Monthly Archives: February 2009

Iranian Women and Boundaries

In the year of 2008, I had the opportunity to attend several meetings with women and men within my community.  In one specific female only group, I had the chance to discuss topics that women appreciated greatly.  In three different sessions extended over couple of months, I managed to listen to these women’s concerns while I answered their questions to the best of my ability.
In all our conversations, one concept frequently came up: “I do not expect anything.” Culturally we know that people use this phrase to show their humble attitude, yet the real issue is more than being humble.
In the discussion about boundary settings and healthy relationship, women would admit having no boundaries, while they were too proud of “not having any expectations.”  In our Iranian culture women are raised to be in service for men, children, and others; in a more altruistic format.  We learn that having expectations for ourselves is terrible and something to be ashamed of.  Most of the middle age women in this group would admit giving service in an unlimited form.

A couple of women expressed their understanding for how not having boundaries is about not respecting the Self.
We should bear in mind that conversations in this level are new for many of our women.  In the group we managed to state that our goal of these discussions was not to find the best reasonable or psychological problem solving skills.   Our topic was all around healthy relationship, boundary or limit setting, and parenting.
Below is a summary of what was said and heard.  We should be conscious about the reservation for lost words in translation and also this writer’s biased listening skills.
By reading between the lines and the used words, we can appreciate the level of separation and incongruency surrounding our Iranian family relationships (although in a small sample of participants).

This is a summary of what women were reporting about themselves:

•    I do not expect anything in life.
•    I do not want anything just love.
•    How do I keep a good relationship with my husband’s family?
•    How do I keep my relationship with my parents?
•    I have hard time talking to my adult child in Iran. He would not listen to me.
•    Problem with saying “no.”
•    Distance relationship with husband in Iran, he lives there and visits us here once in a while.
•    I do not want other people’s bad eyes. So I do not say anything.
•    I cannot talk to anyone easily. I fear a lot and concerned of my husband attitudes….
•    In parenting, how much my words and my husband’s words should be the same?
•    My children find me hard / rigid.
•    I cannot say no to others in my home.
•    I cannot say no, cannot apologize.
•    I may be able to say sorry to a friend, yet mostly although I am wrong, I cannot apologize.
•    I fear illness, weakness, I fear becoming ill.
•    I have two teenagers, who are the reason for conflict between me and my husband.
•    My husband give them too much space, he blames me, saying you are too harsh.
•    My daughter is married and my son has his own life, I do not get involved I their life at all. I show no difference, no reaction in what they do.
•    Should we intervene in our adult children’s life or not?
•    We live in western cultures; still we have our Iranian culture.
•    What should we do? What culture should we follow?
•    I cannot say no to anyone, it is bad.
•    I do everything I can for others, yet once I am injured emotionally I cannot tell them.
•    How do I get my children to search for jobs?
•    My adult son he is 30 and still lives with me, he will not move out.
•    How do I get my adult children find their own life?
•    I cannot set up boundaries, they ask me to do everything for them.
•    I manage to be kind to everyone; do not expect anything for myself.

February 27, 2009

Poran Poregbal


Observing a Community Grow

It is exhilarating to notice the growing need for creating a community in the midst of our large population of Iranian residing here in British Columbia.   In Vancouver similar to every other place, Iranians work hard to find a meaning for their life.   For this reason, there are now several groups who engage individuals to get together and to learn more about themselves.   These groups invite guest speakers who talk about various topics related to anything from women, parenting, marriage, history, philosophy, physical health to literature and poetry.
In the past couple of years there are an increasing number of grass root community groups here in our city.   In the event sections of our Farsi-language newspapers and magazines, we can read about several weekly meetings or community groups who are all inviting people to participate and to take part of what is going on.
In a way we can see t hat there are several forums for healthy interactions that are just developing because of a greater need.    Our fellow Iranian men and women get together in weekly or biweekly and in some cases monthly get-together s and programs to discuss topics important to the community.
Those who are attending these groups express a sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to break the cycle of isolation and alienation.   These simultaneous groups are a forum for the Iranian residents of Greater Vancouver to build trust in one another.    On the front of trust building we still have to work hard in order to meet, interact, and work together beyond the concept of ideology, politic, or religion.
Among all groups, I have had the chance of observing the great effort of three specific groups, all started developed due to a call for a community and an idea for communication.
It is to emphasize that individuals attending these groups are from all walks of life, various social status, and all kind of ethnical backgrounds.   The significant characteristics of these groups are the idea of raising awareness, increasing tolerance, and creating space for practicing democracy.
The experience of group work is new to us Iranian.  Now realizing the depth of our Diaspora, we realize that we can socialize on the basis of our human relations.
These are the three groups:
•    Puzzle of Life: A weekly group of women only who get together to share, learn, and to find friends.  This group is run with the hard work of one woman who believes in the notion of empowerment, education, and socialization.  This group has a philosophy that compares life to a puzzle that has to be solved and in the least only understood.

