[i] Well, welcome to the interview.
[i] We are going to talk about your life story and contribution in the city of Utrecht. First of all I would like to ask you to show me the object I asked you to bring along and tell me what it is and what it means to you.
[r] Yeah, okay. Well, I’d like to show you a picture of my children. That’s a picture that we took when I think we were in Holland for two days. The only one I can actually take from my country. So it’s also very dear to me. Yeah.
[i] So you arrived with the kids, with three kids?
[r] Yeah, with my three kids and my husband, at the time. And when we came here, yeah, that was a very different country. Very different from my country, which I was used to. And we didn’t bring anything, because I thought we’d go back a month later. But I’ve been here for 30 years now, so it didn’t work out. But there’s a reason, and my children grew up here. Are here, have their own family, their own life built. And, uh… to go back to my country someday, I hope, I will, and, um… time must come, yeah.
I see.
But that picture, it’s very special to you. What does it remind you of when you look at that picture?
Well… Time’s moving too fast. And then I see my children, are all for me, are my capital, are my love. They’re all for me, and I’m glad I took them to… I’ve been able to give them a new life, to offer them, and I’m glad I did. And then I also see, a lot of other children in my country, did not have that chance, but they did. And when I also look at my grandchildren, ah I’m so happy, I’m so happy that I’m here. They have built a life of their own and want to move on. And that was, for me, the bridge to Iran, to my past. And I still want to walk that bridge. I think I still have a lot to do there, with that hope, with the love I have for my children and for my country and of course the Netherlands is my country too. I also love Holland very much. I feel that Utrecht is my city. I have also lived in other cities before. Can I mention which cities?
[r] Yes, yes, but still, here Utrecht is my city. Utrecht it is, it makes me feel like I am in Abadan, where I was born and raised. And I feel safe here. Here is my city and I want to keep it that way.
[i] So that picture is very special, because it also has to do with time, that it has been all those last thirty years… And what I understand and that children are very special to you, anyway?
[r] Yes, my children have also been through a lot. They were small and we fled to something strange. We just had to leave, but true, we didn’t know that either. And they had to come too, without wanting or being able to decide. Daddy, Mommy has to go and then you have to come too.
[i] How old were they?
[r] My eldest was four, my second was two and the third was one year old. And well, they were, uh, so beautiful, beautiful. And I told them now we’re going, we’ll be back so soon. But yeah, I still look back to, to the day when we left Iran. I thought I’d come back, very soon and with that feeling I left, actually. And I didn’t know it would take so long to… Well, I’m still in Utrecht…
[i] You, you came abroad for political reasons?
[i] Or you fled, shall we say. What was the situation like in Iran when you had to leave?
[r] Well, that was pretty heavy, because we lived in secret places for several months, so to speak, and then we decided to leave, because we couldn’t live like that anymore. We also had friends who we worked with back then. Were abroad and we had contact with them and they encouraged us to just go away, flee and come abroad, because that was not tenable anymore to be in Iran, because it was very hard. They caught everyone and went to prison and what we heard was torture. I couldn’t handle it and I thought it was better to flee than just end up in prison. Either you stay in jail or you get hanged, then… Well, choice was clear. Just go away. And that was pretty hard, leaving your family behind and I was homeless once because of the war between Iran and Iraq. And I had to go through that again, and that was… Yeah, that’s what I thought it was, tough. Anyway, you have no other choice. Like you, you choose your life or death. Of course it’s clear what you choose, and that’s why…
How old were you then?
[r] Well, a woman doesn’t let you ask, does she? So you know that now! Well, I was 22. That was, yeah, pretty young, and my kids were very young, too. But anyway, I thought now I just have to leave and for future sake for my children and for myself and for my husband at that time. So when we left with one little luggage. I thought of well, we’ll come back and then all the stuff there. Well, feeling like you’re coming back, you’re leaving. And that’s always been with you, too. Every year you think, “Oh, I’m going back next year. Next year! Well, it’s the… Next year’s a long time.
[i] Yeah. You came to Holland in 1985.
[i] It was about six years after the revolution and five years after the war. And I hear you went through something during the Iran-Iraq war. What did you go through there?
[r] Yes, the war started in my city. Well actually Khorramshah huh, that was near Abadan and we just had to flee there. I know, still when I look at Syria now, what happens in Syria or Iraq and with ISIS, that’s terrible. Sometimes I really have to cry and then I think, God. Come on, that’s where all the memories come out. Well then we had to flee in a mini-truck. There were 40 people in the mini-truck and then we had to flee and we were lucky, then we had something, but the rest just had to walk. And I only had my child, my eldest child, who was four, five months and I only had him in my hands, well and clothes. The rest we had nothing, and then the next day we came, we ended up in Shiraz and we had no place, we had no money, we had no clothes, no food, nothing. And we went to holy place in Shiraz. We’d been homeless for two days. We found a cardboard box, because we had nothing. And no one at that moment understands that war happened. People are fleeing. And what I was really sorry about, they called us traitors. We, the other countrymen, they called us traitors. “Why don’t you go and defend the city?” And now you can’t do anything empty-handed. We fled from Abadan to another city. And after two days the government suddenly woke up and said: “Oh, this is war!” And then they took good care that we could get a place and we, yes family can stay together, so to speak. That was unpleasant. I don’t wish it on anyone, because war is destruction, destroying people and driving your family apart, and that’s pretty intense. Your town, because I was very attached to Abadan. I still feel Abadani. And yes I still love my city. Warm, and sweet people. But gosh, that’s why I always compare to Utrecht. I feel different in Utrecht than in other cities.
[i] Yeah, because you’ve actually had two flights.
[r] Yeah.
I hear, I heard you say, “I had my oldest. And your family, parents, brother and sister?
No, my mom or dad were… My father was alive, my mother was dead. My father fled too, and so did my sisters and brothers. They all just fled.
[i] They all lived in Abadan at the time?
How many sisters and brothers do you have?
[r] Well, I have a lot of brothers and sisters. Well, actually, my mom and dad raised seven orphans too. And with my own brother and sister, we had fifteen children. And so we all fled to other cities, so…
By fifteen, you mean a brother…
[r] And sister. Yeah, well, but not all at once. But several days in a row and they also fled, and fortunately we can find each other after a few days. Via via, so then we were together. Yeah, happily.
[i] How was your childhood and what are your memories as a child?
[r] Well, I was very naughty. Yeah.
How many children were you?
