Why I am British and Iranian, but not “Persian”

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I was born in Iran and moved to UK with my parents at the age of 11. For some reason I never saw myself as British, and was staunchly proud of my Iranian identity, but London was home and most friends were British.
Three years ago, something changed, and I think I can narrow it down to the London Olympic games. It was so well organized, and the stadiums were finished well within target dates, unlike many other games. That gave me a sense of pride. The games themselves were great, with the Team GB doing so well. Again, it felt good. But what was really special were the opening and closing ceremonies: Life of Brian, Monty Python, celebration of the National Health Service (which I am so proud of), the “Queen” parachuting into the stadium…

I identified with all these as much as any Brit. I suddenly asked myself why I was fighting the idea of being British. What more can define a Briton? I was British for god’s sake. I am now proud to be Iranian and proud to be British, and feeling lucky to be fully at home with two cultures and two languages.

And why not Persian? I have no problem with the language being called Persian (or Farsi) but not my nationality. Here’s why… Before the Iranian revolution in 1979, we were all Iranians. But the image became so bad (especially during the hostage crisis) that many Iranians suddenly became “Persian”, with the convenient, cuddly connotations of the Persian cat, or Persian carpet!! Actually a few of my friends even became “Italian”! I was never comfortable with changing my identity in this way. In fact it was more important that people realised not all Iranians are bearded revolutionaries with guns! And I still have an aversion to it. So please don’t call me Persian, however exotic that sounds. 🙂

Photo: Magnus Bråth (used under CC BY 2.0)

Category: Iran, Life
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