Good afternoon [name] !  My name is [name] .  Today I will interview you for the project ”Unparalleled special”. For the Red Star Line museum.  I’m going to ask you a few questions later, but maybe you can tell us a little about yourself first? Which country are you from? How old are you? What do you do in your life?

Good day Paulina!  I am [name] . I am 33 years old.  I am from Iran.  I wanted to tell you very briefly about Iran that I came from.  Iran is in the Middle East.  And borders on Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iraq. Iran has a very long history. And…

[i] And what do you do in your life?

[r] When I was in Iran I worked as a welder inspector. And my hobby was actually fitness. So I have been the permanent champion of Iran for 3 years. And I was always busy with studying, sports and working in Iran.

[i] And what did you study?

[r] I studied human resources in Iran. But I couldn’t finish my studies because of the problems I had in Iran.

[i] And can you maybe tell me a bit about your family?

[r] I have a large family in Iran. My mother, my brother and my sister are still in Iran. But I still have contact with them. When I was 9 years old my father died from a car accident. So my mother was all alone. So she had to raise us.  That was a difficult time for her. And in my opinion she is someone I always admire.

[i] And you said you have a sister. And how old is she?

[r] My sister is actually 7 years older than me. And my brother is also 7 years older than me.

[i] And what do they do?

[r] She’s actually also a champion of wushu sports. That’s like karate for example. And my brother actually works in a government institution in Iran.

[i] So you really are a sporty family.

[r] Yes yes.

[i] And where does that come from?  My uncles are all champions. They are very well known in Iran. So from there when we were little… we always looked at them and my uncles are actually my inspiration. So…

[i] So you’ve had such an example all your life.

[r] Yes an example seen of someone who is always involved in sports.

[i] And is it something so common for your sister, for example, to be a champion? In this kind of sport in Iran?  Is it something normal for Iran?

[r] In Iran sport like restling, dzudo, karate is all popular.

[i] And even between girls as well?

[r] Between girls also yes.

Ah ok. It’s really interesting. So she has spent her whole life doing sports?

[r] Whole life has been occupied with sports. Yes.

[i] Okay. Interesting.  And why did you choose to study human resources?

[r] Em…I always loved when I was little and until now… the human behavior is very interesting to me. I would like to observe people, see people how they behave towards other people. And I believe that people are influenced by other people.  So what I give I get back.  So people who have the power to communicate with people or, erm…  or very easy to contact other people then they are praised by me for example because I am someone who can handle immediately and that was always interesting for me people who have a trauma for example like me. My father died when I was little. So I have a lot of…er…  I had problems when I was little. That’s the thing I’m very interested in. In human resorces, in human behavior and things like that.

[i] And can you tell me about your childhood? What was it like for you when you were a child?

[r] When I was a child, all I remember was that I was always lonely. So loneliness is a feeling that every child can’t tolerate. So as a child, I can’t realize why I’m alone. So all my life I was alone because my mother had to work.  For the sake of my father who had died. And my brother and my sister were in their adolescence. So they were busy with their things. So I was all alone.  So there were no children I could deal with.  So…

[i] And how was life then in general in Iran? How were the relationships between people?

[r] Then it was good…I remember when I was little the economy was very good.  And people were more open than today for example. And…  And that’s why a lot of Iranian people want to find themselves somewhere else than Iran for example. So those flee to other countries. Because of problems they have in Iran for example. Because they are treated unfairly in Iran. And they have no balance.  They have no balance and no stability in their lives. So with every change…we are beings who need stability and fixed patterns. So in Iran if you wake up tomorrow and you don’t know what’s going to happen today…  It’s about economics, about religion… It’s about…  their problems…for example You can’t express your opinion in the audience. That’s the third story…  So if you say something wrong about the government then you are punished by people who have power and who have no faces actually. So the first thing you do when you go to Iran, for example, you see a country that is great and pleasant. People feel happy but not happy.  But the social interactions were better earlier in Iran. But now I’ve been in Belgium for a couple of years and I’m not sure if it’s still the same as it used to be.

[i] And what is the difference between the atmosphere in Iran when you were little compared to the atmosphere when you were 20 years old? How did it change?

