Episode 23: When your passport locks you in, with Selda Shamloo

Episode 23: When your passport locks you in, with Selda Shamloo

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

Selda Shamloo is taking the Home Office to court. Her mother, who’s Iranian, has been repeatedly denied a simple tourist visa to visit her. This is life on an ostracized passport.

For many of us, our passport is a symbol of our wanderlust, a badge of our freedom. It’s been gathering dust for the past year and we can’t wait to get it out. But if you’re Iranian or from any other country at the bottom of the passport power rankings, pandemic or not, it won’t get you anywhere. The Passport Index ranks Iran 193rd, ahead of just Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Only four countries let Iranians in without visas at the moment, and those who require them, often simply don’t grant them. For ordinary families caught in the politics, it can mean years of anguish and administrative complications simply to spend a few days together. Shirin Shamloo hasn’t been allowed to set foot in the UK, where her daughter is a citizen, since 2007. And she can’t see why.

Show notes

00:00 Intro
01:36 A Tehran childhood
05:22 Leaving Iran and becoming British
09:37 A father’s visit to London
13:09 How to become a Borderline member
14:10 The first visa rejection
18:45 Reapply at your own risk
21:06 Taking the Home Office to court
29:50 The emotional impact of family separation
34:13 "Going back to Iran would be a second immigration"
36:26 "A lot more people can understand my story now."


Sources & credits

🎧 Related episode: Colin Yeo on the hostile environment Home Office policy

Music by Ofshane via Youtube’s audio library.


Transcript

Transcripts are published for your convenience, but they are automated and not always cleaned up. Please excuses typos and occasional nonsense, and always check the audio before quoting.

Selda Shamloo: [00:00:00] When COVID happened, so many people in the world couldn't travel, so many people in the world couldn't be with their loved ones and you could see how upset, angry everyone is. I think there was a moment that I thought, "Oh, a lot more people can really understand my story now."

[00:00:16] Isabelle Roughol: [00:00:25] Hi. I'm Isabelle Roughol and this is Borderline.

[00:00:29] How much time does it take you to plan a foreign trip? No no, don't think about the pandemic. Cast your minds to the before times. If like me, you carry an EU passport, it takes no time at all. You could have an annoying meeting on a Friday, leave the office, pick up your phone and take your lover to Lisbon or your mates to Madrid. You'd be there that night. Yes, I can't wait to return to that life. If you're American, distances are a bit longer, but there are not much more formalities.

[00:00:57] Now if like my friend Selda Shamloo and her family, you hail from Iran, you carry a passport that ranks 193rd on the list of passport power, just ahead of Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and dead last Afghanistan. Only four countries let Iranians in without a visa. And those that require a visa, simply do not grant them.

[00:01:22] So today I'm talking to Selda about passport privilege, about what that's like to live without the freedoms that many of us take for granted and how you keep a family together regardless.

[00:01:36] A Tehran childhood

All right, let's dive in. I thought we should start by you telling me a bit about where you're from and what it was like growing up in Iran.

[00:01:45] Selda Shamloo: [00:01:45] Sure. I'm from Iran and I was born in Tehran in the eighties. Anytime I think back I've got just really amazing childhood memories of family together, going out to the park, all the things that you do as a child, you know. Anytime I go back these days, I think those streets, the tall trees, that kind of community feeling still comes back from, from really young age. And then, I think probably throughout my older age I think, because I left Iran when I was about 23, again it was a very happy time for me personally, going to school, going to university there, having really close friends. But obviously there were situations in Iran that you kind of... didn't agree with certain things that the government would kind of impose on you, being like headscarf, for example. For me personally I didn't believe in it, but I had to wear it when I go to school or had to wear it when I go to university. But I think that that was probably the only thing that you kind of felt like you're not being your true self. Overall thinking back it's just generally lots of good memories and lots of culture and music and dance and all of that.

[00:03:10] Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:10] What's Tehran like as a, as a city? I've never been there.

[00:03:14] Selda Shamloo: [00:03:14] You haven't.

[00:03:15] Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:15] No I

[00:03:16] Selda Shamloo: [00:03:16] How do I describe it to you? It is, it's quite a big city actually. So I'd say maybe London reminds me quite a lot of Tehran. I live in London right now and there are a lot of big motorways. Lots of tall trees that actually go back to really old ages.

