This profile is part of an ongoing series that tells individual stories of people from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq who were banned from entering the United States by Donald Trump’s original executive order. While federal judges had halted the original ban, on March 6, 2017, a second version was signed by the President, renewing travel restrictions for citizens of six of those nations.
Learn more about Not Welcome and read other stories here.
ON THE FIRST PAGE ON MINA’S CANADIAN PASSPORT, right underneath the header that says Place of birth, the words “TEHRAN, IRN” are unmistakably typed out in bold, black letters.
When Mina first received the passport, she felt like those two words were problematic. She had hoped that the section would remain blank; or at the very least, that passport pages could be more nuanced—so that hers read, in the same bold, black letters:
“Place of Birth: DEPARTURE LOUNGE AT TEHRAN’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.”
That way – Mina thought – her passport would paint a more accurate picture of her relationship with Iran, and as a bonus, she’d be able to travel around the world hassle-free.
MINA WASN’T EXACTLY BORN AT THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE of Tehran’s international airport, but she was only 40 days old when her family left Iran in search of a new life in the United Arab Emirates.
“I was traveling before I knew it,” Mina says.
Since that first trip, her life has been a collection of passport stamps and boarding pass stubs. She’s only 23 years old, but has already lived in Dubai, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal, and has travelled far and wide, visiting countries across North America, Europe and Asia.
And while that international lifestyle allowed Mina to see the world, for many years it also exposed her to a rhetoric that pushed her to reject her Iranian identity.
“I grew up watching American TV and American news and almost everything I saw or heard portrayed Iran in a bad light. I was too young to exercise critical thinking and so I believed whatever was fed to me,” she remembers. “My mind was so colonized!”
For the better part of two decades, if anyone asked her where she was from, she would be overcome by a “sudden feeling of guilt and shame” and would try to ignore the question altogether.
But all of that changed a couple of years ago, when an unexpected conversation with an immigration officer at London’s Heathrow Airport changed her perceptions on Iran. That day, as the officer began talking about the wonders of Persian poetry and about the brilliance of the Iranian scientists and neurosurgeons that he met, something inside of Mina clicked, and all of a sudden she reframed the way she saw her place of birth.
“After that encounter I started saying ‘Hell yeah, I’m from Iran and I’m proud of it.’”