[r] Change…that’s a good question. A child probably has no strength because he is a child.  But when I was 20 years old and 24 years old I was always busy with the fitness. Still today.  So…  When I was 20 I could decide for myself for my life. And I had to defend my mother. I had to defend my friends. And I had such a feeling about my mother being a hero in my life so I have to be like her.  So she was alone all her life. She had to work alone and raise us alone. And she had a lot of problems.  Because as a woman who is alone in Iran there are many eyes on her. First of all, sexual eyes.  Second, people who think, “Why is she alone? So is she with someone else or?” This and that. And thirdly, working for a woman in Iran is difficult. Because there are a lot of them, how can I say?  Obstacles for a woman who works in Iran. So in my eyes she’s still a hero. And I admire her.  And when I was 24 and so far I have 2 children of my own, I will never give up in my life. And then I did.  So that’s the story.

[i] And you said that it is difficult for a woman to work in Iran…

[r] Of course. It was always like that. Some people want to hide the fact that we have problems in Iran. Or the women who are in Iran indeed have a problem with working. Here in Europe too…I’m not going to say that all in Iran. In Europe as well.  But people here are absolutely equal. But not in Iran.  A woman in Iran is someone who can only cook. And making children.  That is the vision of … not all men in Iran, of course not all men. But of many people who are raised in an Islamic family.

[i] And what did you think about it?

[r] I find it horrible.  I think it’s terrible that you have a woman or can touch her because of other men who want or can touch her.  Or…  I don’t know…  I am a man who gives freedom to my wife. Otherwise she feels so locked up. So but…  I talk in general.  I’m not going to say that all men are like that. There are a lot of women like men who don’t go to work. But in 80% 90% they all feel unfairly treated in Iran.

[i] And is there anyone trying to change that?

[r] Nobody.  Of course there are people who want to change that. But they have no power.  So for example the leader of Iran so people who have power in Iran em…  can influence Iran….  So they have considerable influence on the decisions that happen in Iran.  So if, for example, like a man says about Yes, a woman can work without all those eyes. So a woman can study easily. Or a woman can cycle on the street, for example. And feel safe.  Maybe another day I will be punished or sent to prison or I will be judged on yes Yes, you have a European or Western mentality. And that’s not allowed.

[i] And has this situation always been the case? Or was it different?

[r] No. On time from our Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah I’m not going to say because I wasn’t there then but I heard about it then it wasn’t like we see today.

[i] So it used to be a bit better?

[r] I don’t know. I’m not just going to say it.

[i] Have you heard from your parents?

[r] I’ve seen a report.  And of course heard from my parents as well. But… I can’t say my opinion about Shah. But I think that was a bit better then. I think so. But of course here in Europe we also sometimes have no security. So people kill other people. Or all those situations. We also have them here. I’m not going to say that Iran…But Em…  I tell you that the social barriers in Iran make people stick with useless things especially the youth.  Especially people from 20 to 30 years old. They deal with ridiculous things. While here in Europe I see that many young people are concerned with development.  Like studying and very good things. And the only thing is freedom.  As long as you can express your opinion. In public without problems.  That’s the whole thing.  But in Iran now I have seen several reports the people just want to say and people and people dare to say their thing in the audience. But I don’t know what will happen to them after that. I don’t know myself.

[i] How old were you when you decided to leave Iran?

[r] Then I was 27.

[i] And do you remember the moment when you made the decision that okay that’s enough and I’m going to flee now?

[r] Yes yes. I had I was 27 years old and we were with my wife. One day we decided together actually. Enough is enough and we are going to leave for another country. But we didn’t know where. Just come. Because of all the situations I told you. And then we came here.

[i] And why did you make the decision on that very day that that’s enough? What was the reason you made flights?

[r] There were many reasons.  It is not only about religion or about economy or…because now I hear a lot of people coming here from Iran that they have economic problems. Okay we have economic problems but on the other hand you have to see that Iran has many reserves and fossils. Energy security like natural gas and oil. So we have it.  But we can’t make money out of that because we have no contact with the world. That is the exact problem.