[00:03:37] Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:37] What kind of trees?

[00:03:39] Selda Shamloo: [00:03:39] Oh gosh. Don't ask me the name of them..

[00:03:43] Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:43] City girl, huh?

[00:03:44] Selda Shamloo: [00:03:45] Totally. God what kind of trees? Is pinenut, am I right, is pinenut a tree?

[00:03:50] Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:50] Pine is a tree,. I mean it's a family of trees. There are many many kinds of pines but...

[00:03:55] Selda Shamloo: [00:03:55] Actually some some kind of pine, I would say. but Oh my

[00:04:00] Isabelle Roughol: [00:04:00] Did you collect the pine nuts?

[00:04:02] Selda Shamloo: [00:04:02] Yes I used to actually when I was little. I used to.

[00:04:06] Aw

[00:04:06] Isabelle Roughol: [00:04:06] Me too! Me too in the South of France. It was a thing,.

[00:04:09] Selda Shamloo: [00:04:09] Oh wow. I loved it. And then I think, honestly don't ask me the name of the trees I'm so bad at them, but they were the, the leaves that look like the palm of your hand. I don't know which tree that belongs to, but I remember seeing a lot of those on the ground, especially in autumn you see all different colors of them. Tehran has lots of little cafes and lots of shops, restaurants really that you can actually go and sit and eat. I think it's one of the main things that people do these days because as you know we don't have pubs or bars in Tehran. Good thing is the weather as well because you get the four seasons. So you get really nice weather in the spring where there's lots of beautiful blossoms and greenery. And then the winter you get your snow, most of the years I would say. I remember my childhood memories actually from the snow is just like staying out till really late trying to make something out of the snow and my dad shouting at the window for me to make sure I go in, I don't catch a cold. I wouldn't want to let go of the snow.

[00:05:17] I don't know if I pictured a good picture of Tehran you but that's it.

[00:05:22] Leaving Iran and becoming British

Isabelle Roughol: [00:05:22] So what made you leave? When did you go to the UK and why?

[00:05:27] Selda Shamloo: [00:05:27] I think my reason was just experiencing something different. At the time I didn't really know where specifically I want to be. I had nothing specific in my mind, but I wanted to experience something new. And a good choice was for me to come to the UK where I had family. So I had my uncles in Scotland. It just was easier to know that you've got a support network already somewhere, which was Scotland. And I decided to go there. My intention was never to stay as long as I did. So I didn't know when I would come back. I didn't know what I would experience. I think I just left it open for myself to experience and see what comes next. But I stayed. I stayed for 15 years after.

[00:06:16] Isabelle Roughol: [00:06:16] And you did eventually get British citizenship. How did that feel to carry that, that new passport?

[00:06:24] Selda Shamloo: [00:06:24] Good question, Isa. How did it feel? Really good question.

[00:06:31] It felt really good. I don't think I've thought about it that much. It felt good but at the same time it felt strange. I think it felt strange because it felt good, you know? Because I didn't want to feel good about having a different passport, but I was feeling good about it. Because I was very proud of being Iranian and having an Iranian passport. But there were so many limitations that would come with an Iranian passport that it kind of makes you happy when you actually get a British passport because then it opens so many other doors. You don't have to plan a two-week trip to Italy four months in advance. You don't have to plan little things or deal with so many documentations, preparing all the evidence to show that you're a legitimate traveler when you go into a country. And that was the I would say the only really angle of it that made me really kind of relieved.

[00:07:36] Isabelle Roughol: [00:07:36] During that time were you traveling back to Iran to see your family? Were your parents visiting the UK to see you?

[00:07:44] Selda Shamloo: [00:07:44] I was traveling. It was easier for me to travel than for them to visit. From 2006 I think up until now which is 2021, my mum has been to the UK I think twice. And my dad has been to the UK once. So and the reason for that is just challenges that was on the way to get visa for them, to prove that they're legitimate travelers, they're going to go back to Iran in time, all the paperwork involved, the fact that the embassy was closed actually for a period during this time. And it was difficult for my parents to travel to another country to get a UK visa. They had to go to either Turkey or Dubai to be able to get that visa and it was difficult for them, so we didn't even try and get visa.

