Anthropological and linguistics articles from University of Western Australia

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Are Iranians Being Vilified (Published in Green Left Weekly)

Are Iranians being Vilified?

by Marcia Helene Hewitt UWA anthropology student.

Recently I was given a tutorial assignment of comparing one group of migrants in Australia to Puerto Ricans in East Harlem. I chose Iranian people since I have a number of Iranian friends and acquaintances, all of whom I like very much.

I began my research by speaking to an Iranian boy of 17, someone born here, and who had been one of my music students ten years previously. He began to tell me how he had been made to get off of a bus in transit, detained for 3 hours and questioned. He told me that he had been arrested several times and then let go, admittedly, because he had been in a few fights in Northbridge. He said if he got into a fight with another Iranian, then he would be let go, but if he got into a fight with a ‘white’ then they would keep him overnight. The fact that he saw Anglo Australians as white, and himself non white, struck me. This lad was brought up in Claremont in a gracious Baha’I family!

I was so disturbed by what he had told me that I researched further and found that there had been a number of ASIO raids in Iranian households, with people held at gunpoint. How could this be happening in Australia?

I put a question to Prof. Chomsky on the Znet Web board , whether he thought that the United States would invade Iran, and his reply was that he didn’t think they would invade, but that Washington did seem to be stepping up anti-Iranian propaganda. I learned about a Sally Field movie called “Not Without My Daughter” which has received some criticism for depicting Iranians and Muslim culture as monstrous. So I naturally started to draw my own conclusions, conclusions which may not be correct, that somehow American foreign policy is affecting Australian cultural attitudes, and shouldn’t be. I read another article in the Green Left Weekly where Bob Brown suggested that this might have to do trade arrangements between John Howard and the present Iranian government, and that certain ‘revolutionary’ organizations are being targeted here.

One of my friends is now afraid to receive political material from me because he says that anyone from the Middle East is now being watched closely (he is a double PhD academic) and doesn’t want to jeapordise me in any way! Isn’t it time that we, as a democratic community , do something about this kind of dangerous cultural attitude?


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