Chinese migrants; at the heart of Manchester

Hundreds of Mancunians and Chinese braved the cold and hailstones to celebrate Chinese New Year parade in the heart of Chinatown on February 7. The ritual started with dragon Parade as usual and continued with traditional lion dances,  music and acrobatics, a funfair and fireworks finale.

DSC_0119I had the chance to be around town hall just before the venue starts and see Chinese dance. I liked  it that Chinese have managed to become a very powerful and successful community in the UK and run such a huge festival in Manchester city centre. I have been to Mega Mela which is the largest celebration of South Asian Culture in the North of England, but Mela usually takes place at Plat Field park.

According to Chinese calendar, 2016 is the year of the Monkey. Monkey is ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. Monkey is a clever animal. It is usually compared to a smart person.

It has also been said that this year is the year of the Fire Monkey. But what that means?

In addition to the twelve year cycle corresponding to each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, there are Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which are associated with their own “life force” or “chi”.This energy blends with the corresponding animal to determine that year’s fortune. In 2016, the corresponding element is fire. Fire is also associated with the color red. Therefore it is the year of the Red Monkey.

Read this to find out what this year will bring us.

Shappi Khorsandi, A refugee who became a comedian

I have been watching  Shappi ( Shaparak)  Khorsandi on youtube tonight. Shappi introduce herself as  “an Iranian refugee”. She and her family were forced to flee from Iran after the Islamic Revolution following the publication of a satirical poem her father composed. He is a well-known comedian in Iran.

Shappi has graduated from the University of Winchester  with a degree in Drama, Theatre and Television, then moving on to pursue a career in comedy. She has won many prizes and one of them for her charity works.  She has also published her book ” A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English” in July 2009. The book describes the way in which young Khorsandi experienced England as a young girl. The narrative begins with her attending  nursery school, The Kings’ International Nursery School, with her brother, Peyvand. Throughout the book, she explains the ways in which the Iranian language differs from English: “They called me ‘poppet’. Iranians said ‘jaan’ or ‘azizam’.” She also expresses pride in how her father took English classes and was praised for his affinity with the written word, though she also felt he was able to be more humorous in Farsi. Other themes include her experiences with English food and customs, the war between Iran and Iraq, and the hostilities that she and her family encounter–she notes, for example, having been referred to as a terrorist.

Watch her selected clip from Apolo

A detainee at Yarl’s Wood

She finally made it. She left the UK last night ( Thursday ) at 8 pm. I was talking to her a few minutes before her departure. She said immigration officers were treating her well and they had arranged a taxi very early in the morning to make sure she does not miss her flight for the third time. She spent all day at the airport but at least she was happy that the nightmare will end soon.

And now she is in her home country. A beautiful place where she finds her family, friends and cousins. The thing is she needs to get a divorce from her husband who is a British citizen. I am not sure if she can manage to do that,  considering hat she is now living in a far country and have not access to the UK legal system: a problem   facing some female asylum seekers in the UK.

Apart from all the distresses of asylum life we went through, we have been good friends since she came to Manchester in 2013. To me, she has been not only a good friend who taught me how to overcome my fears of riding a bicycle, but also an example of a strong & level- headed woman who could live through the difficulties of asylum life without suffering from anxiety and depression.

She tried her best to make a new life here but in the end when all the appeals on her case have been rejected, she decided to not fight anymore and find her happiness else where. I know she has some problems back home and she may not be able to go back to her home town yet. She told me she will probably go to a neighboring country to live and work along with her aunties.

I am wishing her a happy life and I wish freedom for all the detainees at Yarl’s Wood and other detention centers.

read the second part of story here

Her nightmare continues

She couldn’t make it again. Going to Heathrow airport and back to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Such a nightmare!

Authorities failed to put her on the plane just because the company which provides transport could not get her to Heathrow airport in time, and this has happened for two consecutive weeks now. Fed up  with all this up and down, she asked the Home Office to let her buy her own ticket. They agreed on the condition that she leaves the UK before the 2nd of February. A friend paid for her ticket and it’s now booked for Thursday.