[00:08:34] So I would go once a year when my work holidays allowed to visit them. And that as you know can be difficult because you generally get 25 days. And I am I think lucky enough to get 25 days actually holiday during the year. but two weeks of that at least was always kind of banked for me to go back to Iran and see them. And that is not a holiday really. It's just the time, very very short time in a year for you to try and catch up on everything that you've missed throughout that year. I used to go back at least once a year to try and keep that connection. And I was very, I have a very close relationship with my mum and also when my dad was alive. The three of us as a family we've been very close. We've gone through so much together. So it was very important for me to keep that connection and it was important to at least make a visit once a year. And I would try and make it happen whenever I could.

[00:09:37] A proud father visits London
Isabelle Roughol: [00:09:37] What was it like when your parents visited? Because they did visit at least once the UK. What did you do? What was it like?

[00:09:45] Selda Shamloo: [00:09:45] Okay I think I tell you my dad's visit because I mean I'll tell you about Mum as well, but Dad's visit was a very, very interesting one because it was the first time for him actually coming outside Iran to... not outside Iran but as in like maybe a bit further out than the neighbor countries. And it was...

[00:10:05] Isabelle Roughol: [00:10:05] And how old was he at the time?

[00:10:07] Selda Shamloo: [00:10:07] He was... 2010 so that would have been... I think he was almost 70.

[00:10:14] Isabelle Roughol: [00:10:14] Wow. And he hadn't had a chance to really fly beyond the region?

[00:10:18] Selda Shamloo: [00:10:18] No no no, he hadn't. I think he was just basically... again the whole visa situation. You would really need to have like, I don't know, either family who invites you to go to certain countries or really like spend time to plan a holiday in advance. And I needed to be the person to do it. So I think we just had to prioritize things for them to visit anywhere. And the priority would have been obviously coming to the UK.

[00:10:49] so I think he actually came here in September 2010 and he stayed until November. And this was the longest ever period I spent with him since 2006. And it was magical. It was really great. I could see the happiness in his eyes that he's actually spending that quality time with his daughter. I was actually new to London. In 2010 I'd moved from Scotland to London. I moved in July and my dad came in September. So in a way I started kind of experiencing London with my dad. So that was really great moments because we kind of went through things together. So we were just going to visit places either in central London for example, it was new for me.

[00:11:37] It was very very interesting that while my dad was here, I found my first job in the advertising industry and that first job happened to be in Canary Wharf, which some people may know is like the heart, the business heart of London. And I would have never imagined my first kind of a professional job being in Canary Wharf. And that happened when my dad was here so I took him to actually see the area where I'm going to start working. So there was a lot of proud moments as well. And I remember I took so many photos, two of each and I gave one pack to him to take home with him, printed them. And he was always really proud to just go through them. And he wrote all the memories behind the photos: "And this is that day which that we went with Selda and experienced this, I ate this food, it was a Lebanese food we had for example together here and it was really great. And then after that we went here." So he was basically journaling a lot. It was really really good. An amazing time. As I told you it was just probably the only longest period I got to have with him since 2006 before he passed.

[00:12:56] Isabelle Roughol: [00:12:56] Hmm. Sounds like he was a very proud father.

[00:13:00] Selda Shamloo: [00:13:00] Absolutely. Yes. He was an amazing father.

[00:13:05] Isabelle Roughol: [00:13:05] What was his name?

[00:13:06] Selda Shamloo: [00:13:06] Masoud.

[00:13:07] Isabelle Roughol: [00:13:07] Masoud.

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[00:14:07] Now, back to our episode.

[00:14:10] The first visa rejection

So you touched on, things got more complicated in 2011. Can you tell me a bit about what happened then?

[00:14:18] Selda Shamloo: [00:14:18] basically the UK embassy closed in 2011 and basically that meant that we just couldn't apply for a visa for my parents. So again I continued visiting them every year. But as soon as they opened up in 2015, I really wanted to get my Mum and dad over here. Usually it's kind of difficult to apply for both of them. At the time my dad was still alive. I really wanted to apply for both of them, but it's more difficult to prove that they're going to come back because they've got their only daughter here in the UK and applying for both of them to come here...

[00:14:58] Isabelle Roughol: [00:14:58] They should visit separately so that they have a motivation to come, to come home and return to Iran, is that their thinking?

