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Escaping Religious Persecution

Nandhini Sivabalakannan, Staff Writer

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In the year of 2016, the immigration in the U.S reached a record of almost 43.7 million people, and freshmen Bahar Safarzadeh was one of them.

 “I came to America on September 16, 2016,” said freshmen Bahar Safarzedah.

  Immigrants come from all over the world for many reasons. A majority of them that come to the U.S. go for job security and some come plainly to tour the various sceneries America provides. However, Safarzedah’s family yearned to come to the land of the brave for a completely different reason.

  “My family became Christian and it wasn’t allowed in my country so we had to leave,” said Safarzedah.

     Iran, where Safarzadeh is from, is known to many Americans for the surplus supply of oil, yet many aren’t aware of what few rights the people of Iran have. Currently today and in the past, the official religion in Iran is Islam, and other religions are forbidden. Practicing Christians face the fate of persecution or punishment by the government. When Safarzedah’s family converted she explains that her parents wanted to move out of the country, preferably to America, but that wasn’t exactly an easy transition.

 “For four months and a year l lived in Turkey and we were under the U.N program, which is a program for refugees like my family and counties worked with U.N. then would take you as refugees,” said Safarzedah.

   Though moving to Turkey meant that the Safarzadeh family would be safer than they were in Iran, it didn’t quite mean they were out of the woods just yet. For many people, Turkey is just a hiding place until a better opportunity comes by, which was the case for the Safarzadeh family until a bolt of pure luck struck them.

    “We won a lottery back in the U.N. and the winner got citizenship in America and since that was a faster route we proceeded the lottery and we came here,” said Safarzedah.

Traveling over a thousand miles the Safarzadeh family came to America on a dewy summer day, and Safarzadeh describes it as an unforgettable experience.

    “We didn’t have any plan, we were New York we were waiting for a flight. It was really nice. It looked nice, felt nice. We just had a really good feeling. It was a new thing to feel, and I felt really happy and I didn’t know why but it did,” said Safarzadeh.

Relocating from a dangerous and unstable living environment to America, a place of freedom is a major change for immigrants going through situations similar to Safarzadeh. She recalls the moment with fondness.

 “Being able to say that we were in an airport in New York, now that was amazing and exciting at the same time. I didn’t sleep for like two days because I was just so happy,” said Safarzadeh.

Even though making it to America was a dream come true to Safarzadeh and getting to America was hard, she recounts that trying to settle into America seemed like a trial in itself.

  “In the beginning, I could say “hi, hello,” the basic things but like other than that the first few years, I couldn’t communicate with anyone,” said Safarzadeh.

Not being able to express or communicate yourself to the people around you, can be an overwhelming situation, and to Safarzadeh, who previously spoke Persian, it meant embarrassment in front of peers.

“It was scary to speak out, I was worried I’ll pronounce something wrong and I’ll embarrass myself, so it was easier to distance myself from them,” said Sarfarzedah.  

The language was only the first of many culture barriers Safarzedah experienced while moving to America.

  “Being in the same school as boys it was a really strange thing I didn’t have any interaction with them in Iran and it’s still hard and weird trying to make friends with them and talking to them” said Safarzedah. This seems like a struggle that remains in all cultures.

  “I would only eat the hamburgers in school when I first came here. I actually recently I discovered mashed potatoes. Our burgers are like three times bigger than the burgers here,” said Safarzedah.

Through all of these hardships, Safarzedah explains that it was tough, but soon her family got the hang of the American culture and things seemed blissfully perfect. That is until Safarzedah got her first dose of discrimination thrown at her.

   “People would think I speak Arabic sometimes or throw some other stereotype at me. I sometimes like, I can’t do things other people can. I’ll think that I would need to do more homework or practice my writing or reading constantly. Because people really do discriminate against us and think we’re not smart,” said Sarfarzedah.

      A recent study cited in Pew research center estimated that the U.S has gone down from 110,000 refugees to 77,000 refugees last year. Despite negativity for middle Eastern refugees growing, Sarfarzedh proudly defends her country.

  “Just because my country is a third world country, doesn’t mean we aren’t good or educated enough,” Safarzedah said.  “We have rich people, like guys, we have Apple there, don’t worry,”

Stereotypes, racism, and criticism of other countries have led many astray to believe in false rumors about Iranians and other people of the middle east. Sarfarzedah presents a solution to this matter.

“Iranians have the brains and intelligence to help out and contribute to America, they shouldn’t be robbed of a future in America, just because a white guy says no. Immigrants can contribute, but only if they’re given a chance”, said Safaredah.  

Given all of the hate and discrimination Safarzedah and her family has received, it may seem like the trip to America was not seem worth it, though Safarzedah would beg to differ.

“I am happy and I love my life here”.

 

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