Zapparoli-Manzoni-Bodson, ‘The Making of the Iranian Refugee’, 2015
Alizee Zapparoli-Manzoni-Bodson, ‘The Making of the Iranian Refugee: From Revolution to Asylum’, Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice, November 2015
This paper follows the narratives and trajectories of Iranian asylum-seekers in Turkey as they undergo the process of applying for refugee status through the UNHCR. Ethnographic work conducted in three satellite cities, Yalova, Eskişehir, and Denizli, reveals the dynamic narratives of Iranian asylum-seekers as they grapple with their past and attempt to forge new identities while they navigate their way through difficult institutional frameworks. The findings of this study offer an overview of the different groupings of asylum-seekers and their narratives, including Azaris, political activists, members of the LGBT community, and members of religious groups including, Christians and Baha’i. Furthermore, this paper argues that the oppressive frameworks imposed on these individuals as they apply for asylum-seeker and subsequently refugee status create an environment that fosters the form of dynamism needed to fit within the parameters of the 1951 Refugee Convention’s criteria. Engaging the application of Ian Hacking’s notion of dynamic nominalism to the refugee category with the narratives of Iranians in Turkey offers insights into the performance of the refugee identity and how this process and the state of limbo experienced in Turkey impacts upon greater collective interpretations of the past, the homeland, the nation, ethnic identity, as well as present and future aspirations. Finally, parallels are drawn to narratives found in diasporic literary texts that further demonstrate the impacts of shifting identity.
Keywords: Iranian asylum-seekers; Refugee Status Determination (RSD); transit migration; Turkish Asylum Policy; dynamic nominalism; narrative