[00:15:07] Selda Shamloo: [00:15:07] Exactly. The thinking is that at least that gives you a point of proof you know to say they have a reason to go back to, that's their spouse back home.

[00:15:17] Isabelle Roughol: [00:15:17] That's insane.

[00:15:18] Selda Shamloo: [00:15:18] It's crazy. So then I remember my dad was telling me "no no don't worry about me, I've been there in 2010. Let's try and get your Mum a visa and bring her there." As much as it wasn't really great for me to hear that, I was like "yeah sure I mean obviously Mum hasn't been here since 2007" so we applied for a visa for her and to our massive surprise actually, she was rejected first in September 2016 and reapplied again a month after that and she was rejected again in December 2016.

[00:15:56] Isabelle Roughol: [00:15:56] What justification did they give you for that?

[00:15:59] Selda Shamloo: [00:15:59] So the problem with the reasonings behind it is that they try and make... give you reasons on the rejections, but their justification is going through the documents that you send them, the financial documents, and knowing you're the only child, they basically tell you that they're not satisfied that you have enough reason that you'd go back to Iran. And I think one of the reasons obviously is the economic situation in Iran, which is out of everyone's hands. It's very like, very very much impacted by the political situations and everything. But then it just affects individual lives like this. Okay the economy is not stable, but it doesn't mean that my parents for example or so many more people there can't afford their lives. They are living their lives. They're living quite stable lives actually back home, and in many cases even happier lives than some of the people in some other countries. But you just have to kind of prove that they do have their reason to come back. I think in a way the default thinking by the Home Office is that everyone hates living in Iran, they're not happy with the situation they have, they're going to come to a Western country, get amused by everything, and then they're not going to go back. Which is really not the case.

[00:17:29] I mean, my parents thankfully again were lucky enough that they had a good life. They had a stable life and that was proved through the documentation sent to the Home Office. So their reasoning was, we're still not satisfied with what you've given me. And then as long as the person in charge of your application is not satisfied, then that's it. Basically they say, "I'm not convinced with what you've given me," even if everything that you've given them is actually legitimate, backed up with all the right data that they need to see.

[00:18:05] So that was both reasonings. And they specifically pointed out some investments that my mum had in the bank at the time. And you have to just keep proving it to them that that money actually belongs to them. Now how do you find all those documentations to prove to them, that's another whole story you know. To go kind of like talk to us and listen to try and find the links between different banks that my mum kind of took the investment from her personal bank put it in a joint account with my dad and then try and prove it that this is actually her money that she's had for 25 years. It's it's a whole whole story.

[00:18:45] The risk of multiple applications

Isabelle Roughol: [00:18:45] So she was denied twice in a few months in 2016. Does that have an impact? Like is there a black mark against you? Like can you keep applying again and again until they say yes or?

[00:18:57] Selda Shamloo: [00:18:57] no you're right. It does actually have a negative impact because obviously the more rejections you have, next time that you apply you have to actually mention them and tell them that you have been rejected. Obviously that's on the file and the more rejections you have, the the less likely you can get a visa next time. So that that does have a negative impact and it's not just for the UK. If she wants to apply for any other visit visa to any other country that needed a visa for an Iranian, she would face the same situation.

[00:19:35] Isabelle Roughol: [00:19:35] Hm. So you didn't try again for a while, did you?

[00:19:39] Selda Shamloo: [00:19:39] No that's...the reason was I think that period that my mum was rejected, we were hearing a lot of rejections actually coming from Home Office specifically towards Iranians. And I think again there was a lot of political, economical reasons at the time behind it, but We. We knew that we can't risk it again and apply again. And also it's just difficult emotionally. I mean when you actually see these rejections one after another, you know that it's going to be more difficult the third time you apply. You have to really go into details of the documents, put everything together, you know cross your T's, dot your I's, make sure everything is to the detail. And my parents really weren't in the situation to be able to kind of go through all that emotional ups and downs. And I was the one who needed to kind of take everything and make sure application is on point.

[00:20:38] We just couldn't do it. And then of course in 2017 in November my dad passed and that basically meant that you know visa wasn't the priority anymore. Like we couldn't take that emotional burden and I think for me the easiest was just to try and go back to Iran when I could to be with my Mum and just wait and see when is the best time for both of us emotionally to go through this whole visa process again.

