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STATISTICS:
A total of 175 million people (3 percent of the World’s population) resided outside of their country of birth as of 2001, and 20 million of these people were refugees.
In 1982, there were an estimated 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eleven countries; two decades later, there are as many as 25 million IDPs in more than 40 nation-states.
20 Years
Asa Soltan Rahmati
IranGALLERYCONVERSATION
There is a Sufi fable about a group of people called the islanders. These people live on an island for years and years under fear and strict rule.

They are not allowed to explore the water around their island, so they live in continuous fear of what’s beyond the horizon. Then one day they become enlightened and courageous, build a boat, and go together to explore what lies beyond their shores.

The Sufis believe that this fable is a parable of the human mind and spirit, unwilling at first to expand and explore. The image in red across the face you see here is the fable written in Arabic calligraphy, with the letters and words actually depicting the boat and the islanders paddling.

I’ve used this particular story in my self-portrait, entitled 20 Years (by the way, this self-portrait consists of two pieces, Self Portrait 1983 and Self Portrait 2003, hence 20 Years) because I am an Iranian woman in the Diaspora. There is no blueprint or map set up for me as an Iranian woman who grew up in Germany and the United States. We children of the Diaspora are in a peculiar position of not belonging to one world or another.

From the day I left Iran in 1984 at the age of eight, I have never been home again or had a home again. Even more interesting is that even if I could return to Iran today I would still not be home.

The idea of home in the mind of a refugee becomes a distant fetish that is never again attainable and naturally transforms into a longing, a river of delicious sadness that forever lives inside her heart.
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Anjali (India)
i really appreciate your story and i must admit that i've wondered how it wld be like being a refuge. maybe a state of detachment or maybe a state of spiritual, but after reading ur story i feel we all are refuges' as we all dont really belong to this world but another one. we've just borrowed a few hours and ofcourse a bit of the tangible land.
saxony j
I appreciate your story...but what do you mean by not belonging...I have learned to not be attached to any nation or thing to define self...I believe home is in the heart, mind and soul of oneself...If you don't belong there how can you belong anywhere....
but I see your dilemma...it takes time to journey to achieve the human mind and spirit of oneself
Behfar Bastani (United States)
I didn't know words could express this longing which, as years pile up, seems more unlikely to fulfill. But Asa's words do so beautifully.
Mahshid (United States)
Asa, Reading your thoughts on the lost home concept for refugees literally brought tears to my eyes - ok, so I cried like a baby. Then I read it to three of my friends and cried again every single time. You've put in words what I have felt for 20 years and have never been able to express. Maybe the only way to rectify this is to make the world our home - I can see you're doing that already.
Sara (Iran)
I also share the same feelings with Asa. In fact, after living in the States for 10 years, I did go back "home" to Iran, but didn't feel at home. I'd like to think that I'm a "citizen of Earth", or that my home is simply inside me. But it doesn't always work! I long to be home, only that "home" is nothing but a distant childhood memory.
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