Diaspora for us Iranian mean living all over the place.

We Iranians live all over the world now. Our lives are influenced by this diaspora, this dispersion of our people, our language, our culture, to which we have all become accustomed.

This new style of life has changed our world views forever. In the good old years, families and particularly mothers, made a big deal when a daughter or son would attend university in a city other than the home city; it was considered to be too far. If a girl were to marry a man from another town, it too was a big deal. Mothers used to say, “we do not give our daughters to ‘strangers.’” Life in gorbat, or diaspora, was considered to be damaging and dangerous. Our ancestors used to say gorbat is hard.

We called it going to a ‘stranger’s’ city or garibeha, which was the unknown life for us. The Iranian literature has the schema of how gorbat is bad for you and kills you. Rumi, Hafez, Saadi, and our contemporary poets use this topic of gorbat, which is an embodied experience and a hard reality for many families and individuals today.

It is interesting that, no matter where we live, we always refer to the host country’s citizens as ‘strangers’ or ‘foreigners.’ These are the terms we’ve kept from the time when going to strange countries was almost unknown, and the Europeans or Americans coming to our home country were coming from ‘outside’ so they were ‘foreigners.’ Now we are the one who are ‘foreigners’ in the countries in which we have chosen to live or in which we have been given the opportunity to live.

Maybe this is the reason for our ability to adjust very quickly to the societies we enter. We can almost immediately refer to ourselves as ‘we’ and to the others as ‘foreigners’; others meaning people from outside of our new geographical and also psychological borders!

The positive aspects of this diaspora are how we have learned about various cultures all over the world.

Diaspora refers to any group of people who is forced to leave its home country. People from the Middle Eastern regions are a good example here. People from these areas all have been forced to experience the bitter taste of migration when no other options have been offered. And yet, many families choose to migrate because of the unstable socio-political situations in their home countries.

In almost every Middle Eastern family you will find members living in at least four or five different countries: a mother here in Canada, a son in Denmark, grandparents here and children in the States, an aunt in Germany and an uncle in England, one cousin in Sweden and another in France. It is interesting to see the family interactions when they live in different parts of the world. Some ‘prefer’ not to teach their children their mother language. They will discover that their children will find it difficult to interact with cousins who know persian or other languages.

It is time for us to write and document the multifaceted experiences of this diaspora. Our next generations will have a hard time understanding why this happened and may not discover how to resolve the identity crisis if we don’t.

What is your experience like?

May 31, 2007

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