[i] So Iran is a bit closed.

[r] Of course closed.  So they just want to be independent while people who live in Iran they have no life. If you want to be independent then you have to give social services and a lot of things to your people. But they don’t give that.  So they keep all that money for themselves and I don’t know what they have done. The leaders of Iran…they have a lot of money. And you see people who have a lot of money in Iran and on the other hand people who have no money. So there is something wrong there.  And the most problem is freedom. That is the exact problem.

[i] So you feel that you don’t have freedom?

[r] No freedom. Of course, no freedom. Now maybe of all the things I see from all those reports sometimes I watch the TV.  Sometimes I see freedom in a different way. Freedom from…hard to tell. For example, a prisoner such as someone in prison who is suddenly released.  He does everything. He eats a lot.  He does everything. That is freedom.  That’s the story of Iran now.  So the young people don’t know what to do. They think yes…  They are doing the wrong thing. Should I say so. And all those problems are the same. And that’s because of the government of Iran. So that’s not exactly the same for young people in Iran.

[i] And can you tell a bit about that day when you left? Did you have to prepare anything?  Yes…to prepare your trip?

[r] That was really a coincidence.  That was exactly a nightmare.  To suddenly sell everything and destroy everything

Did you have your own house?

[r] No no. We were tenants there. But that was difficult.  Because that was really a big change for us. Selling everything back and saying goodbye with friends and family. That was really difficult. For me personally saying goodbye with my mother was the hardest part. But I had to do that. But I don’t know why. Still not because that was…  everything happened so suddenly…  We’re just gone. Enough is enough. I’m tired. We were really tired. And then…  The hardest part was saying goodbye.

[i] And how did you explain that to your mother?

[r] He also agreed.  Because she still lives in Iran so she knows what the situation in Iran is for young people. Young married people. We were married for 2 years then. That was difficult. Everything came with one. And with stress too and we decided together we are gone too. We are going to leave everything here and leave.

[i] And how was the preparation for your trip?

[r] Preparation? Just come here with the visa and 2 suitcases.

[i] And did you come through the smugglers? How did you leave?

[r] No. We didn’t…we actually fled here in a different way. But there are people who suddenly flee to another country. They are the people who are a bit… I always intended to go back one day. Still today.  If Iran is ever safe, but it’s never going to be safe. No, just with the student visa we came here. That was also a flight but in a different way. A lot of people do that.  Because they see a hole: I’m going back someday. So I’m not going to destroy everything.  We didn’t want to destroy everything. We had a vision of yes, we’ll go back one day. So if Iran is ever safe.

[i] So you applied for a student visa.

[r] We applied for a student visa. We came here.  And then we thought yes… we can stay here with the student visa. And…  But that was another story.  Then we heard from someone that you can’t stay here with a student visa. We couldn’t go back to Iran either. And that was a really strange difficult situation. And then we had no paper.  So my wife had to study at the University. So she had to find a job.  I couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t speak Dutch. I was totally in the right place. And then…  she worked and we heard from someone that you can just stay here through a job. That wasn’t good advice either.  Because her job wasn’t a bottleneck job. And I thought of yes, I just have to choose another way. I heard from other people: ”You just have to apply for asylum”. And that was a difficult story.  And so far I have had this feeling of having wasted my time for nothing.

[i] You mean those years with a student visa?

[r] No no. With the asylum application. I made it difficult because I was someone who was active. I wasn’t like other people coming and… doing his thing. I was really active here in Belgium. I applied for asylum and it was refused twice. And every time I had to wait 1 year. Some people had to wait 3 years and maybe longer. And I waited 2 years.  And eventually they recognised me as a refugee here.

[i] But what do you mean that you have wasted your years?

[r] I wasted many years because I had to study here. We came here to study. But…  But I couldn’t study. I had to work when my wife got pregnant. So she couldn’t work and I had to work myself. That was a difficult time.  And I applied for asylum.  Was refused and refused a second time… Waited for two years three years with one child… I had then…  Orange paper… That was not paper.  Someone with his details on the paper. And only can work. So I couldn’t study. I was always stressed.  Someone who is stressed can’t have a normal life.

