The Paris Review

One Word: Avareh

I have lived outside Iran, my home country, for almost a decade, and I am yet to know what to call myself.

Australia and the U.S. have been my hosts, so the labels I have at my disposal belong to the English vocabulary: immigrant, exilé, refugee, expatriate. The term “immigrant” derives from the Latin root migrare, which means “to change residence or condition.” In its contemporary usage it refers to someone who has left one nation or territory in order to take residence in another. Exilé, from exul, or “banished person,” is a term for those banished from their native country or community. Refugee, a compound of re and fugere, to flee, describes a person, often violently displaced, seeking shelter outside of their country of origin. Expatriate, literally out (ex-) of the native land (patria), suggests a willing abandonment of one’s homeland.

All these terms have one thing in common: an intrinsic connection to the state. You have immigrant or refugee status only when, one is thrown into a nexus of power at the center of which the state looms large.

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