[00:21:06] Taking the Home Office to court

Isabelle Roughol: [00:21:06] Mm. And so you decided that that time was... 2020 is it, when you when you applied again?

[00:21:12] Selda Shamloo: [00:21:12] Yes. it was 2020. I think one of the main reasons was obviously I couldn't wait any longer because I kept waiting for the situation to get better. I was observing how other people are getting visa and I could see again some rejections but then I noticed that the pattern was changing. There were more Iranians getting visa and I thought okay maybe it's maybe it's a good time. but also COVID happened as well and I really wanted to be able to have a chance to have my mum here in the UK with me because I couldn't go visit her as much as I wanted which was more than once a year. I wanted to be with her but I couldn't.

[00:21:52] So I thought let's just do it and Isa, it was hard. I mean COVID was hard for everyone. I think everyone has gone through so much through 2020. And then it was the same for me having gone through all of that emotional ups and downs, knowing that i had to deal with this again. It just wasn't easy for me. I think I dwelled on it for a couple of months before even starting it. And I knew that I had to talk to a solicitor because it was too risky to do it on my own again and having another rejection. The whole process of talking to a solicitor was very very useful, I'm glad we actually worked with a sollicitor, but it was very energy consuming. And I wasn't mentally in the best place to go dig into all the details of why I need my mum here so much. Why do I have to actually even prove it to these people? It's just basic human rights, you know? What why do I have to really do this now? But I had no other choice. I had to do it otherwise there was no other way for for me to get her here.

[00:23:05] Isabelle Roughol: [00:23:05] And the response that you got, can you read it to me, if you have it?

[00:23:09] Selda Shamloo: [00:23:09]. Let me actually... so "Dear Sir/Madam your application for a visit visa to the United Kingdom has been refused. What this means for you: any further UK visa application you make will be considered on their individual merits. However you're likely to be refused unless the circumstances of your application change. In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review."

[00:23:39] So that's the top line but obviously they go into details of why they think they should have rejected her and yet there's just so many errors in calculations in just basic rights that they're trying to justify here.

[00:23:58] Isabelle Roughol: [00:23:58] So no right of appeal. That's interesting. That's it? You don't get to make your case? You just, you're just, no and that's it?

[00:24:05] Selda Shamloo: [00:24:05] That's it. So I was really lucky that I worked with a solicitor on this because I was raged. I was so angry. I was feeling so many emotions when this response came through I hadn't felt discriminated against in personally in any shape or form, even with all the you know Visa situations, all the limitations that an Iranian passport brings. I personally hadn't felt being discriminated until this point. It was a, it kind of hit me in the face and I really felt that I'm being discriminated against just because someone can't accept the fact that my mum's situation is legitimate. And all the information we're giving them are legitimate and are right. And she has a comfortable life in Iran and she will go back to Iran. They just decided they don't want to give her visa.

[00:25:04] So the the the solicitor I worked with basically told us that we have two ways to go forward. One is again to apply, which was to be honest stupid. We knew that we were going to get rejected again. The next one was actually judicial review, which means taking Home Office to the court. So if we are very sure of our case, that is the best way forward, to just tell the Home Office that no we don't take this, you're not allowing us any right of appeal or anything. We want to take this situation to court, and we think you should give my Mum a visa, which is what we did.

[00:25:44] But again thinking about the whole process of taking Home Office to court was another burden honestly for me coming in December 2020. I just, I remember talking to my boyfriend at the time, I was telling him I can't, I just emotionally can't do this but I knew I had no other choice. And we had to go ahead with it. So just preparing all the documentations. What is called pre-action protocol, which is series of steps that you take to take a person or like home office to court. So we had to do that with with the solicitor to send it in early January 2021. And good news is that they came back within 14 days, which is their deadline, they usually have to come back to you, and they accepted to withdraw the rejection. Which is great news but there's still so many questions to be answered. So we're still waiting to hear from them whether now that they've withdrawn the rejection they're going to revisit the application and are they going to give my Mum a visa? Or are they going to say that we'll see you in court and we have to actually take the case to court?

[00:27:04] Isabelle Roughol: [00:27:04] That's a lot of work for a tourist visa for you know a few weeks of a visit.

