Judge Iran by its people, not its politics

Most British citizens wouldn't like to be held accountable for all the policies of David Cameron, so why am I subjected to so many silly stereotypes about Iranians?

Share
Related Topics

I am the daughter of an Iranian immigrant: a direct product of the political upheaval of 1979 that caused a diaspora of Iranians to flee their native homeland. The result was an Iranian population of more than 40,000 in Britain by 2001. First, second and third generation Iranians are a visible part of communities all over Britain today.

The turbulence of Middle Eastern countries may seem detached from our daily lives, but with sizeable foreign groups in our midst, there are issues arising abroad that have increasing resonance in our own country too. I believe that a devastating cultural conflict is taking place here in Britain, and I’ve experienced its impact with regard to Iran and Iranians first-hand.

The first incident came in response to a feature on Persian food that I pitched to a BBC magazine. I received what felt like a curt response from the editor, saying “obviously it's not a good time to feature Iran” which came across as blunt distaste at the idea of promoting Iranian culture. As far as I’m aware, part of the BBC’s creed is a policy of political impartiality. Are my taxes paying that editor’s salary so that she can bitterly and blatantly judge my heritage?

Later that same week, a university specialist on Middle East politics led a seminar in which he described Iranians (as oppose to the Iranian government or Iran’s politics) as “evil, radical Islamists”. He presented this as a straightforward description that he believed the majority of people in the world hold at this time. After a few sentences, I pointed out that I’m half-Iranian and found his phrasing harsh; he shrugged and continued. I’m an avid supporter of academic debate, but with at least a degree of respect and sensitivity.

It seems that people in Britain suddenly think that it’s acceptable to say whatever they like about Iranians, no matter how openly detrimental or offensive their comments may be. Where is our adherence to multiculturalism, tolerance and inclusion, the political principles said to uphold modern European states?

The most concerning part of this is that people are pinning negative connotations on the Iranian people, and are not separating out the politics of the Islamic Republic for scrutiny instead. Citizens of a non-democratic state in particular should not be held responsible for their government and its foreign policy by any observer.

If you’re ever met an Iranian, even for five minutes, you’ll know that the culture is humble, welcoming and kind. My father’s people, my people, do not deserve to be thought of as political extremists or religious bigots. My family in Iran, just like most Iranian citizens, are ordinary people abiding by the laws of the country they were born into, and getting on with their everyday lives, just like us.

In a liberal democracy like the UK, do the British public want to be seen as a direct extension of David Cameron or Nick Clegg, or judged purely in connection to either’s politics? I highly doubt it. But Brits apparently find it too difficult to distinguish the Iranian people from Iran’s authority figures and ruling doctrines. 

The Iranian people, wherever they are in the world, are not zealous, mad Islamists. Rather, they’re proud parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. They’re foodies and they’re travellers. Many of them are bilingual. They use technology on a daily basis, they listen to pop music and they watch films in cinemas. Although the political distance is vast, the difference in British and Iranian daily lives is much smaller than you might think.

I am as proud to be Iranian as I am to be British, and I assert my right as a British Citizen to openly identify myself as mixed race.

I am as proud to be Iranian as I am to be British, and I assert my right as a British Citizen to openly identify myself as mixed race. And I expect to garner the same level of respect from my fellow citizens as anybody else would. But this feels like less and less of a reality as politicians and the media encourage a negative narrative of Iranians, both nationally and globally.

Yes, the Iranian government has an agenda, just as the American, Israeli and British governments do. And I can’t deny that the agendas of different countries are completely at odds with each other on many issues. But in an age where the world is becoming ever more inclusive and open-minded, I do wish we could start judging a country’s people separately to its politics.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album