•    Rooyesh Cultural Society runs as a non for profit society, has biweekly meetings and has a primarily goal: Practicing democracy and growing as individuals.

•     Iranian Women Cultural Society:  A monthly group of  woman who started 3-4 years ago as a in house gathering of women who wanted to break the cycle of remoteness.  Now this group has developed to a non for profit society and has a membership number close to hundred.  This group have now for three years in a row organizes celebrations to honour the International Women Day (Mars 8th) as a way to honour women in general.

I guess it is just to hope for more groups and more sense of community, somewhere we all feel pride of belonging to.

Poran Poregbal
February 22, 2009


Notes From A Youth Symposium

The other day I attended a Youth Symposium in celebration of Black History Month.   This was the second annual Symposium that originally was the idea of a young man who believes in helping African-Canadian youth to learn about their identity embedded in race, culture, and history.   Listening to the speakers you could realize how much this debate and acknowledgment of race and history is important.

One speaker was a teacher who had done a very interesting research.   She had gone through history books being taught in schools here in British Columbia.  These history books from grades 8-12 had very little almost to the point of zero information about the history of African-American or black-Canadian people.  This teacher made a point that should be brought to the attention of policy makers or school boards.  Teaching history should be about history, meaning what has happened to our ancestors whether white, black, yellow, red, and any other color.  This teacher had gone through all these story books from the content to the index to realize there was no information about black history, slavery, racism, or the challenges that black people face.   According to her, the African-Canadian students are not recognized at all and in general students do not learn about the impact of race on their identity.   The following speakers all emphasized how much racial identity and knowing about history is significant for children to develop a healthy sense of self-perception.   Listening to a young black poet was an epiphany for me.  He spoke eloquently and performed his poems beautifully, to the point you had to hold your breath to not miss his words.   Another speaker illustrated a picture about how black history month is a human history month.   Other speakers empowered youth in their work to find  their identity and to create the life path they deserve.

Listening to all these important talks, I was thinking how youth from every culture and from every community need to work on their cultural-racial identity.  I was also thinking how our Iranian youth would need to discuss their identity as the notion of diaspora hits our youth more than ever.  I guess the amount of topics that needed to be discussed among us Iranian is still covered in the dust and confusion of a very unpleasant mixture; delusional ideology and exaggerated culture.
We should keep up the hope in any case.

Poran Poregbal
Febrauary, 22, 2009


That Man

The other day I was in the recreation center in my neighborhood here on the North Shore.  Just about the time I was leaving, I heard one woman talking to her seven or eight year old daughter.
She was talking to her daughter (in Persian) in a silent mood once she was passing me by in that long and narrow corridor.  Just crossing one another in few seconds, I heard her saying: “Do not be noisy, that man will be mad at you.”
Hearing this statement although by accident made me freeze for a short while.  I knew instantly what she meant.  I was close to the exit and I came to wonder why we (some of us Iranian) use this old and fear-based method for disciplining our children.
I can only imagine that daughter was asking questions or just trying to be the child that she was. I left that place feeling bad for that young child that had to be scared of a man who is typically expressed in the third person, unknown, and creepy.  Symbolically this man is a control figure, someone who is scary enough that referring to them will make our children behave.  Why I did react to this statement, well it reminded me of a deeper remark in our Iranian parenting style.
In our Iranian culture we have many of those symbolic figures to be scared of.  Basically we have to fear many things, from early morning to late night, from birth to death, from young to old, and from poor to rich. In our Iranian culture there are many scary figures that are out there to punish us for everything we do, every little joy, every move, and every single opinion.
Remember how many times in our childhood we were told that if we are noisy, meaning being just like a child, then someone will be mad on us?
Remember how in our own childhood, we were discouraged to be who we wanted to be just because adults did not know how to deal with us.  If the figure of the man did not scare of enough, there was always threat of a punishing teacher, principal, police, or even thieves on the street that would follow the noisy child.

