Iranians 'are the new outcasts in the UK'

Azita Jabbari

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979 Iranians living in Britain have been treated with growing suspicion and racism.

It is almost like the discrimination faced by people of African descent in the US and in the UK.  

I am an Iranian who has lived, studied and worked in the UK for many years. Although I would call myself highly educated, and appear westernised in the way I dress and my manner, I have been subjected to many unfair acts in this country.

There have been small and relatively bearable events such as, going to a party, or get-together, even to a gym or a tour group, and as soon as someone realises there is an Iranian among them, the words “suicide bomber” or “nuclear war” are uttered in quite a loud voice. The political ignorance of people who do this amazes me. I have not yet heard of an Iranian suicide-bomber anywhere in the world.

The subject of nuclear weapons is a difficult one, but suffice to say that history shows there are countries in which governments have committed many violent acts such as Pakistan, Israel, US and North Korea and they all have nuclear arms, so why the fuss over Iran?

Shockingly, as an Iranian in Britain I have been asked if I am the Ayatollah's daughter, or it is assumed that I am some sort of religious fundamentalist. Again, those who ask such questions do not comprehend that people who are quite religious and fundamentalist have stayed in Iran but a high proportion of Iranians have left the country because they do not agree with fundamentalism.

Then there is the subtle form of racism committed by prospective employers. Iranians can be extremely skilled and qualified for a job, but in competition with perhaps less qualified Brits or other migrants, it is highly probable that Iranians will not be employed.

This fact is verified by the statistics provided by the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) 2007 publication which shows that Iranians are the second highest group of migrants to complete full time education but they rank 26th in unemployment and 19th in gross hourly pay. When compared to other similar migrants groups this suggests that, Iranians in the UK although one of the highly educated groups (as well as in US and Canada), have one of the highest rates of unemployment and lowest rates of pay.

A similar story applies if you are one of the lucky few to gain employment. Iranians are often subjected to various forms of harassment and bullying from their colleagues, sometimes for simply wanting to get on in their roles. They can feel isolated and ganged up against, which usually results in them quitting their jobs.

In places of education like universities, Iranians are pushed to the side lines and ignored when they are eager to express their opinion or ask questions in class. Their views are automatically pre-judged to be unsuitable for discussion.

Institutional racism has resulted in many Iranians leaving the UK having spent thousands of pounds on their education. It must be recognised that this situation is neither good for Britain's image as a fair country which respects human rights, nor is it beneficial economically for it to lose people with valuable skills and experience who are keen to work. 

Discrimination damages the desired multi-cultural, big-society that the UK seeks to develop and will inevitably give way to conflicts, sometimes dangerous ones, among people.