[r] Of my whole family, I was the ninth child. Of my mom and dad, I was fourth. And I had one yes, brother above me and one brother below me. I was between and now always when you have two brothers, you always fight each other. And I feel like I was a boy too, because girls didn’t have a lot of rights, so to speak. But if you were a boy, you would have. You could play outside, you could play soccer. I could play soccer and you could play with boys. I thought that… I did get freedom from my dad to just… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. To just be me, playing with boys. But my mom was a little conservative, and she actually wanted to protect me, because I was a girl, and later on… Well, if I played with boys all the time, no one would marry me, because “She’s always with those boys!” Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. In culture, where you come from, it’s not supposed to be girls playing with boys. Well, I did. And then I’m glad I did, because later when you’re older, you look at what you’ve done and you think, “Yes, I can handle anybody”. Those men!’. And well, I was a very cheerful girl, what I heard, and also wise, justified and because on the street when there was a fight between boys and girls or boys, for example, always came to me ‘[Name], come on, just for a moment, look what happened!’ and just like I was a judge. Did I have to look, oh who was right or who wasn’t. And also always forming unity, between the group. I was, naughty in that sense that’s what I always wanted, I was also looking for a challenge. But still, I think, my youth has, despite the limitations I could enjoy my youth. If I look now, how I was huh … I also said to my kids “Pff, I’ve got worse things than you’ve done!”. And anyway, for a girl of that age, of that culture, Iranian culture… I think so, I had the freedom to choose and what I want to do. Yeah. I do have a choice… Yeah God, look in Iran especially that time there isn’t already… Dialogue with the children, but I wanted to and my mother was always “Gee, you’ve got a big mouth! “You’re always looking for that challenge!” and she just wanted to protect me. So well, when I got older, I thought, oh, that’s why, she just didn’t want to take care of the pain, protect me actually. And that was it.
[i] You finished high school in Iran?
Yeah. I finished high school and then I went to college. I did Business and Management. And that was fun period there, too. I couldn’t go to college because I was in a group that was against regime. So that always sticks. That I wasn’t allowed to go to college. So at that time Iranian regime was very much looking for people who were against regime or in the fight against regime. Yes and we had also fled within Iran and I can’t do that at university. Actually inside, going to college and never finished.
And then in ’95… Um, ’85, you came to Holland with three kids and your husband. So how did you end up in the Netherlands?
[r] Well, we were actually, we never thought about coming to Holland. Holland wasn’t on our list. It was. We wanted to go to Sweden, and it didn’t work out. And we didn’t have much money either. The only way was just Holland and then we thought, okay, better. Either go back or stay in Turkey or go to Holland. And we thought, okay, then we just go to Holland. And I did know Dutch football. And I was when I was, or I think I was 14, I was very much in love with Arie Haan, the soccer player and I thought, well someday I will marry him. And still, he didn’t propose. So, well, I hope it comes to that, but it was… Arie Rooster was always on my mind for me, still is. But I knew Dutch football very well. And because I loved soccer, we also watch soccer. And because we didn’t have any money and the smuggler says ‘Well only way is Holland’. And then we thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to Holland!’. That’s why we came here.
[i] Did you guys have a little show back then? What kind of country is it and where would you end up?
[r] No, absolutely not. No, I didn’t.
What was your first impression when you came here?
[r] Well, I thought that, people were very nice. I thought they were nice people, human and I liked all that. Yeah, I’m from war myself, and I liked it a lot. And I was also very surprised, how come those people are so nice. Why are they so nice? And they still are, by the way. They’re still nice, I think.
[i] Where did you end up?
[r] Well, in Amsterdam. We’ve been, came to Amsterdam, and we’ve been in regular boarding house, hotel for young, young people for a month. We stayed there for a month and after that, they sent us to Leiden. We came to Leiden, was a house, mansion, were about ten refugees there. We also got two rooms and stayed there for six months. After half a year we got another house in Leiden. For our family and we moved from there to our own home actually. After so many years we had something for ourselves, for children. I thought it was very important for the children, because they had until then, always well they could not have had their own room because of the war and the situation they experienced. And they could offer them peace and quiet. Not always fleeing, fleeing and then yes…
[i] Actually Leiden after six months was your place to live?
[r] Yes.
[i] When were you admitted as refugees and how long did the procedure take until you had a status?
[r] Well, I think it took a year and a half… We’re, I think, late ’86… All together, from the moment we arrived and then we got status. I think it took a year and a half or a year, eight months, something like that. But for us it was a long time. Well, later on, I also heard that people have been in the asylum seekers’ centre for eleven years. I was sorry about that.
[i] Because in your time there was no asylum seekers’ centre?
[i] You just went to houses?
[r] Yes. No, they did. No, they didn’t. And was very posh, when you ended up in mansion. I think that was, uh, really nice building. And well, people were very sweet, caring. And my kids were naughty. They ran everywhere, but those people had such patience for them. And no, they were very sweet people, very nice. And, they cared too, I was angry with my children too. “Calm down, sit down!” The lady said, “No, never mind. “Calm down!” and then, “Oh, yeah, well. Yeah, well, my kids did adopt that mentality. When I see how, for example, they deal with their children now, I’m glad it didn’t become like me, getting angry and keeping my mouth shut. Then you’re in the parenting of, of us. Yeah, kids shouldn’t say anything. Hey, that was rude. And when I see how my kids raised their own kids, I’m really proud of them. I say, “Well, wow!” and I’m happy for them and for myself.
How did it go from Leiden, because you said we lived in different cities.