[i] What were you studying then?

[r] Then I had to sign up with Linguapolis. For the Dutch lesson.  She also had…she studied English literature. And I studied for human resources.

[i] So you kept studying what you studied in Iran?

[r] Yes, yes. Still today. Now I’m studying psychology. So still the same direction.

[i] And was it bachelor?

[r] For me bachelor. For her master. But she already has a bachelor’s degree in Iran, so here she has a master’s degree. That was the story.

[i] And what was it like for you to start with Dutch?

[r] That was a foreign language.  In the beginning it was really difficult. And I remember when my boss said to me: “You have to study 20 hours a day! I said, “I can’t do 20 hours a day! I have a private life!

Who said that?!

He was…he gave me an inspiration of: ”You have to be awake” ”If you want to stay here in Belgium and grow up, study and all those things you have to be able to speak the language”’ So then he gave me a Dutch book and said: ”You have to study for 20 hours!”’ So he said: ”You have to study for 20 hours! I say, “You can’t do that! I have to work, I have a child! How can I do that? He said, “Study for 20 hours or you’ll lose your job!” That’s how he said to me.  I said, ”Okay!” And I started studying and talking to people. But I was lucky because I’m communicative. And I started with a book.  And all those words I couldn’t understand from people, I had to google immediately: ”Yes, this word is that and that word is that” I have learned Dutch so much.  I had a lot of friends and I learned from them. I’m still working on Dutch today. And then I started in Linguapolis. Linguapolis is a…

[i] A Language Institute.

[r] Language Institute at the University of Antwerp.

[i] And did you follow the Language Year?

[r] What do you mean?

[i] Language Year is a very intensive programme for 9 months.

[r] After that it is very intensive. Just day training. You really have to struggle from 9 to 4 o’clock.

[i] And what was it like for you to concentrate so much on a language?

[r] Dutch is a difficult language. Everyone knows it. So in the beginning it was super difficult… Sometimes I just threw the book at the wall…I’m not going to learn that! I’m just going to speak English like other people! A lot of people speak English here in Belgium. ”I’m going to speak English too! I’m not going to learn Dutch!” And then I thought, ‘I have to think about what my boss said to me.” ”[name] you have to learn Dutch!” You must never give up!” And that is my character I learned from my mother. Never give up and just keep going. And talking to a lot of people on the street. And I also had a bit of trouble in Linguapolis but when my teacher said to me, “You have a street accent. “So you have to be able to speak a decent language. But now I really feel at home here in Belgium. So I can deal with everyone and I have a good job, family and I can study now.  So…

[i] And when did you find a job?

[r] What do you mean?

[i] I mean, I told you that you studied Dutch and then you had to work.

[r] Yes I…in Linguapolis I studied Dutch intensively so I got benefits.  And I went to VDAB and I said, “Yes, I’m just going to start studying. But there were a few problems. According to them, these were problems.

[i] What problems?

[r] Yes, I’m not going to tell you because that’s nonsense. That’s ridiculous. But I started working on my own and at the same time just studying. Combining my work and studies.  I studied business organization. But I couldn’t finish.  Because of the problems I had at the university of applied sciences. And now I work as a logistics employee and in the evening I also study work organisation psychology.

[i] And which company do you work for?

[r] Greenyard company.  This is a fruit and vegetable company.

[i] And what do you think of this job?

[r] I like the job because…  There are a lot of people I meet every day. A job so I can just pay my bill and support my family. That’s not my dream job, but it’s a good job. Maybe temporarily.

[i] And what is your dream job?

[r] My dream job is actually helping people. That’s why I opted for work organization psychology. So people who can’t find a job, people who have a trauma of… who don’t feel well.  I can help them, so…  To work as a supervisor and to help as a leader. I like to do that.

[i] And I know you do a lot of sports.  What is sport in your life?