[00:27:12] Selda Shamloo: [00:27:12] this is longest going to be six months. And she's not going to stay here for six months. The thing is, I would love for her to stay for six months but even when she gets that six months visa, just to prove to the Home Office that she's going to go back in time, usually best is for her to stay a couple of weeks, go back and come back again. That kind of gives them a better like reassurance in terms of her legitimacy after the situation, which is ridiculous.

[00:27:46] Isabelle Roughol: [00:27:46] Just to be clear. Does your Mum have any intention of, of moving to the UK, of living in the UK? Does she have any interest in that?

[00:27:55] Selda Shamloo: [00:27:55] Absolutely not. She's spent 65 years in Iran. She's got her community. She's got her sisters there. She's got her home there. And she's she's got her insurance, which is very useful actually for her, for what she needs at the moment as well. So it just makes a lot more sense for her to live in Iran and she's happy there, she's got a very established life. She has no intention of coming to the UK and staying here. She likes the country, but she likes it for a visit. She likes to be able to come and see her daughter, to see her daughter's flat. You know she hasn't seen the place I live in. She hasn't been around experiencing the life I experience every day. So that's all she wants to do. And also I've got like a one bedroom flat in London. I'm sure she's not going to be happy to stay in my one bedroom flat, when she's got her own place, comfortable.

[00:28:55] Isabelle Roughol: [00:28:55] And she's been in the UK before, and she's always left on time?

[00:29:00] Selda Shamloo: [00:29:00] Yes.. She's been in the UK before. She's actually been to the UK in early eighties once. And also together we used to visit the UK when my uncles were actually here, in the nineties, in summer when I didn't have school. So we'd come and visit them for a month or two and then we'd go back. And also when I was in Scotland, when I moved to study, then she did come twice, just stayed for a month or so and then she went back. So she never overstayed her visa. She never had any immigration issues or anything with any country or the UK. So like having to go through all of this is just, it's just ridiculous.

[00:29:50] The emotional impact of family separation

Isabelle Roughol: [00:29:50] What's been the impact on, on you and on your Mum of seeing so little of each other?

[00:29:57] Selda Shamloo: [00:29:57] It's, it's been devastating. I mean especially in 2020 when you really need each other. You really obviously want to have at least that chance to be able to kind of help each other. It's been very difficult.

[00:30:13] I only could go to Iran once a year and that once a year was only two weeks, at the maxiMom three weeks. And that's never been enough to, you know, connect really deeply together. And the reason for that, Isa, is you know, if if you're living in the same city or if you're living at least in a way that you can see each other easier every other weekend or every couple of months, you get the chance to experience those little moments together. Things like I don't know, things like shopping together, things like sitting down, having coffee and just asking "okay, how are you? How are things with you?" And I feel like I haven't really actually had that chance in the past few years because the two weeks that I would spend to go to Iran was really to make up for a whole year that I wouldn't be there. So as a daughter I would run errands for her. I would, would try and do things, I don't know financial things that she might need help with, anything that she might need help from a daughter that is now there it can help her. Even like little things like "Oh my mobile, it doesn't work, this this bit here, this button doesn't work." Or "that thing I don't know what to do with." and I would just try and fix that in those two weeks, and I wouldn't really get a chance to connect with her deeply the way I really want to as a as a mother and daughter.

[00:31:40] So I think that's that's that's a very heavy thing to carry and I sometimes forget that it's there but I think it just affects you in your everyday life. Not having that connection not having that deep conversations that you can have with your mum or with your with my friends back home as well. it's just missing but I think I go every day my life not realizing it and then just suddenly realize, I'm just I'm really short tempered, I'm very... I feel like I'm actually carrying a lot but I don't know. I can't really pinpoint what that is. Then when you take time and think about it, you kind of unravel it then you think, Oh okay, there's all these layers of emotion that's there. Things that are not being fulfilled, things that you actually need to deal with, but you really don't get the chance. And it's kind of like heavy on your shoulders.

[00:32:43] So I think for me, from my side it's been that. And I'm sure It's the same for my Mum. But again asI told you, I don't really get the chance to ask her how she is that deeply. I try and do it sometimes over FaceTime and I know she opens up to me sometimes, but it's not the same as you know holding her hand and letting her talk about it. Like for example actually we managed to go to Turkey a couple of years ago. And the reason actually we did that was instead of me going to Iran, I organized a trip for us to go to Turkey to actually get this chance. And it was one of, one week that's just meant so much to her. Just seeing her happy smiling, just her eyes shining when we'd go shopping together, things that she'd love to experience with her daughter and it felt like she hasn't experienced it for so many years, for like over 10 years. And now is the chance, there's five days, there's six days that she can literally do these little things with her daughter. I think that was, that was when I really realized what I've missed and how how different my experiences may be to so many other people where they have that opportunity to be with their parents when they want to. I think that really hit me then.

