Dirt and Diaspora – Inkstick
Your homeland, or simply a nation-state deemed relevant to your identity, has become the cable news villain. Its conflicts and socio-political dynamics have become an obsession for millions of Americans who have little or no personal interests in them. The discourse often turns from political criticism to ethnic and religious jeers. Your loyalty as an American is questionable unless you become a full-blown activist for or against the status quo. It has become impossible to engage with one’s heritage or faith without getting drawn into toxic political discourse.
This phenomenon applies to many diasporic groups in the United States and is often exacerbated by spikes in geopolitical tensions. The experiences of the Iranian-American and American Jewish communities are obvious examples. Regardless of whether a person has any connection to Iran or Israel, their ethnic and / or religious identity will often be confused with the policies of governments and foreign entities. This is not only very problematic but also dangerous.
American Iranians and American Jews are not a monolith. It is laughable for controversial governments an ocean away to insist that they represent us or represent our values. We have diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Jewish Iranians, and a wide range of views on any given topic. Although the majority of the two of our diasporas are critical of the current political situation, very few Iranians or Jews in America want to resolve the painful circumstances abroad by imposing violence and poverty on the innocent. Many American Jews afraid to speak about Israel because they can be banished from the country or questioned upon entering. Iranian-Americans have many reasons to be concerned about expressing their thoughts and feelings publicly, including the political repercussions here in the United States, the increased dangers when traveling in Iran, and even the increased threats against our loved ones abroad. beyond borders.
Of course, the situations of Iranian-Americans and American Jews are quite different. But there is hope that the similarities between the lived experiences of the two groups could help move the two communities away from vitriolic and towards a deeper sense of understanding.
MANY KNOTS, DYES AND FIBERS
Dirt is directly translated as “khāk” in Persian, which can also mean “territory”. However, it also takes on a more abstract and poetic meaning. Iranians, whether in Iran or in the Diaspora, feel a strong connection to the soil they live on or the soil they come from. We feel a metaphysical link with our khâk and I am sure that we are not alone in this feeling. It manifests itself in different ways in different diasporas and is often linked to historical and geopolitical issues. How these relationships will evolve, within our community and others, transnationally and in the hyper-globalized internet age, is open to anyone’s speculation, as better Where worse.
Day to day, I wholesale Persian rugs for my family’s business, interacting with a wide range of people whose lived experiences can teach us a lot about building healthier social bonds in America among the diasporas. In the United States, the import and export of Persian rugs are currently illegal. It has hurt Iranians in industry and non-Iranians alike. Jason Nazmiyal, an Iranian-American carpet merchant based in New York, Recount USA Today, “It is becoming so difficult for us in the United States and it is also difficult to see how the sanctions are hurting the Iranian government, as opposed to its people. For some in America, the reality is that the sanctions not only complicate the lives of our loved ones abroad, they even strain our livelihoods here. However, this level of mutually experienced pressure has created conditions that stimulate solidarity; there is no room for prejudice in our industry.
Fortunately, public animosity towards Iranian-Americans is currently not at the level of feverishness it once was under the Trump administration, when the United States rushed to war with Iran, not one. , but twice. Speaking to members of the diaspora living in the United States during the hostage crisis of 1979, their stories are traumatic and raise concerns about what the future may bring. The windows of their businesses were smashed, they were spat on and they suffered morbid violence in the streets. Many have resorted to lying about their heritage, pretending to be Italian-American and taking full advantage of their ethnically ambiguous appearances. Although the hostage experience took place long before my time, I have experienced cases of racial violence in New Jersey from a young age. post-September 11 social climate. In middle school, I was repeatedly assaulted and beaten while being insulted. My Jewish friends have shared similar heartbreaking stories. In the most bittersweet way, we are united by the trauma of being targeted for our roots.
By doing due diligence in our research and emphasizing compassion towards our compatriots, we can foster a broader solidarity among different diaspora groups in America.
