Apr 17, 2022

the limits of categories: "immigrant" or "refugee"

Today, while hiking, I met an Ukrainian refugee or immigrant (whatever those categories mean to policy makers). We spoke of plants, birds, mountains and nature. I listened sympathetically to her stories about her escape from the Russian war in her country that catapulted her to another part of the world. There was an inner tension or urge building up inside me, it was some sort of emphatic feelings. I wanted to talk with her about what it means to be an immigrant or a refugee, but suddenly I realized that we are different and she may not understand my language and feelings. This hesitance was due to the way we are and the way we are defined as immigrants. So, I felt discouraged to say anything about my experience as an migrant because I, as an Afghanistani carrying multitude of tropes and stereotypes. I come from a majority Muslim country that is torn by war and violence, and its people's identity is often (if not always) coterminous with religion, terror, war, and drug. I thought I'm completely different from a refugee with blonde hair, blue eyes, and white skin, and most importantly, a Christian believer. From our conversation, I realized she doesn't see herself as a refugee, but as a displaced person in a familiar culture and territory. It was here that I realized the word immigrant may not define us correctly. 


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