Tell me, what’s it like…
Well, no, I’m… Of course, I wanted to go back, that’s it. I thought what the best way to go back was. And we found our organization Moedjahedien and we went from Leiden to Amsterdam very quickly. Six months later we were in Amsterdam, at Moedjahedien. And a few months later, we went to Iraq. I went with my children to Iraq for a year, been in resistance and I just wanted to, because at that moment my brother was murdered by the Iranian regime. And he was young, 34, beautiful man, beautiful man to see and that was… I couldn’t bear the pain. That was, the pain… Too, too painful and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I thought it was me, I’ve got to do something and then I… Well with my kids I went to Iraq and I stayed there for a year. At some point I found out, this isn’t it. Wants to choose, actually. Maybe because of emotions, sadness, I thought, I want to go that way. Just like now a lot of guys are going to ISIS, we’re like heroes here, but that’s all bullshit. People in the high places. They only think about self-interest and nobody thinks about people. This is all fables, stories that tell people to… Beautiful stories, it’s manipulation, actually. Well, when I ended up in Iraq. I saw it. They’re stories, too. It’s made beautiful, but the content remains the same as dictators there. I’ve had a lot of trouble there. And I left there on purpose. I thought no, this isn’t, this isn’t my fight, this isn’t my way. And I’m not going, I’m against war. I’m for peace. I figured that out. I’m glad I did, otherwise maybe I was still thinking and doing wrong. And then I thought no, I’m just gonna leave. And I don’t want to ruin other people’s lives for peace too. I don’t want to, that’s not it. I can’t deal with my conscience. Then I came back and I came back to Amsterdam. With a lot of misery with the organizations, they didn’t want to support me, they didn’t want to give my house back. Well then I went to Groningen, well I ended up in Groningen. Completely the end of the world. Yeah. I think that was meant for us, because my children still live in Groningen. Yeah, I went to Groningen last weekend too, so I’m still in Groningen. And that was city, very different from Amsterdam and quiet, people aloof, colder than Amsterdam and Leiden, but I thought, yes… But I did hit good people and we had a contact in Groningen. We still have contact with him, Jan [last name] and he was a fantastic man. He’s even older. He doesn’t want to get old, but he’s about 60 or 70 or something, I think. And he’s still in contact with me, with my kids and he comes to visit us every now and then or we go to him. My second son said, “Mom, if he wants, I can take care of him too, you know. He’s just like grandpa to us, huh. I say, “Of course, of course, we have to! And the love is between us and him. And we are, I myself stayed in Groningen for six and a half years, until my divorce. And then I came to Nieuwegein and all my children went too. And since three and… No, I’ve lived in Utrecht since 1999. For a long time, but okay anyway… I don’t think I’m going to move soon, then I’ll stay, too bad for Utrecht. And then… But I think that’s where I should be. And I do miss Groningen now and then, because my children live there. Not that I miss the city. Being close to my children, but gosh they find that, they have a family of their own. And have a job and friends of their own. So what we do, they either come to me or I go to Groningen. And in such a way, especially with new tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. Well, then you can just see each other every day! Coming into your own living room, with this. So the distance has become shorter. And I like it very much. In such a way that I can’t see my grandchildren every day, but now every week I can see my grandchildren a number of times. Having conversations with them or by phone or Skype and talking to them. And when I’m there, I’m also completely there for them and then I don’t have time for my children, then it’s just my grandchildren. Then I talk about… They like it a lot about now when… then “Grandma, what did Daddy do?” and then I tell them… Or “My mother did”, so I tell them about now, naughty things and then they go to mom and dad “Oooh, Grandma told us something!” huh. So there it was, it’s… Moves me too. I think I’m glad I’ve got them too. If I didn’t come to Holland, I wouldn’t have them either. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s what Holland gave us. Especially my second son, [name], is very grateful. He said ‘Mom, if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t have my children. Oh, I can’t imagine, without my children!’. So, well. From Groningen huh, there is far away.
But what was the reason you came from Groningen to Utrecht?
Well, it was my private, because I got divorced and…
[i] But why not Amsterdam, for example, but Utrecht?
[r] Well, the reason was, I had a boyfriend and I thought I would live with him and then I came to Nieuwegein, but then I thought, no. I just got divorced and then I can’t live with someone under the same roof. I did need space, for myself. And that’s why I came to Nieuwegein. And I moved to Utrecht, because I had neighbors, gypsies, and I actually wanted to get away from that, so. That was the reason and then I just wanted to leave Nieuwegein.
[i] And where did you end up in Utrecht?
[r] In Leidsche Rijn. Yeah. And my boss knew I was dissatisfied where I lived in Nieuwegein and I also worked in Nieuwegein at the time and he said ‘Why don’t you go and live in Leidsche Rijn?’, I say ‘Well, I don’t know where Leidsche Rijn is!’. He said ‘Yes, new neighbourhood, is very beautiful!’ And well, then I got a brochure and I loved it. And I went for a drive and then I thought, “Well, I like it. There was nothing really then, when was it … 1998. I thought now, okay then I’m going to check it out then… I found that, immediately sold! I wanted to, and I have a nice house. And I think my house is very nice. I feel good. It’s light and also, it’s got warmth in it. And a lot of people said ‘Yes, Leidsche Rijn, is for, low class is there!’. I thought, you must have high class inside. And low class, I think, I don’t agree with all those classes. Anyway, it’s up to you. And there it is, you make house and not house you.
[i] Exactly.
[r] That’s right.
And you came to live in Leidsche Rijn with your children?
Well, my children were… My son, my second son lived… He went back to Utrecht, to Groningen. My eldest son has his own house, now a room. And I came with my daughters and I had a daughter at the time and unfortunately that relationship was short. But I still have a very beautiful daughter. And [name] and there it is… With my, with [name] and [name], my daughter came to live in Leidsche Rijn. And yes they were happy too, but yes one side we had no bus, there was nothing. She had to walk a lot to get to the bus stop. Yeah. Was… Well if you look what Leidsche Rijn has become, I think it’s beautiful. It’s heaven on earth. Is very beautiful, yes.
Do your daughters still live with you or?
No, my children, my three children have a family of their own. My daughter is, well married… Lives together. And my two sons live together too. My youngest daughter she turns 17 at the end of this month, but she has been living with my son for a number of years, with my second son in Groningen. Because of the hustle and bustle, I couldn’t really be there for her and my children said ‘Mom, let’s come and live with us and we’ll be home on time, because we’ll have grandchildren and then we can just be there for her too! So, since… Two years living in Groningen and she is doing very well. Studying, she is busy with MBO and when it is finished she wants to come back to Utrecht and yes, she will come to live with mom, I hope. Or will she go to her own room, I don’t know. So, I’ll just wait and see. And we do have regular contact and consultation with my son and how is it going. I’m glad my kids have whole… Yeah, my mentality. They take good care of each other. They’ve kept the mentality, and they’re taking care of each other. It’s nice to see the four of them taking care of each other. I love that and I’m very proud of that. And for themselves and also for people around them. They are, they don’t want to go into politics. They say, “Mom, we’ve seen you. We’re not doing that’ and they help others, but not at the expense of themselves. I’m a good example to them. That’s it and they’re proud of me. And that, that’s very important to me, that I have the love of my children. And also people around me, yes.
[i] Beautiful.
[r] Yeah.
[i] We’ve been talking a little bit about your private, family, and I’m curious about your career, because you’ve also worked alongside as a single mother. Would you also mention a little of what you have done from the beginning in the Netherlands so far?
