I was born in Iraq under SADDAM’s regime. My parents were married for 6 months by that point. They had been dating for about 8 years. They knew each other at university. They were very different.
In Iraq, dating is a big thing. Even if there’s someone you like and would like to marry, you don’t openly hang out with each other. But they were hanging out with each other; everyone knew they were together. So in a sense they were different.
They left Iraq when I was 7 months [old], to come to NZ under the Point System. People who have a degree in engineering, or any field, they can apply to come over and be a resident. So my dad was able to get us here. And they were a young couple as well. That did mean we were away from my family.
I started meeting my family when I was 17. I had an auntie in Christchurch, I met her. My dad had a cousin that came too, they were best friends, and his kid was my best friend. I didn’t get to meet my mom’s side of the family. She’s really close to them, and she remembers stories of them. I kind of feel isolated, deprived of what I could have had in terms of family.
I always knew I was different, ever since I was in day care. We would have face painting at daycare, I would be first in line; the kids would push me to the back, tell me what characters to be. I never felt like I fit in. That difference was always really at the forefront of my mind: My mom had a head scarf. I always knew there was some sort of difference. Half of it was people really did treat me differently, the other half of it was I was paranoid in a sense. I think a lot. I stand back and observe.
I do think my family background does have a lot to do with it. The fact that there are differences out there, I’m aware. I don’t let it stop me from doing things and alters the way I experience it.
I have two upbringings - in my family and out of my family. I had two different lives. They didn’t battle each other, I’m good at picking out good things, the good values that I like, and challenging the way my family thinks and the society thinks as well. But, for example, weed, I just don’t get it -- That’s because of my upbringing. Sometimes you crave coffee, or you want a taste of coke; but then ‘let’s go out for the end goal of getting drunk’ -- I try to understand it, I just don’t.
It’s also a social thing: Let’s go get some beer.’ Or ‘Catch up over some coffee.’ And no one thinks about it. How are we so used to this routine that no one questions the stuff that happens in their day to day lives?
[I question] everything. Which is funny. People say, ‘Why do you say that?’ Coz I’m a Muslim.
My parents, my mom especially, really encourage that behavior in me. By the simple fact that I always ask questions, like asking who is god. That’s human nature. god gives us brains to use, we’re not in trouble
I want to work for NGOs. To make the world a better place, you have to hold people accountable, help people who have no voice, help them practice it in court.
[A lot of countries] go to third world countries and dictate. Who’s to say the end goal is to have a free market? Having a dialogue is important. I would like to think what I live by is having a dialogue. I will never go from what I’ve observed and jump to conclusions. I guess I expect other people would do that with me. I think it’s human nature for people to judge. I hope I’ll get to a point where judgement will happen but they won’t act on that judgement.
Globalisation is a big factor.
Last year, I thought, ‘Globalisation sucks. it’s all about this capitalist agenda.’
[But one day when] I was talking to my best friend at a get together, the guys in her family, they’re really opinionated, and they really like having discussions like they know everything. She said to me:
“You have to get into these discussions. If you don’t say anything, they’re gonna think you’re dumb. I really want you to show them they are the one that are dumb.”
So I was telling them about my life, and that [here in NZ], I don’t think I even fit into any group. One of the guys said,
“Yeah, you shoulda just stayed in your own country.”
Yeah, perhaps a lot would have happened if I stayed, but, I clicked, this is what globalisation is all about. You can’t say something is completely bad. If I stayed in Iraq, who’s to say if bad things wouldn’t happen.
That’s what I wish as well, that people would just let people live.
I wish people could be happy and let each other live.
Someone always thinks they know best or whatever.
Even with countries. you know. At the end of the day, as long as people respect each other.
Just because someone is religious, it’s not like they’re going to be perfect.
I wish you could just let me be me.
There’s a lot of things to do with my identity.
But I wish people stop picking on their religions.
For me, religion is about a person and their relationship with God.
There’s no third person involved, not even my parents.
