We left Iran because of my mother’s problems. I was only thirteen but I got the vibes that there is no free speech, no equality of men and women, differences in the legal terms that apply to men and women. She had issues with my Dad who was really part of the government, in the army. All his family were in the army and they were threatening her.
One day my Mum said ‘No need to wear your school uniform today, just stay at home because we are going away.’ ‘Where are we going?’ ‘We are going for a holiday ‘. My Mum just wanted to get out until things settled down. Those were terrible days. At first I was just busy settling in a new place. But after a while I realised that I was not in my own country any more. I did not have the comfortable things I used to have. There we had a big house, big TV, people coming and going. I knew more English than my Mum, so I had a lot of responsibility. I had had a lot of love coming from my family but when I came here I had no-one – no more brothers, aunties, cousins.
And yet I had an understanding of my Mum’s situation. I knew that things could not be as they used to be so I only wanted the things that she could provide. I thought, ‘OK, if I don’t have that laptop, I can still go to college’. For my Mum the main problem was that she was not allowed to work, she was not able to see my brothers any more. The only thing I had in my head is that I must study, get to a place where I could change many things.
On my eighteenth birthday I got a letter from the Home Office saying that I must leave the country – a nice gift for my birthday! (The only reason they had not deported my Mum before was that I was not yet eighteen). It was a terrible day because I had decorated the house, and I was looking forward to five days camping in Blackpool.
When we got the deportation order we lost the support that asylum seekers can get so we had to leave the house and stay with one of my Mum’s friends.
But Isobel, our caseworker at GMIAU, put in a fresh claim for us. To do this you have to have fresh evidence and my mother and I had been baptized as Christians in 2008. In Iran you can get executed for that. Isobel told us that this could be grounds for a fresh claim. I was baptized when I was fifteen; it was my own option and I never regretted it.
I still respect Islam and all religions because it is not religion that causes issues in this world but governments, politics getting mixed with religion. We had not mentioned all this before because we did not know that it could be relevant. In Iran there is only one life path – once you are born as a Muslim you have to keep that forever. If someone changes their religion this means the person has over ruled the God’s decision and without hesitation you will be in a big hell that the government puts you in.
When Isobel called and said we had got our status, I felt so great. I couldn’t believe it. Now I could resume college. I did Access to Humanities and now I have got a place at University. It was Isobel that made me want to study law. She is a great woman and I can tell her ‘thank you’ every day. The day after we got our papers Isobel offered me that I could work as a volunteer at GMIAU. After that experience I thought ‘ That’s it, that’s what I want to do’.
It would have been impossible for me to go back to Iran. I have spent all my teenage years here, an important time for any girl or woman. I cannot escape from what my background is but Manchester is my home now. Iranian women, once they are born as a woman they have to get treated as second class citizens by family, community and government. If you let your opinion out freely you can be accused easily as a person who destroys the country. It is a very modern country with all sorts of comforts but life is not just about going to the park or having a family meal together. We have many people in our beloved country who believe that a woman is born to be someone’s wife and they give no choice for their women to experience real life and not the fantasy life that parents have made for them.