[r] Yes. Well, when we came here… Of course I didn’t have a job, I had to learn the language and then I started taking the courses. I’ve done a lot of courses, had training. I was always looking for actually what I could do for myself and others. And then soon you come to work, for other people, for refugees. And I was also very busy with other people, huh women, men who were just here and they needed help. I could support them. And it was also very difficult for them to communicate between, or find a balance between, the Netherlands and what their culture is. And was always very far away. And then I always saw it. So for me it was, we are all people, they speak very different language than us, but we have to build the bridge, find the way to them. They want to, but God anyway, you have to be able to communicate with them. The language was very important. And, find good friends. I’m at one of those… I was thinking the same thing. What I did for myself and for others, that was to support and guide others to get close to themselves. Always been busy with people’s personal development. And especially for women. Because for women of my culture, Iranian culture, we come, we are always second-class people. And I wanted to teach them that, you’re also human, you have to discover your own value. Looking at yourself very differently, then you can move on. Otherwise you stay stuck in your thoughts and that’s what you stay and then you can’t cope with those developments. Then you clash and with, with your character, what you have made. That was, I was very busy with. And I think… I think it’s very beautiful and when I see, for example, when I go back to Groningen, people who have known me for years and they… Yes, with open arms, they always embrace me. And then I think, “Oh God, I’m a good person, aren’t I?”. And that’s what I think, belongs to people. You have to be first for yourself and then for others, because without others, you can’t. We are, we are in one, together. And that also formed me to see what the best are and… With career, I am, I went to work at [name organization] and with various activities that I did for refugees and I came in, to Nieuwegein and then I started to work for a Hindustani businessman there in textile I also worked there for a number of years and then I got a job at, ABN bank. Due to reorganization or I had to work fulltime or they didn’t have a part-time job anymore, maybe it was just an excuse, I don’t know. But anyway, before I knew it… What do you call that? Throwing me out, I’d found another job. Very nice job at an electronics company. I’ve worked there for a number of years, eight years with pleasure. And that actually made me in business. I was in a whole other world, that was really beautiful. Real white men, huh. And I didn’t know that world, that was very beautiful. People appreciated you as an immigrant woman. Went to work, worked hard, in electronics world, there I was… I had a lot of help from those people. And of course my skin color has also helped me to move forward. Sometimes my friends asked me ‘Yes, you’re an immigrant, they don’t see that you’re an immigrant’. I say ‘No, I’m lucky I’m an immigrant!’, because they look at your quality. What I always said to my friends, ‘Here look at who you are, who you are as a person, as a person and they don’t look at you… Yes of course that you’re an immigrant, but all right!’. I find, in order to me, in my surroundings, I find it… People usually look at you, man. And not your skin color and whether you’re white or black. And that’s what I like. And then I worked at the church for a while. Well, civil servants don’t suit me, but they’re sweet people. And since 2006 I thought ‘Okay, I have to build a bridge between my country and the Netherlands! And the idea of TalenTonen came true. And I wanted to do something, give back to the society where I live, the Netherlands. And then I started working on TalenTonen. And in 2006, we were busy with the idea. In 2007 we officially came out with TalenTonen, and so far we have been working on TalenTonen, on the development of people and also on the development of TalenTonen. To give immigrant people, very different image for themselves and also realistic image of the Netherlands. And it’s about being like you… How you think, that happens too. And I think that we are a… We’ve had some success, and I see people we’ve helped for years, they can find their way. And women who didn’t have a driver’s license, for example, they thought it was scary, and now you have to get a driver’s license. “Well how? Well, the way to driving school and then encourage them to keep going. Well, when I was in her car taking her into town or, well, going somewhere. Or women, a woman who wanted to work, but she knows, she doesn’t know the way. Support to find a way out of there and use our network. And I know the number of years ago, I went to IKEA here and I was looking for something I don’t know and all of a sudden I saw a lady, said ‘[Name], are you here?’. Oh, that was an old colleague of mine, who was from Indonesia and she was with her friend and all of a sudden she hugged me and started to tear a bit, also for me and for her and told her friend ‘I have to thank my pension to her!’. I thought ‘Well, what?’, ‘Well, she’s found a job for me, so I can retire, because then I got fired’, but I thought ‘Well, I did it for my heart for you!’. And she was always grateful. I just… I think it’s my mission. Hey, God gave me such a job, say, to mean something to other people. And TalenTonen can mean something to others. It’s not just coming… I’ll go… What do you call that? Doing paperwork for you. No, you’re just trying to touch people and give them what they’ve lost. Self-confidence, self-confidence, because you can’t be in front of someone for 24 hours. But if you, that voyage of discovery with each other and find what is within you, find the strength in yourself, and find the confidence in yourself, then you will move on, you will always be with yourself. So that’s what we’ve been working on and that was a vision for me, but I’ve been practicing it. And I see in practice, we’re… Of course, we haven’t finished what I had in mind, but I like it so much that we’ve found our own way, our own way, our own methodology, our own way of working. And there, we also pass that on to others. And we’re not like others, ordinary organization, okay people come here, we’re going to supervise and do okay paperwork and also give them a call, no. We do go deep into humanity and sometimes go hand in hand, we go on together. We won’t let go of them until they are able to walk independently and move on. And I think, not only me, but all my colleagues who are here, they also think the same. And that’s why our TalenTonen make them unique. And we weren’t visible either, we’re busy making ourselves visible… People come in and see what we are doing. And things have been going well lately. And people who come to us, they are very satisfied and also busy with developments, they find it difficult to start, but as soon as they realize it, they want to move on. In moderation, of course, then too much becomes too much and then you lose yourself. So we try in such a way, to give people the right tools and the right insight, which also come from themselves. And not what else are we going to give them from another planet, we don’t do that. If it’s in you, it’s in person. But you don’t have to look at dark sides of yourself, because everyone has, but you have to look, who are you, don’t be afraid, look, slowly go down slowly. And when you come out, you’ll see yeah so beautiful, beautiful people. And I’m happy and also grateful, to God, that I’m allowed to do it. Cause I don’t think anybody can handle this. It’s gonna be emotional for me, too. Sometimes I found it, yes I can handle it, I can’t. But I did learn, now to the end. When people are happy with themselves, they’ve made that discovery. That’s where I find it, beautiful work and I just want to carry on.
[i] Beautiful. I was still curious about that idea, because you’ve worked at a bank, at an electronics company, at a businessman… Were those jobs usually…
[r] Well, I did have a job as a manager, didn’t I… But anyway, at that moment I felt business was beautiful, but gradually I found it… No, my heart is somewhere else. Once my boss said ‘[Name], you have to make choices. I do give you freedom to help others, but with another boss you can’t do it!’. I said “Yes, I don’t know. I like it very much and my heart is there.’. He said, “The day will come when you’ll have to make choices. What do you want?’. And at that moment, yes, I didn’t know how to combine it. Anyway, I think if you really want something, that’s the way to go, that’s the solution. And I think at that moment I was ready.
And you thought I was going to start a business, for immigrant women?
