I am an Azeri Turk

June 16, 2013
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Here I am at school, a safe building, cushioning me from the outside world. While I’m protected from most evils, my family members over seas are in a struggle. My family lives in Iran, making most people instantly yell “terrorist!” or “ooo you’re Persian, like a Persian cat, meow”. But guess what we are not terrorists and we are not ‘Persian’, we are Azeri Turks. Saying I’m Iranian is simply easier, but my dad would never approve of it.
There have been a plethora of arguments between my dad and I over what my home country is. Both of my parents were born and raised in Iran but they both insist they are not Iranian, so what am I? I suppose this is a struggle many people go through, the cheesy ‘finding yourself’ stage of life. But you can look at a short, olive skinned, greasy haired man with a hot dog in this hand, ask him where he’s from, and know he’s right when he says he’s Italian. The first time I told anyone where I was from in middle school, they didn’t even believe me. “But you’re white!” they’d say, and yes I am quite white (I could use a tan), but nonetheless I’m Middle Eastern. Perhaps I’ve conformed too much to American society to the point where I just blend in. But that’s rather depressing isn’t it? It’s a shame to be another shade of gray in a world of black and white, instead of being the spot of red.
My dad instilled in me this pride of where I’m from, but also a drenching embarrassment. He would never tell anyone he is Iranian, not if you promised him a world of luxury. He will forever be Azerbaijani. If I introduce myself as an Azeri Turk though, people make the face they do upon looking at a calculus derivative, confused and begging for an explanation. The explanation is long, thousands of years long filled with war and genocide, so I never get much into that. Instead I explain (for those poor in geography) that Azerbaijan, a Turkish country, sits right above Iran on the map and I am from the north of Iran, or the south of Azerbaijan. The tough part is differentiating between south Azerbaijan and northern Iran.
When my dad felt I was old enough, he showed me exactly what the Azeri people have done to protect their land, language, and culture. He pulled up a link for me featuring an article about my great uncle. The first things I saw were awfully graphic images of my great uncle’s death. I knew he passed away, but not that he was beaten to nothing; I was always told it was a heart issue. However the issue was not his heart at all. His life was brutally taken from him because he wanted to speak and write his own language. His life was harshly taken from him because he stood up against the Iranian government instead of conforming to their standards of simply shutting up and doing as they say. My dad proceeded to tell me that my great uncle, grandpa, and even he himself had spent time in jail for speaking and writing their language instead of Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.
I finally understood. I understood why such a chili, red anger filled my dad’s face whenever I insisted I must be Iranian because that’s where my parents were from.

How many world issues go unheard of in this world? How many struggles aren’t recognized? How many cries aren’t heard?

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