'This Is Cultural Purgatory'

This is why I oppose Trump's immigration restrictions.

by Broadly Staff
Mar 7 2017, 10:16pm

Photo Courtesy of Lili Emtiaz

This interview is part of Broadly's Voices Against the Ban series. You can read more of these voices here.

Broadly: How have you been protesting the recent immigration restrictions?

Lili, 24, Brooklyn: I was at the JFK protest. It was a weird experience to see a pro-Muslim rally happen at JFK. I think one of the most shocking things was seeing how high the police to protestors ratio was—having police, people who are supposed to protect your rights, helping to deny your rights. These people have visas. They're being detained and the cops are standing there telling us, "Hey, you guys are in the wrong," when really they are.

Why did you protest and how does it personally affect you?

My family is from Iran. They still live in Iran for the most part. In particular why it's fucked up with Iran is to be an Iranian national means that your father is Iranian. You are automatically given citizenship, which you may not revoke until your mid-twenties. I was born into this. I was born in this country but I was also born into Iranian nationalism. It's something you can't help control. It's not a belief. It's not anything about you. That's the number one reason I'm out there because we can't help what culture we come from. All we can do is hope that we can see our family freely, travel freely without being harassed and express our culture. That's what they're taking away. They're saying that we're terrorists. They're saying that we're Muslims, but my family fled Iran because of the Islamic Revolution. We come here and now they're saying, "Hey, you guys are Muslims." This is cultural purgatory. We are neither here nor there. There are problems on both ends and it's like where do we go?

How did you feel at the protest?

I saw this one kid who was walking with his mother who had a headscarf on and he was maybe three years old and he was holding a sign that said, "Let them in," and I just started crying because I was like, this is beautiful. You had one of the local mosques handing out free pizza and water bottles to people. With everything going on—I do think it's horrible—but I think it's beautiful how people are coming together. June Jordan, an activist in the 1960s, once said [something along the lines of]: Why do I have to go to one protest for being black, one for being a woman, and one for being gay? I think right now in 2017 is the first time where it's like, "No. We are fighting for all rights and it doesn't matter which rights." You see that in the protest.

This interview has been edited and condensed.