Well, I was thinking about it. I wanted to… Well, I wanted to support immigrant women who were here to become entrepreneurs. And with that business they can build bridges to their country of origin and from there the women can also support in their country. The reason for this is, because I don’t agree to, to always go to that cooperation… Development cooperation was always setting up projects, now for a year and not finishing and there was no sustainability in it. And always pumping money, but that didn’t end up with the right people. And was eight years ago… Well, I think 2006 or 2007 was… I did offer a project to the minister about my ideas, to the ministry of development cooperation, Mrs Ardenne it was, and she said ‘Well, this is it, this is the way to people’s development’, because you can’t always give bread to people or give fish. They need to learn how to catch fish and that’s the best way for them. They know the way. And we have, for a while, done that bit, but then in 2009 Ella Vogelaar came to us and she says ‘[Name], you are so busy solving people’s problems, but you actually have your… What do you call that. Vision you had is a little watered down, so to speak. And you’re not Middle Eastern businesswomen anymore. “You’re looking for people’s talent, unconsciously! And we had a project at the time called TalenTonen and she says, “Well, why don’t you take, you’re not gonna name it? “TalenTonen, you’re working on people’s talents! “Well, okay, it’s fun! And since… Then we had to make a little change in the bylaws. We did in 2010. January was completed at the civil-law notary’s office and from 2010 we became TalenTonen and no longer Stichting Middle-East Zakenvrouwen, but with that in mind I am still working on it. Just like, I had to delve very deeply into the situation of people and the circumstances of immigrants who are here. And gradually, I’m coming back on a road that I’ve been going down a bit. And I’m busy with two ladies who want to start their own business. Then, yes, I’m at their advice, think along with them, and I think that’s wonderful. I’m thinking, “Oh, well, it’s come back the same way! And I think this is gone too, for the future. Because of course you have to have the basis, you have to have capital to start something. But not always money is the solution. Whatever I’ve done with TalenTonen myself, I’ve come this far without subsidy and without, very little money. And but I have had people who have granted me, supported me and I am always grateful for that. And those people are still with me, they are around me. And either I won’t let them or they won’t let me go, I don’t know, but there is bond. We have a bond with each other. And they’re beautiful people. Very beautiful people and they accept me as I am, as a human being. And that’s what I love about them. And that’s why I want to mean more and more to the country. That has given me a lot and meant a lot to me actually.
Is that now… The project, is it meant for Utrecht migrant women who want to discover their talent and do something with it? Or do you think that they also give something back with this talent or with the company in their own countries? I couldn’t have understood that, completely.
[r] Yeah, no. No, well right now I don’t think we can realize it, but in the future we will. Look, right now we’re nationwide. We also want to work internationally, but we’re in Channel Island in Utrecht. It’s beautiful, though. We are for Utrecht and also for other cities. We also have clients from Hilversum, from other cities as well. This is, we are already working on the idea, but what we are working on now, we want to be our basis here and then step by step, because you have to be able to realize the idea. to be working on the idea. What we want to do here to knead them huh, to learn and then slowly start to, to, to, to the road. To the country of origin. And also men, not only women, also men, because I find a lot of Oriental men by their upbringing… Is also not good, does not go well with them. And we also have, a lot of men clients and we are still working on giving them back their own value. And also I own as a man, as a human being. Who am I anyway? You see, well, in Islamic countries, men are carried on hands. Raised different from women. As soon as they come to the Netherlands, everything falls away and suddenly you’re like a human being. What have you got? What luggage do you have? Yeah, then you sit down, then you have to… Seed, sow and then slowly start to feel and think like a human being. And I think that the upbringing of these people should be reconsidered as well. That also applies to women. And when you see, for example in Kanaleneiland, what happens to the children, I think ‘Gee, gosh, please, pay attention to children’, because children are important. Children are our future. They leave God to the neighborhood. So that’s gotta change, that’s gotta change. And I’m thinking, we’re a small organization, we want to grow up, of course. Our ideas are big. And we don’t… We say, we also do, we do very much in practice, work very much in practice to change that image of themselves, of the people. The right or… Creating design… And also people who live in the neighbourhood or in the Netherlands, look at you and what you’re doing very differently. I think, we can’t go it alone. We do it together with others. And the great thing about us is, we have that space and the openness to do things together, because we can’t do everything on our own. We also have, for example, someone who comes here to give training. And others come to… Training communication and social skills, training others in virtues and you name it. Everyone or Dutch language and clients… So, we have to do it together. We need to form unity. We are us, us. We’re not you and me. We are together. And we’re working on unity. Because, my mom used to say, “Five fingers isn’t the same, but they work together. I like that very much. We’re people, different too, but we have to work together. Otherwise it won’t go well. And also to the country of origin, because I think, this is an advantage for everyone. That we foreigners, say, who are here, can be busy with the country of origin. You stimulate entrepreneurship and also help the country where you were born or came from. And then give and take. And the bridge to others by new means, eh, all Facebook, Twitter, everything becomes… The world becomes small. The world is getting close. And that’s where we have to go together, because the earth belongs to all of us. We have to think about the earth and then we go together. And not everyone in front of them. That’s not good. This is our idea and philosophy. And the basis of our ideas is with ethics, ethics of virtues. And I think it’s wonderful that three years ago we can introduce it in our policies and also in our daily work and also in training. For us it was hard to find out, how can we do this? And slowly but surely, it has been introduced. And we have developed our own method. And we just implement it. And I think, I don’t think I’m sure it’s something unique in itself. And with this idea, people give back to themselves. And there it is, actually, what we started with, with TalenTonen. And entrepreneurship, too, if you want to become an entrepreneur, for example, you want to become men, immigrant men or women. They first have to get to know themselves. To be sure, to have confidence in themselves. And then it comes naturally.
[i] How does it actually work here? Do people just come to you just like that and say ‘Gee I need guidance if I want to participate in this course or training’, or do they have to be transferred by other agencies?
[r] Well, that varies. We are among the contractors of Altrecht and we work together with i-psy, NOW and with Symfora, Cocon in Hilversum. People come through find us. And some from agencies, huh. We do get calls and make appointments and then we get to know our client. Well people hear us, that we are very different from other organizations. They come in, welcome them and is accessible. And when you’re downstairs, that’s an ordinary atmosphere like a household, a domestic thing. And, uh… when people come in, we welcome them warmly. Uh, whether we go on or not, but they’re always welcome here. And we also try to take people seriously. And also listen to them. And also take away the fear and then look at reality. What can you do yourself? And then we also go down many paths together with the client. We go to a doctor, a general practitioner, we go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist or we go to court, if necessary. To give the client that feeling, we stand beside you. Not behind, not in front, but beside you. Then we go together, with each other, you’re not alone. Sometimes you hear from them, that they are afraid to be alone and we take that fear and give them confidence. We’re here for you, we support you. And with that feeling comes a second phase, that you… You’re gonna see how you’re gonna get on with each other. And that’s, that’s beautiful. If you see, clients come here and we look at their needs. And everything here, everything we do, what we do for clients has to be done in consultation with them. Because they are ultimately responsible for what happens here. For example, we guide a group of older people and a woman came to me and said ‘[Name], you can decide for me and then I’ll do it”. I said ‘What?’. “Yeah, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it! I say, “I won’t. That’s your responsibility. You have to feel it, huh?’ And in the end, we gotta get along. She had to decide and then we give advice and she has to see for herself what he wants. We’re trying here to make people feel responsible and not be afraid to take responsibility. Uh, most people find it easy when the other one does it. No, that’s your life. Is not others, is your life. Appreciate it. That’s your beautiful life, you just have to learn it. You have a beautiful and sometimes bad days, that’s okay, that’s part of it. If you don’t, you don’t appreciate what you have. We also try very practically to give people that feeling, accept that, accept yourself as you are. You’re beautiful the way you are and you’re not someone else, then it goes wrong. And yes, in most cases we have, we can… good results. And I’m happy for them. Hey, because if they’re okay, we’re not gonna get any finances for them. But that’s okay, that’s okay. Because if it goes well, then I’m happy, then I’ll find it… Okay, we got somebody to help. And that’s the beauty of it, and I can see it in all my colleagues. Oh, when something beautiful happens, everyone gets happy for the, for the client. And that’s it. We want to spread the word to others. That’s great when you do it together, do it for each other.