[r] Yes a lot of people say: ”name” you should start working in this sector.” Because I have a lot of experience.  Because I was champion of Iran for 3 years. But here in Belgium you can’t do sports… That is difficult here people have a different mentality. So sport is not what you can make money from. So I just have that on the side like a hobby. But a few months ago I started my business. Fitness club.  But it didn’t go well…  So I stopped for a while but maybe someday… I’m going to open my own business again. Fitness club. Maybe.  But I’m not sure yet. I’m just going to study for a while. And I’m busy with my children. That’s the most important thing for me.

[i] Maybe we can talk about your arrival in Belgium? Do you remember the moment you arrived? How did you feel about the country and about the people? I’ve never been out of Iran before. So that was my first country. And I was just in the real world.  Where am I? What should I do now?

[i] Why did you choose Belgium?

[r] Because my brother-in-law was here. Brother of my wife. He was here and said, “Name, you can come here because I’m here. And I thought of yes, he can help me. That’s normal. If you have family in another country, you are going to choose to go to this country where you have your family anyway. That’s why I came here.

[i] So you have arrived in Belgium…

[r] Yes. I was right: why do people talk like that? And…white people.  That was a bit weird for me. And especially first and second year I was just in the true.

[i] And when you were in Iran you had an image of Europe?

[r] I had no image. I didn’t even know what Belgium was.

[i] I mean maybe in general about Europe?

[r] I had never planned to go anywhere else. Never in my life. Neither was my wife. I thought so. I’m here, I’m going to start exercising. Studying. And so is my wife.  We never planned to go anywhere. Never. But then it was very difficult for us. We had no option. We had no choice. We just had to flee. But in a good way.  But the good way we chose was a bad way actually.

[i] And what was your feeling when you first arrived in Belgium?

[r] Feeling of me being lonely.  I felt locked up.  Because you’re nobody here.  You are someone who…  They are not going to count on you. You are someone who comes from Iran. But I still had confidence. I had self-control.  When you’re stressed, you lose your self-control. So I had self-confidence.  I knew who I was.  [name] , just keep going. You just have to show who you are. Errst start learning the language, then start working. Then they start to realize okay, [name] is someone who has passion, a purpose.

[i] And has this feeling changed?

[r] What do you mean?

[i] Yes, the feeling you have had in the beginning compared to now.

[r] Er…still maybe now.  Now still I feel…I feel at home here… But…hard to tell.  I was born there in Iran so I remain someone who is from Iran. I am Iranian. That’s in my blood and I can’t change it. But in my eyes people are all the same. It doesn’t matter. I love Belgium because they are so…  have created an atmosphere of multicultures. That people live together and communicate together. I think that’s very good.  Sometimes a conflict arises between people. That’s normal. That is a different culture. For example, a Muslim with a Catholic, a Catholic with an atheist… That’s normal.  But I think that’s really perfect. That’s a good challenge. But for someone who emigrates to Europe… Emigration…that’s difficult.  I feel at home… I’m not lying. But I don’t feel at home either.

[i] What is the biggest difference? Why don’t you feel at home?

[r] There are a lot of aspects that play a big role here. Like culture for example. From small to a big thing. People here eat sandwiches in the morning. But I might eat rice and chicken. They think I’m weird and I think they’re weird. But I respect them and they respect me. From a small thing to a big thing for example… Um…here they drink alcohol but I don’t drink alcohol. That’s an example. That’s one thing and…  And I have my adolescence and I left my life there in Iran. So I went through a lot of things at school in Iran. I left my friends there in Iran. I left my life there in Iran. Even my child…  He is now 7 years old and he says to me: “[name] , He doesn’t say daddy to me, he says [name] . “[name] , when are we going to Iran? What does Iran look like?  So what is Iran?  So shall we go to Iran sometime? And he wants to talk Persian. While Dutch is his first language. So he can speak Dutch.  We also talk in Dutch but… But he has a feeling: ”Where is Iran? I’m going there. He’s never seen it before. He knows nothing about Iran. So that’s something…er…  Hard to tell.  Even when I’m here 20 years, 30 years, 40 years…I love my country. But in my opinion, Belgians or Europeans…we are all people. All people. It doesn’t matter. So people are important. Who is Catholic, who is Muslim, who is atheist… It doesn’t matter at all.

[i] And what have you told your child about Iran?

