covers humanity in general, yet the impact and the social settings of psychopathology are truly distanced from each other when comparing the Eastern and the Western cultures.

Migration, when forced onto a nation as it is the case for Iranians is become a main source of mental illness for many families.

For many other nations, when people flee horrible and inhuman life circumstances, the level of trauma creates unbearable stress, anxiety, pain, dislocation, separation, loss, and fear.

The feeling of leaving one’s home and never going back to it is devastating enough to cause depression and all other sorts of mental health problems.

In my mind, there should be a category of depression due to just migration as a real issue in the world.

Multicultural counseling must be defined and discussed.  Counseling and lifestyle consultation is the main source of help many people are in need of since adjusting and integrating to a new society has its own dilemmas.

Many times psychiatrists and psychologists in Western cultures diagnose depression as the source of the problem while not digging for the reason for the depression.

Prescribing medicine and giving advice that does not work for such diverse cultures is another aspect of this need of evaluation.

How can we help a client to change any behavior if we have no idea of the puzzle of life this person lives with or the impact of the many cultural barriers?

More to come…

April 22, 2007