Do you mean other institutions, organizations?
Yes. Yeah, yeah, well, we have, I read this morning, received an e-mail. The next year we are a number of organizations want to work with us. They’ve invited us to present. And I thought now is 2015, this is a good start. So and it will be. The time will come and people will form unity. I believe in that too. Unity and being for each other. And because we are together, we are strong. Separately, each for himself, we can’t do that much. And I do believe that after all the circumstances in the Middle East, wars and IS, something beautiful will come out of it. And can benefit everyone. And also Europeans or Americans or Asians or Africans. Because I believe, the new generation, also think very differently. I’m not the new generation, my children, my grandchildren. I mean that generation. They treat each other very differently. They appreciate, they’re not greedy. They want to be with each other like a human being and not oh, someone far away and unattainable. Everybody’s reachable right now. Hey, there we go. That’s the way we’re gonna go. I’m happy about that, too, and then I can make a contribution. And that beautiful future, for our grandchildren. And a new generation, because we have to leave them behind as well, for them. We are responsible for that, and we have to take good care of everything. I also agreed with my children, especially with my second son, when I die, my body, I will make sure that everything goes well. uh, my organs are all good, healthy. Then they’ll go to college and what’s left can become ashes. And my son would make a necklace and then hang on… For my four children. And, my two… My first son is not happy, says “Mom, no! I say, “We’ll do it! He says, “Mom, it’s okay. And I want you with me for a long time, but when the time comes… I said, ‘Well, because I want my body to mean something to others after I’m dead, because I think that’s our duty. To, to people, to earth!’. Yeah, maybe idealistic, but I did bring ideals into reality. And there I am… I feel happy. I’m also happy that I’m allowed to experience it, because reality used to be far away, but since I’m busy with those virtues and with, with those developments, I think, it’s getting close. And I’m not greedy either. And as long as I can pay for my house and have a car. I can do without a man, but I can’t do without a car. I do want to be able to drive my car to go to clients to do my job. I love that, but it’s okay… I think people go, new generation goes new ways. And I’m glad I’m doing it too. There it is future. I’m not afraid of the future. Some people said, “Yeah, all those wars!” which is going to happen, because they’re conscious, people are conscious. Hey, and they won’t let the dictators make them out. How are they supposed to live. And, yeah, I heard that, too. I read that in the newspaper or on television that on news about young people who went from the Netherlands or other countries go to ISIS, but that’s a phase. When they come back, they have very different thoughts, because reality is different. And that’s where I want to cooperate with other organisations and companies, hand in hand, we’ll move forward. And then to be able to offer a bright future to a new generation.
[i] Apart from your idealistic image.
[r] Yes.
[i] Practically speaking, if I say, for example, “Gee, there’s a company called TalenTonen and…
[r] Is an organization.
[i] Is an organization. And what for, with what kind of questions and requests for help can they just come here. So what are the products and projects here? Because at first I heard about the immigrant woman, but later I heard that men are also in guidance.
[r] Yes. And which people can come here with which questions?
[r] Well, we don’t have any projects at the moment, so to speak. We’ve been doing Maatje projects for a couple of years. Also started women’s football. I was a referee myself. Although I’m still a referee, well, since I had a heart attack last year, I’ve actually gotten a little lazy or I’m a little, well… Because of crowds, I don’t dare stand on the field anymore. But then I have to start, and people who… With a lot of questions about themselves, huh. But most people who come to us, clients that become… came up with the question, how can we, for example… I have a financial problem and how can you help me? They also have psychological problems. They can’t go on by themselves. For example, do we become our client, give them support, guide them. And if they have financial problems, we will look at them together, make an overview of their finances. And we have been working for years with another party, a company, which is very good at finances. Being administrator, protective administrator. We get in touch with them and then we just go and help them. And in most cases they go yes… They’re put under administration. And in that way, the finances are calm. They get 50 euros, 30 euros a week. They don’t make any more debts. Then we can start with the rest. If they come here, we’ll look too… Well, they’re going to health care institutions, aren’t they? They have social problems, they don’t have a network, they have language problems. We’ll go, we’ll offer them a total package, then we’ll see what the client needs. Then we look, we’re actually… The client comes in protection from us. Hey, everything that happens has to happen through us. Communicate to the client through us. And because most of the clients we have, they do have problems and deep problems. Well, that’s how we try, to heal the ones they need, to take the time to recover, not get in the way, because of all the problems. And in that way we just try to stay in dialogue with the organizations, with companies and we can just be busy with the client… for improvement in the social environment of the person. And even if she needs to have a buddy, we look for a buddy that fits. Sometimes it is very difficult to find the right buddy. And we are also going to organize cultural day, because a lot of people who live here, unfortunately, for years, 16 years, 12 years, 10 years, 20 years even in the Netherlands and they are still alienated with Dutch, with our society. We also try to get the right picture, go for walks with each other in the woods or neighborhoods, which is really Dutch, Jordaan for example. Hey, I love being there myself, sometimes I don’t understand what they say, but I thought it was very beautiful. And also in Utrecht and also in Hilversum. There are also places that people have never been. We go there and say ‘Well, this is it!’. You mustn’t, you mustn’t think, for example, that the world is completely different, the Netherlands or our society. It’s just here. There’s more between the ears than in practice. That you’re very different. We just offer people, guide people from… We offer a total project. Dutch lessons, we have here for basic and also advanced. We can, however, get to work with. Trainings they receive, virtuous ethics and also social skills, communication, and also in the individual coaching. Dan, we are very strong in that. Then we also try to do what we do in group, also in, with individuals. Because, some people don’t like it in a group. We respect that. And then we just do, one on one. We also eat together. I like that. That’s beautiful. If you see, Jews, Muslim women, Christians, atheists, communists, all sit at the table and talk and eat together. And then, yes… I, I, sometimes I have to cry and then I think, “oh this is beautiful. That’s the way it has to be. That everyone, regardless of where you come from and what you are, that there is faith, with each other. Together, for each other. And that was possible, but good anyway. It is still obstacle, there are still obstacles, but it will come. I believe that. And we try to make people see each other from a different angle. A client comes to me, sits here and says… She was a man. “I find her, this is Muslim and she doesn’t want to talk to me and she looks very different and… I say, “Well, maybe, she was in trouble at the time. “You don’t know what’s on your mind, do you? I called a lady, came and she’s just talking to the three of us, not about what he told me, but about herself. I say, “Well, what happened? Why, were you mad or something?’