Afghan | Iranian
I am half Afghan, half Iranian but a British citizen Male, heterosexual and a Muslim.
I am Afghan/Iranian and 25 years old. I was brought up Muslim, although my immediate families are not necessarily the most religious of family’s. I studied History at University, worked a year in the Financial Technology industry before going into the Dramatic Arts. I am now an Actor and Writer.
My father is from Tehran, Iran, and came to London at the age of 4 in 1963; and my mother is from Kabul, Afghanistan, and came to London in 1976 at the age of 19. My parents met at a Shia Islamic event hosted by a family my mum knew from Afghanistan, who happened to live on the same road that my dad grew up on in North London, Dollis Hill. I was born and bred in Watford, which provided not the most racially or culturally diverse upbringing.
I was 8 years old and 9/11 just happened. I went to quite a good primary school, but it was predominantly filled with British kids. I always knew I was from elsewhere, but not many of my classmates had heard of Iran or Afghanistan. But they got to know of Afghanistan very quickly since Al Qaeda resided there. Their only knowledge of Afghanistan became synonymous with terrorism. And this intensified with the July bombings. I was 12 years old and in secondary school, and unlike my primary school, it was not a good school at all. A lot of violence and gangs fighting over their postcodes. I’m a bit ashamed to say this but to avoid bullying and ridicule, I suppressed my Afghan heritage and just said to people that I’m Iranian. Sadly, made my time at school a little easier.
Throughout school and University I was always surrounded by British people and as a result a lot of my friends were. They never consciously made me feel unwanted or not part them, but cultural differences made me feel not quite one of them. Now, I have many friends from different parts of the world and there just is this connection we have because of our cultures. Something that wasn’t so apparent with my British friends.
When it comes to marriage, I would love to find someone from my own culture; if not then someone who is from a mixed background.
Do I think or feel there is still prejudice behavior towards mixed race people? Well this is a tough question because my mix is very different to others who face obvious prejudice because of how they look like, and I don’t want to talk on behalf of them. But what I can say is that I find it very difficult to assimilate in either of my nationalities. On aesthetic alone, many would say that I don’t look Afghan or Iranian, something that is a frustration when as an Actor I want to tell the stories and represent characters of these countries. I do feel like at times that I cannot be part of either the Afghan or Iranian community. It seems that I have a look that many can’t quite place, I get a lot of ‘so where are you really from?’.
One of the most profound experiences I had was the effect of terrorism and Al Qaeda and their affiliation with Afghanistan. I really feel sorry for my younger self, feeling the need to suppress my Afghan heritage is a really upsetting thought. I am now strongly proud to be both. One moment that I will never ever forget was shortly after 9/11. I was playing in my local park with some of the boys from my road. They were all older than me by a few years, but we’d known each other for a long time. Whilst in the park we met some other boys that I didn’t know but a couple of my friends did. One of them mentioned 9/11 and the talk of Muslims and Afghans came up, and as a result one of my friends pointed at me and informed everyone that I was an Afghan and Muslim. In response to that, I heard ‘should we kill him?’. I won’t ever forget that.
My background and mixture has affected even relations amongst my generation in my family. Sometimes reminded on both sides of my family that I’m not 100% Afghan or Iranian. And when it comes to people outside of my family, cultural and religious practices have caused me to not be able to fully engage with Western culture. Where I don’t drink alcohol, I find myself on the periphery of social events and celebrations. I can’t count the amount of times that I have had to explain why I don’t drink as if it is one of the most shocking revelations a person could learn about me.
I love my culture and heritage and would not want to be anything else. I find it a privilege to speak Farsi, such a wonderfully poetic language that I apply to my use of English. But I would be lying if I said I never had wished I were something else to make life just a tiny bit easier. In all honesty, living in the Western world is tough for a Muslim, Iranian and an Afghan. White people haven’t made it easy. I find myself reluctantly defending my identity due to the media writing freely about the nations and religion I am connected with. It is never a good thing when I see news outlets writing about Afghanistan, Iran or Islam. It is always a sobering moment when people only have negative experiences when I reveal my identity to them.
In regards to the future for people of mixed race, I believe that time is the answer; we still have members of our society who were alive when the Civil Rights Movement was campaigning for emancipation. As time moves on, so does ideology. And in a way, mixed race people are helping uproot the prejudice, because perhaps we are able to bridge gaps where people can’t cross. Cities like London should be proud of its diversity and mixture of rich culture. But as a society we are privileged, there are many countries across the worlds that are facing issues that Britain did throughout the 20th century. I am a believer in Art being able to help eradicate prejudice, and I use my position to do exactly that through my writing. For mixed raced people I believe you must be proud of your mixed heritage, you are undeniably unique; stand strong and confident and people will admire you. Sometimes it can feel weird not having a complete connection to one country or culture, and it is something I struggle with; but I remind myself that my mixed background and relationship to western culture just means I am more connected to the world I live in, not just one country.