“We Could Make a Fkn Glass Crater Out of the Middle East for All I Care”
The charming sentence that titles this piece first came to my attention in the sunny year of ’06, when The Chaser took to the streets of Texas and convinced far too many people that ABC comedian Julian Morrow was the Prime Minister of Australia. As much as I enjoyed watching people struggle to figure out how many sides a triangle has, it was this line alone that caught quite painfully in my chest, and has never really left.
My mum is of an Iranian/Persian background, depending on which word you’re feelin’. For me, when I’m explaining why the hell I’m brown, I use “Persian”. It alludes to exotic carpets and long-haired cats, as opposed to Middle Eastern Un-Desirable No.1. One kind of wants to relive the days when only the Ancient Greeks hated us. It was cooler back then.
Despite, as a teenage girl, having more hair on my face than my blonde mates did on their heads, and also despite that one cheeky fella in year seven who liked to dive under desks while shrieking “TERRORIST!” whenever I walked into biology, my ethnic makeup has never done anything other than give me some serious abundance.
The Middle East is responsible for the number zero, the first charter of human rights and the Kardashians. What contributions. Also, Persian and Middle Eastern culture are possibly the most hospitable I have come across. Respect and generosity are absolutely paramount. Iran is a nation that is rich with ancient traditions, damn fine poetry, turquoise tiles and saffron rice. Fabulous.
Monday Night was Persian New Year (Nooruz), where we celebrate the exact moment that the Earth spins into the light. It’s the finite instant that spring blooms up. It’s about touching the cosmos.
I sat in a circle with my small family, who have survived war and racism and sorrow, and felt something immense and undefinable, knowing that while the majority of my suburb obliviously ate sausages on a rainy Monday night, there were millions of people, just like us, across all the seven seas, holding hands as the future rolled on in. Everybody, linked by the rosy steel of tradition.
I am proud to be a part of something so beautiful.
But, for most people from the West, Iran is tainted with headlines like NUKES and HOSTAGE CRISIS and TERRORISM and BURNING AMERICAN FLAG. This is understandable. Since the late ’70s, having IRAN written in your blood and passport has been a bit of a liability.
At the dawn of the Islamic Republic, when Ayatollah Khomeini, the dynamic Islamic leader, returned to Iran and heralded the end of the Pahlavi dynasty, my mother and grandparents fled for their lives in the middle of the night. My grandfather was the head of a Western company, and one day some young revolutionary guards paid him, and his staff, a visit. They had semi-automatic weapons, and threatened to massacre them all. My granddad stood in front of his employees, arms spread wide, and said, “If you want to kill them, you will have to kill me first.”
The guards were so impressed with his bravery that they left. But my grandma got an anonymous call three days later that went along the lines of, “If you value your husband’s life, you need to leave. Now.”
They packed everything they could fit into two suitcases, my grandfather glued a picture of my mum and grandma into his passport, and then they fled, telling nobody and leaving everything that they knew and understood. Somehow, by some strange stroke of luck, they got to London. At Heathrow, it was discovered that they weren’t legitimate. And from that point on, my family were refugees who had lost their homeland, their family, their friends, their language and their culture, all because of the agendas and violence of others.
This was the case for so, so many Iranians at this time, and still is the deal for millions of people in 2017. Back in the day, one of our family friends literally crawled, with a sheep skin thrown over his back, in a flock of sheep over the mountains into Turkey to escape. Others were captured and tortured. Some are still missing. Today, millions of Iranians are dispersed all over the globe, many miles away from the rivers of their childhoods.
Imagine having to pack up your life in an hour or less. Imagine, as an Australian, leaving our wild oceans, our broken ridges, our delicate wattle behind, forever. It’s a bloody horrible thought.
The only thing possibly more terrible than being forced from your home is being told that you aren’t welcome anywhere else either. All because, you know, like 0.3 per cent of the people from your entire country are EVIL and it reasonably follows that you too are probably EVIL. My word, it’s just logic and common sense. Darling, get on board.
Trump’s blanket ban of Iranian nationals means that people from Iran, as well as Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia (Iraq was removed) are banned from obtaining a visa to the USA for 90 days. The fact that America actually houses the most Iranians outside of Iran is a bit of dilemma, and has meant that hundreds of people have missed out on weddings and saying goodbye to loved ones, and are fearful to leave the country.
My grandma and a bunch of her Persian mates went on a leisurely cruise a month ago. It was bangin’, probably. But one lady had flown from Iran to Sydney to spend time with her ailing dad. She wasn’t allowed on the boat because she was an Iranian national, and it was an American company. It was hideous. Hideous.
The ban also prohibits any refugees from these nations coming to America. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of these countries are currently experiencing famine, violent conflict and extreme abuses of human rights, with the UN declaring only the other day that in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, a humanitarian crisis is occurring that is the worst since 1945. These are refugees that need help, and fast.
Trump’s reasoning is that he wants to protect his people from terrorism. Obviously, this is a good idea. Nice one Mr President. But, it should be known that of the 72 people who hail from each banned nation who have been charged with terrorism offences since 9/11, therefore setting the standard for this policy, 44 were ultimately acquitted of their charges. Of the 28 who weren’t, only three were found to have been planning terrorism on US soil, and two of them were sting operations. The majority of the charges were for people funding terrorism overseas. Also, Saudi Arabia is curiously omitted, despite 15 of the 9/11 hijackers claiming Saudi nationality. Reason? Green, hard cash.
It’s all such bullshit. And yet, so many innocent people have become the victims of a brutal bureaucratic system that seems to hark back to the Third Reich.
If you add a pinch of wilful blindness, a teaspoon of xenophobic fear, a dash of Murdoch and a cup of fake tan, and stir well, you will end up with a well-baked world that is leaning a trifle too far to the right. The only way to get rid of this MSG-heavy recipe is to educate and humanise. Everybody deserves to live a life where they are not threatened or vilified, no matter where they come from.
It’s the New Year now though ladies and gents. And it is a time of new beginnings and fresh freshness. Hopefully a change will come in on the wind. I’ll be waiting.