[r] I have told you that Iran is a country that has 4 seasons. That’s not like Belgium. That was the first thing I told him. Where people all talk Persian like me. You see a lot of people there. They talk a lot. They are a bit more open.  Opposite here.  And we have gastronomic food.  Our really good food.  Yes I have told him a lot.

[i] And what languages do you speak with your children?

[r] Persian. But sometimes I switch to Dutch. Persian, Dutch both. But mostly Persian.

[i] So at home you speak Persian but at school they speak Dutch?

[r] But at home they also speak Dutch sometimes. That’s our second language.  For them, the first language is and I say, “You have to learn Dutch! But they learn Dutch anyway. Better than us. But…also Persian and Dutch.

[i] And with your wife you always speak Persian?

[r] Not always. Sometimes with a woman also in Dutch. Especially when we are on the street.  But here in Belgium, if you speak your own language on the street… Some people look at you so strangely. “What kind of language is that?” And some people think it’s very beautiful language. I meet a lot of people who say, “Sir, what kind of language is that?” That’s a beautiful language.  But some just look at it.  So I’d rather go…but I always switch to Dutch. For example, I say to my son: “Baba, bia enja watching” for example. ”Come and have a look here.”’  1 word Dutch and 1 word Persian.

[i] I have heard a lot that Persian is a very beautiful language.

[r] That is a beautiful language. I like that too. Especially when you sing…  I sing. I’m a singer so… When you sing that sounds super nice.

[i] Can you sing something?

[r] Singing?

[i] Yes. A little bit.

[r] In Dutch or in Persian? I also sing in Dutch.

In Persian.  [sings in Persian] [sings in Persian] [sings in Persian] [sings in Persian]

[i] Waw! Super nice!

[r] Thank you!

[i] So you’re sporty and also a singer?

[r] That comes from…

[i] So many talents!

[r] So many talents, yes.  But I also sing in Dutch sometimes. That’s what I like to do.

[i] And is it something from your family that you have so many talents?

[r] They do sing. No, they just sing. So we actually have a good voice.

[i] And did you try to do something creative in Belgium?

[r] Not in Belgium. But you can find my music on Youtube. That’s called “Raymon Entezar”.  So the name of my son. Entezar means “waiting”. It’s on YouTube.

[i] Raymon?

[r] Raymon Entezar. It’s on YouTube. And one is also on its way.

[i] And you write it yourself?

[r] No no. I have a good friend also from Iran he is my big brother and a really good friend of mine so those songs all come from him.

[i] So there are already a few songs on YouTube?

[r] No no. Just one song. But there is 1 song on the way. It is really special…  About my flight here in Belgium.

[i] In Persian about your flight?

[r] Yes in Persian.  So actually my whole story that I have now told sees only in 1 song. That is a classical music.  And so you hear every…  So who can understand Persian a bit…. who knows it’s about a flight. So the whole story of my life is in it.

[i] And is there also a video?

[r] We plan to make a video. But not now.

[i] And are there subtitles in Dutch?

[r] Maybe so.

Maybe it’s interesting for the people in the museum who would like to watch your video’s. Maybe to make some subtitles about what it’s all about.

[r] A good idea!

[i] Yes, that would be very interesting.

[r] I’ve reserved a recording studio within 1 month. So when that’s done I might be able to do subtitles too.

[i] You’ll get more fans on YouTube.

[r] Yes you can. Everything is possible. But it’s about flight. How to fly here or to other countries. So it’s the story.

[i] Is it a general story or a personal story?

[r] That’s about someone who has fled here and…  It is called ”Goriz”. Goriz means flight. Fleeing somewhere.  You have nothing to lose. So you need someone to talk and to survive. I have to say this. Not life. Survival. So you’re going to hang yourself from all those problems. You are going to commit suicide: where am I? But there’s someone in your life you’ve saved. That could be your child. That could be your partner. That could be anyone. So that’s the story. I always say when you go somewhere to reason your life so you can’t go back to your homeland anymore than you should have inspiration.  You need to have someone you can talk to. So that’s why you’re still alive. That can be love. That can be money. That can be anything.  For me it was personal…I have my mother anyway. She has come to Belgium twice. But I left my love behind. But now my wife and my 2 children are the people they are the reason to live.