Today, the Iranian-American diaspora is targeted in much more sophisticated ways and infamous manners. As a result of the sanctions against Iran, people of Iranian descent living in the United States face immense discrimination from both private and public sector institutions. Banking and other financial services systematically and arbitrarily ban law-abiding Iranian-Americans, explaining that “Iran” or “Persian” are trigger words, or worse – providing no explanation at all. Whether it’s the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) or private companies like Hunting bank, Venmo, Etsy, GoFundMe, and Pay Pal, the unfair and systematic targeting of Iranian-Americans has become all too common a problem. Sometimes it seems that our very existence is seen as a violation of sanctions.
On top of that, outsiders have tried to manipulate our community’s emotionally charged internal discussions for political gain. American political actors like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and many others in recent years give a megaphone to the marginal voices of the Iranian diaspora, including the terrorist group formerly designated by the United States MEK. The MEK, a cult group with little or no support in Iran, was thus allowed to misrepresent itself as the voice of the Iranian people.
In one case, the State Department funded a Twitter disinformation campaign harass and threaten critics of US regime change policy, even going so far as doxer an Iranian-American journalist in exile. Critics of hawkish foreign policy, especially Iranian Americans, are slandered every day as “apologists” or even foreign agents. Such assertions systematically play on xenophobia and racism by implying that those of certain heritages are somehow less American.
PROMOTING SOLIDARITY AMONG DISPARED DIASPORAS
These are not just abstract debates. American foreign policy is actively provoking pain, Pain, and death for Iranians in Iran right now. But it is not endemic to the Iranian diaspora. Many Americans with relatives in Israel have reason to worry about their safety during outbreaks of violence, though to a different extent compared to their Palestinian counterparts. Additionally, American Jewish identity is often confused with Israeli identity, flattening the diversity of Jewish voices and perspectives.
Despite our differences, many American Jews and Iranian Americans with loved ones in Israel, Iran, or both are similar in that we have fears and concerns about the safety of those we love living in. foreigner. When escalations of violence occur in Israel-Palestine, American Jews with relatives in Israel have reason to be concerned. Many Iranian Americans fear that Iran will suffer the same terrible fate as Libya, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan – a fate that involves large numbers of civilian deaths, famines, crises of refugees, a seemingly endless series of armed conflicts, and much more. no more misery. What validates this fear is the fact that many architects of the atrocious blunders of American foreign policy have long pushed similar narratives and policies towards the Middle East.
Although many, but not all, maintain ties with Iran or Israel, we are often more inclined to focus on our material conditions here in America. Like everyone else, our desires are to both survive and thrive, with food on our tables and rooftops above our heads. We are both accused of double loyalty and relegated to a seemingly perpetual alien status, regardless of our nationality. We have long been confronted with the politicization of our identities, bitter intra-community divides and obsessive public attention that ranges from frightening “benevolent” to outright hostility.
By doing due diligence in our research and emphasizing compassion towards our compatriots, we can foster a broader solidarity among different diaspora groups in America. The Jewish people experienced some of the most grotesque horrors of the 20th century and many more before. The anti-Semitism to which their diaspora is subjected is unique in many ways. Iranian Americans still face the ramifications of post 9/11 Islamophobia. Regardless of what one thinks of the Iranian state, individuals of Iranian descent continue to remain under an intense microscope.
Understanding the different forms that sectarianism takes is not a competition, it is an intellectual and humanistic investigation. As we condemn anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian sentiment, we extend our sense of love and comradeship to our fellow Iranian Americans as well – as well as to our Asian and Muslim American neighbors, and to all of them. the different identity intersections. Solidarity is not about embracing rosy conceptions of a noble “melting pot” in which opportunity and the “American dream” knock on every door. Rather, it’s about embracing a radical sense of empathy that brings down physical and figurative walls.
Amir Moghaddam is a dual nationality Iranian-American and 4th generation hand-knotted Persian and Oriental rugs seller based in northern New Jersey.