The threat that either fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, or someone else could be mad on us, would force us to shut up and stop being a child for at least a short while.  A  simple example of this behaviour is how we control our small babies; we scare them of ghosts, devils, bad men, policemen or a man who is out there ready to snatch them.  I have seen some parents using some or all of these figures to redirect children’s attention once they are misbehaving.  Although redirecting children is positive, however scaring kids of someone out there does not work.  Once our children are not obeying our controlling attitudes or instructions, then we use our horrible methods of scaring our children.

The use of that man or one man, or someone else is to ask for submission, passivity, conformity and obedience.  This is a method deep rooted in a culture that does not accept being noisy.  We scare our children from others who always are mad on them for one or another. This phrase may not make sense for a non-Iranian person, yet we Iranian are familiar to this statement, aren’t we?
This was how we were raised.   How many time our mothers told us” if you do this again, I will tell your dad kill you.”  This was a threat that no one took seriously, however it meant to scare us enough to the level of fearing our life.
How many times did our mothers not scare us of our fathers coming home and literally killing us?   We remember having been told frequently:  “wait until your father comes home and kill you.”   This was a way for our mothers to control us and leave the punishment to our fathers.  Not that always we were punished, yet worrying what would happen when our fathers came home, was worse than anything in the world.
And this story still goes on today.  We make our children to fear someone or be ashamed of something or simply feel guilty for their behaviour.  Now the question is not how our children act or behave; the point is how we as adult let our children live with fear of a punishing figure somewhere.  I guess using worry based threat is culturally embedded that we have to always be scared of punishment, because encouragement in our culture considers wrong and spoiling.
It is very unfortunate that, this is how we try to raise our children, even though we love our children to death.
I guess the purpose of this article is to raise awareness and make us think twice.  Many of us may be the best parents in the world, however, cultural way of attending to our children needs are many times wrong, mean, and damaging. It is time to know better.

Poran Poregbal
February 16, 2009


Making Jokes or Bullying

There are various search leading to middlepeace website. One of them is the concept of  “Jokes.”
I am glad that middlepeace website has send this message out there that we can not just create jokes to the cost of people’s race, color, ethnicity, gender, accent, physical shape, nationality, or any other characteristics that differ people from one another.
I can realize that people try to learn about the real meaning of jokes in our culture.  Someone searched for “jokes on making fun of an individual.” This concept of making fun of an individual even in the format of a joke is called: Bullying.   What is unfortunate is that in our Persian language, the word “bullying” does not really show the depth of this act.

We tend to call everything as a “joke”, even when we are really bullying someone.  Regrettably in our Iranian culture, bullying is a top to down act and no one escapes this horrible behavior by those who believe they are “joking” and those who do this act on purpose.  The sad story is that the act of bullying is part of our everyday life (back home and everywhere) passed down from those in power who intend to hurt people based on their “different”characteristics: Religion, race, wealth, status, and a vast variety of other reasons.  In all those  bullying type actions that are simply called “Jokes”, people are hurt in all levels: physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.  We have to discuss this topic as it has never been done before.

Bullying with excuse of “making jokes” happens everyday in all kind of relationships. We have to stop it by discussing  why it is not acceptable.  We can not hide behind the facade of “jokes” anymore. Bullying someone or making joke of an individual is not funny.
Poran Poregbal


Search for Persian Gang on Middlepeace website

Recently I notice that some readers search for information concerning “Persian gang” or “Persian gang members.”  I am not sure if such group exists, at least for my part, I am not aware of such group.  However I wrote one article about one guy who was shot as a “Persian gang member” and this was in the news a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, we hear that horrible news about vicious shootings out there, a reason to believe that such groups exists.  I guess the underground life of gangs is a place where individuals get stuck.   I believe there must be some young people from our culture, who might be caught in the dilemma of “gang” or probably what a “gang culture” could be about.  In any case, I invite these individuals to come forward and seek professional help.  Whatever the problem might be, there is always healthy and logical solutions to it.
Poran Poregbal