. She told her story. And he heard it too and I started joking, “Oh, again with the foreigners! Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. And she started laughing and so did he. And they changed their minds and started communicating in a very different way. I think, I also said, I have a number of colleagues who are immigrants. I say, “Well, you really are an immigrant! I just think that, you have to make it discussable. There’s nothing wrong with that. Like when I look in the mirror, I say, “Oh, you’re so beautiful!” eh. You have to make it negotiable. If you don’t, you stay inside you like a mountain and you don’t solve anything. I’ve learned, we’ve… I also learn a lot from my clients, talking to each other, in dialogue. Talk to each other and then tell me what’s bothering you. Why are you angry? Why are you, why do you think so? Hey, and sometimes acting crazy. That’s okay. Because you don’t always have to be serious. Because then, well the happiness, I said laugh too. “Be happy!” and… Because that’s the key. Laughter is important to people. And there… I think for myself, laughing is always beautiful. I laugh, I’m happy, I’m excited. And, but I do have both feet on the ground. Yes, you are. But I think we should laugh too, cry together, and also be angry. And you don’t always have to be nice. But I do have to say, “Why aren’t you nice? And that’s actually the philosophy we have here. And clients who come here also come for that. They want to be guided by us and trust us. We are very grateful that they trust us and give us. And we can do their job. And we have men, women, young people. We also have clients from Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, the Netherlands. No, yeah, it’s not much, but good, anyway. We’re also, we’re small organization. And, I do like what I have right now and what God has in store for us. It will come. And 2015 is going to be a great year for us. And also for us and also for our clients and also for the organization we are going to work with. Because I’m going to light a candle for them too, because if it goes well with them, it goes well with us as well. And that’s an interaction, isn’t it? And I pray not only for ourselves, but for everyone and for the whole world. That’s the background idea behind TalenTonen, actually. Being for yourself and also for others. And that’s it. That’s what a lot of good things come to you.
[i] Okay, clear. You’re gonna get new assignments, so the company is growing.
[r] Yeah.
[r] Organization huh.
This organization, because…
It’s going to be a company soon, but so far…
[i] But that hasn’t happened yet. Well and that, has that been your dream to, to get it so far or you think it’s still a long way to where I actually wanted to go?
[r] Well, I’ve, I’ve got a long way to go, you know, because I want to be international. Oh, nationwide first and then international. And actually I do want to be a mediator, between, for United Nations, I can do something. To bring peace between Palestine and Israel. And when I was little, I always had this dream. And I don’t know if it will come my way or not, I don’t know. I don’t really aspire to it either, but this is just an idea, isn’t it? And I hope God has it in store for me, but if it doesn’t happen, I love what I’m doing right now. And if I can spread this to the other side of the world in Iran or Africa or in the Middle East or Afghanistan. I think that’s wonderful, but first we have to do it for the Netherlands. For our compatriots, we have to do this well, firmly, get it right and then. I think that goes without saying. If you do good, then word of mouth, just like now. That will go by itself and I know it will come. Hey, the day’s gonna come when I make it international… I see myself, I have a dream, Martin Luther King is beautiful man. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, those have been beautiful men in my life and I hope I could have been like them one day. That’s my dream. And it will come a time when I will… I’m making a speech to a lot of people. I’m making them happy and I’m giving them an image that’s good for everyone. Hey, I don’t know what, but this is it, I can see it. Sometimes I have visions and sometimes I have dreams and I think, “God, thank you! TalenTonen just started, huh. It’s still starting, isn’t it, for such a beautiful, beautiful movement is going on. And we are also a drop in the ocean and well, we have a lot to go. And I like it, because you learn a lot. And I have a Moroccan colleague, [name]. And she is. She’s been working for me for four years. We were talking yesterday in the kitchen. She says ‘[name], when I came here, remember?’. I say ‘Yes!’, well she was very scared girl and then she wouldn’t dare… But when you see her now, she’s so beautiful. The development that’s gone through, when you see her, she’s a really strong woman. Beautiful woman to see. And she also guides a lot of men or women here. And how she does. Says ‘[Name], now TalenTonen has made me so. I’m so proud, too. If you later on, other men or women can discover themselves in such a way, strength inside, I think you’ve accomplished a lot. Maybe I didn’t get rich, I don’t have to. Well sometimes I do, just for what I said, I can, I want to be with my grandchildren with my children too, I think it’s wonderful. But I just love it so much, if I just can, I can also give others a push to get further in their lives, which I got myself. I am blessed, I always say. That I’ve had that chance to get this far. [Name] says, he’s on the Board of Advice, “You did it yourself, huh?”, I say, “No God has taken care of me! “No, you worked hard for that!” Yeah. Or [name] also says. Sit down, both of you, give me a lot of support. And I want to give that chance to others, too. They really want it.
[i] Nice.
You say Utrecht is your city, and you do a lot for the people of Utrecht. What’s your favorite place in town?
Oh, hmm… I think my office, Channel Island. So every morning I’m very, very happy. Channel Island? I say, “Yes! I like it. Is it… Yeah, I’m here all day, actually. I just look out here. But other than that, yeah, I’m sometimes six days a week, I’m working on this. When I go to Leidsche Rijn, I go to sleep. Then it’s, I see… Well, I like Leidsche Rijn very much too. But I, I, yeah… I like Utrecht in itself, beautiful city. You’ve got everything, varies. You’ve got old buildings, you’ve got new buildings and also Kanaleneiland, Overvecht, but you’ve also got chic, beautiful neighbourhoods. Everything is visible, everything is close by. But in Amsterdam, as I am I also like Amsterdam, but no, is not for me. I think it’s too big and too wide.
[i] But your favorite place in Utrecht is Channel Island. Your office, where your office is. So actually, yes, your work is your passion.
[r] Yeah.
[i] And your favorite place is your office, your work. So, uh…
[r] Yeah, you could say that. You put it well. Yeah, yeah.
[i] Yeah, that’s how I hear it from you. And you just feel at home in Utrecht?
[r] Absolutely.
[r] Yeah.