I think you can be religious and gay, it doesn’t matter. Let them be! But if that person thinks that’s ok, and they got that religion, and they have that conversation with God, let them do it! At the end of the day, you have no say to what happens to them.
My goals are too big. I feel quite overwhelmed a lot of the time. I’m quite sensitive, I just cry so much. I don’t care about “Ooooh, she said this about me” or whatever. When I was a kid, you know those world vision advertisements - [when it comes on] I would cry every single time [watching it]. And they come up a lot! [It got] to a point I would have to change the channel.
Laws [that] are [currently] in place [in fact can] disadvantage the third world countries. For example, the patent law, [with which] they can’t get medicines to help with aids coz they dont have the money [to procure aid medicine].
[Our] lecturer [once] showed us a picture of this girl is curled over and bare-boned, and right next to her is a vulture waiting. He put the photo up, and all of a sudden I was just like, “Urgh---” I just get so affected by it. He said, “I have this photo at my desk at home, just to remind me why I do what I'm doing.” [He told us that] one day his 4 year old daughter came in, [she saw the picture and] she said,
“Daddy, what’s wrong with this girl?”
“Why doesn’t she eat?”
“Coz she hasn’t got any food.”
[Then] she came in and put a banana under the photo. The next day, she said,
“Daddy I think the girl put on weight.”
People harden up. I pray that that’ll never happen to me. Like my family, someone’s going to die, they’re not even sad, because it’s too common. Growing up in a world with wars, they grow used to it. [But it is always a comfort to think] that they don’t suffer any more .
I used to have only anger in me. Every emotion I had would turn into anger, that the world is like this, that people were doing this and nobody came to help. One day my best friend came, and really helped me get over that. She broke it down to the core. I always had the sensitive side to me, I never showed it. I guess in a sense, I still don’t, with certain people.
I describe depression as the deepest deepest deepest point of the ocean, and you can’t breathe - [looking] at the dark dark blue, you can’t see anyone, and you can’t see anything. I describe the feeling as exhausted - so exhausted. When you think you’re getting better, and envision yourself getting the strength and are swimming up, but still can’t breathe, and you can see other people around - they can breathe just fine, but you can’t, and you sink to the bottom.
The way I describe anxiety is: Assume you’re afloat, you swim to the top, and then you’re like, “My gosh I can breathe!” But suddenly someone pushes you under the water, and it becomes a struggle to [get back to the surface again].
I can’t stand people that complain. Don’t just do nothing about it. There’s something I always complain about: the world, but I [will in] no way just sit and do nothing. I saw recently a quote: If you’re not on the side of the victim, you’re on the side of the oppressor by doing nothing.
I know what I wanna do, opportunities will present itself. I was telling my friend, I don’t know what it is in development i want to do. I volunteered in Thailand for a month teaching English. I found good things and bad things - More bad things. People pay money to volunteer, really they just wanna see rural Thailand. I don't regret it at all. if I hadn't done that, I wouldn’t have known what’s good, what’s bad. Even with this [volunteering in one of the islands] thing, maybe I’m not getting it. I’m just taking it as a learning experience.
I was always sad person. In my final year of high school, you know how you would write those farewell notes and say what impression you have of this or that person, every single person described me as happy.
-"Yeah, you always come in as a happy person."
That’s what I project, I don't want anyone else to be sad, I don't want to burden them. It’s not a nice feeling. There are so many people that so sad.
Advice to everyone -
It’s really cliche but: What doesn't’ kill you makes you stronger.
It’s never too late. There’s always a time when you can come to a realisation of something. You just have to work at it.
I would never ever judge. Whatever happens, happens. I don't think you’re a bad person, I don't think I’m better than anyone, but I’m here (when you need me).
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far in life?
Be a good person and stay true to yourself.
You know when I cry when things gets too much for me, the one thing I keep repeating is 'Why are people so mean?' I just want people to be happy and nice to one another. Be happy. Be nice -- don't be mean to people.