[i] And I know you have a tattoo of your son’s name. Could you maybe show him a little bit?

[r] Yes it is Raimon.  That is my son’s name. First son. The second one is coming.  They are my everything.  They were born here. They saved our lives, actually. We were totally lonely and alone here in Belgium. They came here and they saved our lives. Maybe I wasn’t here or maybe… We really weren’t good. We really didn’t have a good feeling here in Belgium. But with their birth it was really… They changed everything.

[i] And I know that there are many different values the Iranian values compared to Belgian values maybe you can tell a bit about what the most important values of Iran are? What is really important about Iran for you. And then also about the Belgian values.

[r] For example, look at a very easy example of values. When I go somewhere, I open the door for the one who comes behind me. That’s a simple example.  Here in Belgium it’s like that.  So people respect each other. That’s a very important thing. But in Iran…I’m going to refer to the example. He’s going to close the door on that person who’s going to go before you. And don’t leave the door open for you. That’s the whole story.  I’m someone who would rather open the door for someone than close it. That’s an exact story of Iran.  They close all those doors for other people. People who have talents. People who want to grow. Women who want to grow. You have a dream: to study, to do sports. Why does a woman who participates in a competition have to take part in a really big competition, why does she have to wear a headscarf?

Like your sister?

[r] Like my sister.  Why with a headscarf? Why not with a just free like other people?

[i] So she always had to be with a headscarf?

[r] Everyone in Iran. But why? So you have…okay that’s about religion but that can be another way. A little kinder way. If you want to introduce something then introduce it a bit well. Not from saying yes: ”You’re obliged!” So you can’t do anything about it.  You are obliged… what does it call? Being a spectator. Just look. Watching and listening. I really hate that. That’s the story. But here in Belgium: you want to grow? Okay, the door is open. You want to grow? Go ahead.  You want to study, do sports, work? Everything is open to you. Okay, some say, “In Europe and here in Belgium, there are a lot of racists! But that’s not true at all.  They are not racists. We all have a bit of racism in our blood. They have done experiments. So nobody is racist. We shouldn’t say that. Maybe less… In Belgium you have to open a door to talk. Only then does he start talking to me. That’s the story.  So here in Belgium you have a balance in your life. They think about the quality of life. What you give to a person determines the quality of what you get. You give a good quality and you get a good quality back. It’s as simple as that. That’s not difficult.  But the politicians make it even more difficult for us. No. That’s not difficult.  For example, you give a good car, so the environment gets better.  That’s so simple. If you give something you get back. I give respect and I get respect back. But in Iran they don’t give respect and they expect respect from people. That’s the story. Those are norms and values in Iran.

[i] And what are the positive values you would like to love Iran?  Something positive you really like in Iran.

In Iran?

In Iran yes.

In Iran…I love Iran.  Iran is my country where I was born. Everything in my eyes is beautiful in Iran. 4 sezones, food, people chatting with each other Everything….  But norms and values in Iran…. Nothing.