Well, I just feel… Utrecht is… I think for a lot of people, not just me… It’s a warm city, and people are friendly, too. And you see… Look I don’t see myself as an immigrant, but well, I’m just human and I also look at others as human. Then I can go on with you and others can’t. We, uh… A few years ago, five, six years ago, I organized a group with, his highly educated Iranian. And we’re, we get together every month, every two months, we eat together or somewhere we go or here. I also need them here from time to time. I say, “Well, look.”, “Oh Channel Island, that’s what I want!”, I say, “Well, come on!” and say, “Oh, how nice here!”. They look very different, that’s the way I’m trying to show a different face of Utrecht, because, we… I think Utrecht, yes Channel Island deserves that too. Because there are already enough people who work hard and are doing good here. We also rent downstairs to schools He. If they have a meeting, they come here. At first they had a hard time with “Oh Channel Island, Channel Island”, but now they come here with heart and soul. They love it. Once or twice a month, they have meetings here and also with food. Then we just make them foreign food. They like it. So we try Utrecht, or at least I try to show them the other side of Utrecht, because I think, you can always say ‘Oh yes, Channel Island is all thieves and all, criminals, all this, all that’, I haven’t seen it. Yeah, well anyway, but I’ve also got a lot of people who are hard workers. And they want to mean something for the neighbourhood, for themselves, and for the people. I think that has to be seen and I also see, I have a number of Moroccan colleagues of mine, women, his hard worker. Like it, beautiful. I don’t always tell. Then they want more money. But his hard worker. They also want to show that we immigrants are part of this society. And yes stamp, that what here the, on neighborhood put. I think that… Well there are some guys who are naughty, but with a good approach and with the virtues you can give them what they have lost. My colleague accompanied a boy and that boy steals a lot. And he’s going to talk to him about virtues. And then at a certain point he says, “Okay, if I see a bike that’s not locked, should I take it with me or should I call it, ring the doorbell to these people?”, I say, “What are you doing?”. “Well, I’m just stealing it! Say, “No and then what do you feel?”. Well, it’s been six months with counselling and there comes a point, he goes to Eye in Al, he walks there and he sees a bike, it’s unlocked and he rings the doorbell. He’d, he’d, he’d, well… What do you call that? Conflicted with himself. Am I gonna call or take it with me? Ring the bell or do I take it with me? And is he going to ring the bell and then the man came. Dutch guy at the door and he got scared. Says “No sir, I just wanted to say, your bike isn’t locked and we’ll take it with us later”. And that man looked surprised at him! “Good boy, thank you, thank you, thank you! And he was so happy and ever since, he’s never stolen again, that boy, because he’s got that appreciation he’s lost, actually. Because it’s easy to make a mark on someone, but it takes a long time to wipe them away. So stop making that stamp. Just try to encourage good deeds. Sure, it’s hard, but it will come, time, because every human being has a conscience. Hey, and then these people get in touch with their conscience. Then it’ll be easy.
[i] Well, nicely put. You’ve actually talked a lot about your work, activities, goals, ideals, personal life. Are there still things you think have been important things in my life and I haven’t told them, and that has also influenced my choices or my life?
Well, I guess… I’ve been through a lot. I want to write a book later. I started it every time, but I can’t go through with it. I don’t know. Something’s bothering me. Then I’ll have to wait, maybe. But my brother’s death has affected me, has affected me a lot. And, uh… I promised I won’t cry, but I’m not going to, because I’ve cried enough. And maybe I did learn how to deal with my pain and give him a place. But I have a song, I just got it from my daughter. Is very beautiful, when I hear it every day and listen to that song. I have to cry, because…
About that love, about that accept me as I am and say you love me. And, uh… Sometimes I think I… I hurt my family. They were proud of me and my children. For me, idealists, ideas, thoughts, I do have… Yeah, hurt others, too. Yeah.
[i] Hurt in the sense that you were gonna move, for instance?
[i] That.
That. And my family got in trouble, too, when I left and regime didn’t leave them alone. And, uh… yeah, my kids too, they had to go through everything with me. And last year I did have a heart attack and, I heard about my kids… My eldest son started crying, “Mama, I can’t live without you! Yeah. And that part I’m doing here, I’m doing it for my family, too. Maybe there’s no direct connection between what I do and what my family… be far, be far away, but gosh… I guess I’ll give myself a chance to look at me from a completely different angle. Who [name] is. And sometimes looking at my past… I’ve said very, very beautiful, but in those years, I’ve suffered a lot of pain. And, but every time, through the love of my family and my children, I can endure. Falling and rising. That’s, was my life. And, uh… These are, these are my children.
[i] Would you get a little closer?
Yeah. Yeah, his grandchildren, too.
How many grandchildren do you have?
I have five. Two, my eldest has one son. That’s him. These are from my second son, two daughters. These are them, all four of them with me. And the other one, the youngest, is a year. That’s from a year ago. She wasn’t born yet. And these are my children, I only took them from Iran. This is mine, these are my two sons. This is my daughter, the eldest and this is youngest.
[i] Well wonderful.
[r] Thank you.
[r] His, they had to go through a lot with their ambitious mother, and also learned a lot. But no matter what I do, I also want to leave something beautiful for them. And they deserve it. They also do good things for others and I am really proud of them. I’m glad they didn’t go my way. Well, politics and struggle. Way I did. But I like the way they are now, well, I think they’re beautiful, very beautiful. Only that the pain that I have from the past and the nostalgia that I have for my country. And I also want to be for, for Iranians, for people in Iran. And I, I hope so. God grant me that power and opportunity to make it happen. And, because they also deserve to be happy, to laugh and be happy, to be themselves. What I have here now, I grant them too, because to be yourself is not easy. But I’ve achieved it. I’ve achieved it. And I like that, for myself. That all the misery I’ve been through hasn’t made me bitter. I have no hate in myself. I do have love. I’ve turned everything into love. And cheerfulness too. The misery I’ve been through, I’ve given a place and I’ve… I’m sure that’s what made me, that formed me. That’s why I can mean something to others. If I didn’t have this, I can’t be the way I am now. So I pass on my experiences to others as well, eh. And I see people take it from their hearts, take it from their hearts and… That’s why I participated in this program, because I want to leave something beautiful behind. That I am proud of what I am, and who I am. And city, he did help me and he gave me a chance to be myself. And also for my children. And also for my friends and people, they’ve given me that chance. And I want to leave this behind. And I hope later I can look at it and then achieve what I wanted to achieve. And then, that’s it… Is memory could be for me. And, and also give courage and strength to others. There’s a chance. You have to take it. You have to use it well. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable. You can achieve that. Then it is for others, is also a motivation. They can get hope, if you work hard and are yourself and do it together with others, you will get far. You don’t have to do it alone, we can do it together. I think I’ve told you everything. I think I do want to say. And yes, I’ve told a lot of things.
[i] Thank you for that. I really enjoyed your story and thank you for participating in this project and interview and also for your contribution in Utrecht.
[r] Yes. You’re welcome.
[r] Yes, thank you.