She told me horrifying stories of women who have been kept there for more than a year without any charge or without trying to send them home. She said she does not want to end up being one of them and she wants her freedom.

I speak to her every day to make sure she is fine and not loosing her spirit. I am waiting for Thursday to see if this failure will repeat for third time or she will escape the nightmare.

Read the first part  of the story here



The nightmare of an asylum seeker

I went to Bedfordshire yesterday to say goodbye to a friend. She has been in Yarl’s Wood detention centre since last week. Yarl’s Wood is an immigration removal centre and she was taken there because  her asylum case has been refused.

It was very sad to see her losing a lot of weight and almost looking like a different person. To me she has always been an example of a strong woman, and seeing her broken and hopeless was not something that I would have expected to see. She lived in the UK for nearly 5 years, went through many changes and still has to finish her divorce from her husband who is white and British. Unfortunately her reasons were not accepted by the Home Office or Upper Tribunal.

Her flight to Africa had been booked for 7pm last night and she told me that this nightmare has to end one way or another. She said ”I am not a criminal and no one could take my freedom”. All her applications already been refused and she had been told that she should be on the flight on Monday. However, instead of taking her to the airport, they have moved her to another detention facility. I do not know what the reason is and I have never been in detention before, but I  know how it feels living in limbo and fear. I hope her nightmare ends soon.  One way or another.

Yarl’s wood

Banksy’s New Artwork – Steve Jobs

Banksy’s new art work draws attention to Syrian refugees. The British artist displays his latest piece of art in the Calais Jungle — a refugee camp in Calais, France.

Banksy's New Graffiti

Jobs’ biological father was a man named Abdul Fattah Jandali, a Syrian migrant who met Jobs’ mother while studying at the University of Wisconsin. The future creator of the iPhone was put up for adoption as a newborn.

The artist whose real identity is unknown says, “We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7bn a year in taxes -– and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Syria.”

Taxi Tehran screening in Manchester

”Taxi”a movie by Jafar Panahi the Iranian film maker is on the show in Home, Manchester from 12 November.

The movie won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin film festival. Jafar panahi, who is banned from travelling and making films in his own country, has made a triology composed of This is not a Film ( 2011) Closed Curtain ( 1013) and Taxi Tehran ( 2015)
He has said ‘I’m a filmmaker. I can’t do anything else but make films. Cinema is my expression and the meaning of my life. Nothing can prevent me from making films.’

read more about it here

watch the trailer

Syrian Refugee Crisis

I have seen recently a video of Benedict Cumberbatch, the famous British actor on Facebook talking about the refugee crisis, asking for people to reach out to them. He said no one puts children on a boat unless the water is safer than the land.
I adore what Benedict said. As a refugee I did not come to the UK in a boat. I cannot imagine floating on the cold water in the middle of the dark hoping to find a safe land. But I ask myself so often why would somebody want to leave their home? Why is the world so messed up? What do we need to do to stop the world becoming unsafe for all?
According to Amnesty 280,000 refugees and migrants entered the EU in 2014, and more than 819,218 have arrived by sea so far this year. Thousands of them are getting trapped along Fortress Europe’s fences, forced to walk for weeks and months, sleeping outside in the cold.*
We as individuals can help these people by donating money or getting involved voluntarily. But what can governments do? So far Germany has taken most responsibility by taking 800,000 asylum seekers this year. The UK has been more reticent. Since the Paris attacks, every country is worried about their security. While the war continues in Iraq and Syria, and with ISIS is becoming more active in Afghanistan, there look set to be more displaced people seeking refuge in the near future.

So what should be done? what governments specially great powers can do to stop this bloodshed in the Middle East?
Maybe they should sell fewer weapons. Maybe they should refrain from toppling dictators. More humane policies now are needed. It is time for us to stand up against whatever makes the world unsafe for us. Otherwise we will soon all find ourselves on leaking boats. Everybody needs a home. Nobody should come to the point where they prefer a boat to land.

watch the video here