• Syeda Hijab Zahra Gardezi
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)
The Afghan Hazara people have long been persecuted for ethnoreligious reasons in their home country and have fled to nearby countries including Iran. However, in Iran they been met with discrimination and a lack economy opportunity, for which reason in some cases they have further sought asylum elsewhere. Such is the case of Zeynab Fatima, an Iranian-born, Afghan-Hazara refugee girl living with her family in Denmark.
This paper explores how one refugee family navigates the contexts of different borderlands and the extent to which their actions help us understand the make-up of these borderlands.
This approach is part of a self-fashioned dual-methodology used in this paper, of borderlands and the biographical method. Borderlands are theoretical lenses which occur in a complex manner and which facilitate interdisciplinary discussion. This concept has been deliberately limited to the geographic, political, demographic, cultural and economic spheres in this paper for a more controlled discussion. For the purposes of this paper, these spheres may further exist in a more static, border-like manner or a fluid, frontier-like manner.
Further, this paper has loosely employed a biographical method in the form of narrative-style created with information gathered in an interview followed by multiple e-mail exchanges to facilitate a more creative approach to the theoretical concept of the borderlands.
In this unique manner, this paper introduces the Afghan-Iranian borderland predicated largely on the geographic boundaries of the two distinct countries viz Afghanistan and Iran. In this, Zeynab narrates her and her family’s experiences supported by historical and political context to discuss not only the necessity of moving to Iran from Afghanistan, but also of her father moving back to Afghanistan. Despite the threat to his life in Afghanistan, it appeared the better country to live in, given discrimination and lack of opportunity in Iran.
It then introduces the Danish borderland, which is predicated on the lines of a political boundary – that of citizenship. In this borderland, Zeynab now exists as an adult independent of her father, to whom she was inexorably bound to in the previous borderland. However, it is important to note that in neither borderland can she truly exist exclusive of her father, as she is in each country because of his forced migration as the asylum-seeker. It is in this sphere that the discussion of the different barriers to citizenship in Denmark is carried out in conjunction with the historical and current political situation.
While in both of these borderlands a single predominant factor has been identified (geographic and political, respectively), it is important to note that these are not isolated, and that they exist as ongoing processes in conjunction with the set of factors existing within a borderland in this paper.
Finally, this paper ties together both borderlands by looking at navigating between them through two permeating themes: that of Zeynab’s identity, and of the ideal lived refugee experience.
The outcome of the study shows the borderlands to be an appropriate tool to study how Zeynab’s family navigated through a series of static borders and fluid frontiers between borderlands and consequently, between Iran, Afghanistan and Denmark.
Publication date12 Jun 2020
Number of pages107
ID: 334089762