[i] I mean something of culture.  For example…

Culture…  We have particularly rich culture in Iran. So you can’t compare that with Europe. They know that themselves. We have a very long history. 7 thousand years ago so far. So Iran is a special country. Everyone knows that. Everyone. That’s not the same as other countries. On the border of Iran. Iran is a really special country. But…  Mountains, sea … if you go to North you see the sea. If you go to South you see desert. There is something everywhere. Really a beautiful country. But the problem is the government. I tell you: it’s about respecting people. Treating people well so that they want to be treated. Not the way you want to treat them. So the treatment of people. And you know in Iran is… is right now…  If you overuse your strengths they say: yes, that’s mandatory. Like to a child. I have strength so I can say to a child, “Sit down and you can’t move! But if I overuse my strengths and I’m big and strong I’m going to say: ”Okay, I’m going to drop that laptop!” to tell him: ”You’re nobody!” That’s the story of Iran.  They use their strengths excessively the leaders of Iran and they say: “We have power and we do everything we want” and people flee to somewhere else. And people are going to do something on the sly. Sneakingly drinking alcohol, for example. It’s not about religion. Drinking alcohol is not healthy. Everyone knows that. Like smoking. That’s not healthy.  “Islam says it’s not okay… But Christianity says it’s not good either. Unhealthy is unhealthy.  If you drink too much water it’s not healthy either. But that’s the story of Iran. They use their strengths and power excessively. And people secretly go to a party and they secretly drink alcohol. And our young people get even worse than here. So…how can you say?  They are curious to discover drugs. I’m going to try that. Alcohol is forbidden, so I’m going to drink on the sly. And they get bad quality from alcohol. So that doesn’t come from outside Iran. They produce it themselves. All those bad things, all those summaries of the alcohol. That can be life-threatening for a young man or woman of 20, 25. But that doesn’t interest them. So they just leave. They use drugs very often in Iran. Now I know anyway. They produce it themselves. But why should it be that way?  We have a lot of intelligent people in Iran. But the problem is that they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or something like that.

[i] And now you have 2 children…  I wonder what values are you going to raise your children with? With Iranian values or with Belgian values? Or maybe a mix?

[r] That’s a good question.

[i] Yes, how do you do that?

[r] I always say to my son: Try to be human.  But there are animals that are better than some people. So just try to be human. Try to be helpful. You shouldn’t be a doctor or an engineer. You don’t have to study a lot and say: Oh, I am… You just have to be a good person for your wife. Being a good father to your children. Being a good son for myself, for your father. Just try to be good. Good things to do. And being perfect is the problem. No one is perfect. I always say: you shouldn’t be perfect. Just a normal person. Normal person and try to be good. Religion is not important. You can choose for yourself when you are an adult. Who you have to be.  But just try to be good man. And be useful for society. That’s most important. Doesn’t matter. You were born here so you have to be good for this society. That’s Belgium. Helping people. I think that’s the most important thing. Some people are perfectionists and say: we have to be perfect. They just fall someday.  Anyway. But you just have to be a normal person. As long as I can talk to you and as long as I respect you. That’s the most important thing. And I your eyes is man a man and woman is a woman. Elderly too. All people. All of them. We have to respect people from an animal to people. There is no difference. So you have to respect someone who is higher than you, and who is among you, you don’t have to respect? No. For example, if I go to a company or somewhere and I see people cleaning it. And I say to my son: you have to respect them! He’s mopping, you shouldn’t walk. First ask permission and then walk. He is an important person. If he is not here then we have a problem. This is important for me.  But in Iran, for example, that’s not the case. People respect people in order to gain respect.  I mean: I give you a glass of water but I expect you to give me a coffee. That’s a bad vision, a bad mentality. I give you a glass of water just because you’re thirsty. I shouldn’t expect anything from you. If you give me something, it’s great. If you don’t give me anything, it’s great too. No problem. That’s exactly the same story of our private life. So my wife has to cook. If she doesn’t cook for 1 day we have a disaster. No. She is also human. She also has to go outside. She also has to study. She also has to make up. She also has to show: I’m a woman.

[i] So you really have an open mentality?

[r] Yes to show her beauty. Why not? We men do have a problem. In Iran that excat is the problem. They look at it! You shouldn’t look. She is a beautiful lady.  She just wants to show her beauty. If you have problems then you shouldn’t look yourself. So that’s why…  I raise my children like this.  Just respect people. We are completely the same.

[i] Okay [name] . Thank you very much for this interview. That’s been very interesting.

You’re welcome!

[i] We’re going to follow you on YouTube. On your page.

[r] Thank you very much!

Thank you for singing and a really interesting story. And good luck with your future and with your work and studies.

[r] Merci. Thank you very much! Thank you.  Like questioning everything, keeping a critical eye on everything, finding out more about the truth. So the core values.  But otherwise they have to choose their own values.

[i] Okay Gohram. Thank you very much for this interview. It has been very interesting.  I wish you good luck with your future, with your studies, and with your political activities. It has been a lot of fun.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I had the pleasure of getting a chance to tell you that.