[00:34:13] "Going back to Iran would be a second immigration"

Isabelle Roughol: [00:34:13] Have you ever thought about just giving up and returning to Iran, giving up the immigrant life?

[00:34:21] Selda Shamloo: [00:34:21] , I have. And I still think about it. I think there is... there's two things. I mean there's one thing at the back of my mind that obviously my Mum's gonna grow older, hopefully she's going to be healthy to be able to do her thing. But you never know, you never know what life brings. So that is always at the back of my mind that I don't know maybe there comes a point that I have to drop everything and be there for her. And I'm open to that. I just don't know what to expect.

[00:34:50] Intentionally would I ever go back to Iran? I have thought about it. I think even more so during 2020 with with COVID. Just the importance of family, the importance of having that network of people around you. I think it was highlighted for me this year. And I have thought about it. I don't know whether I'd do it. I don't know when I'll do it. But I'm not closed to the fact. I know it's going to be difficult and when I think about it to me, it's another immigration. Because I haven't lived in my own country for 15 years and Iran, it's a developing country so things change so quickly. You go this year and then you go next year, so many things have changed even in like the look of Tehran. There is thousand more cafes that have popped out. People, the way they work are different. The economy has changed so much. So there's so much for me to just try and catch up on that when I think about going back to Iran, it is another immigration for sure. I have to rebuild things. I have to rebuild a life.

[00:35:57] So I think in that way, I'm a bit worried about it. I'm a bit afraid of it, but I know that it could be inevitable at some point in my life. And I may, I don't know in a couple of years, I may think about going back to Iran if I know I can do anything there that would kind of give back and still keeps myself happy as well. I think I would do that.

[00:36:26] "A lot more people can understand my story now."

[00:36:26] I tell you one thing though: it might, It may sound very selfish but it doesn't come from a selfish place. But when COVID happened and you know, obviously so many people in the world couldn't travel, so many people in the world couldn't be with their loved ones and you could see how upset angry everyone is, I think there was a moment that I thought "Oh a lot more people can really understand my story now." They actually can't go and share moments with their loved ones. They can't be with loved ones on Christmas for example. They can't be with their loved ones during their birthday. it it it kind of, I did think about it and I was like "Oh maybe a lot more people now understand it. That's interesting." It's not, it's very sad that so many people had to go through it. But I think for me, it was like, "Oh, this is, this is just the same thing I've been dealing with for 15 years. It's nothing new to me." And that was for a reason to keep us safe this year, not to see each other. But the reason for me not to be able to see my mum, I never figured out what it was. Just borders. Just something that we've built and called borders. I can't really think of any other reason.

[00:37:46] Isabelle Roughol: [00:37:50] If you want to understand how a family that so easily traveled, even migrated to the UK in the eighties, the nineties, and as recently as 2007, finds itself suddenly treated like an enemy of the state, you need to understand, yes, the British-Iran relationship, though that was never particularly sunny, but also the hostile environment policy of the Home Office, which has made being difficult to immigrants especially and travelers into a policy and an art form.

[00:38:21] I talked last year to immigration lawyer Colin Yeo, who's written a whole book about that. And it was really a fascinating conversation, I think it really helps illuminate Selda's situation from a different angle. So please listen to that episode if you haven't yet, I'll make sure to put a link in the show notes.

[00:38:37] Thank you for listening. Please share the podcast around you with the global citizens in your life and join as a member to help keep this alive. You'll find everything you need at borderlinepod.com. A big thank you this week to Selda Shamloo and to new member Marcus Whaley.

[00:38:53] I'm your host, Isabelle Roughol. Music is by Ofshane. Borderline is a One Lane Bridge production.

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Isabelle Roughol

Journalist. Founder & host of Borderline. Former international editor of LinkedIn, foreign editor at Le Figaro, reporter at The Cambodia Daily. Global soul, messy accent.


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