Nazila (18) was born in Iran and came to The Netherlands in 2006 with her parents. She grew up in The Netherlands. She identifies herself as Hazara and an Asian woman.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Until I was 16, they were very strict about rules. After I became 16, they slowly let go of the rules and put the responsibility on myself so that I could be independent in life later on.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I’m lucky I can discuss everything with them. They’re very open-minded. In my environment, I see that my peers can also discuss everything with their parents and that is nice to see.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
Yeah, I’ve always been curious about my background and my ethnicity. Because of this curiosity, I did a DNA test to see what my origins are. I’m so glad I did it.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
No matter how bad the racist remarks and humiliations were, I have never been ashamed of my Asian appearance. I did think about changing my name because a lot of people pronounce my name as Nazi-la and that really bothered me. I think differently now and I am glad that I have a unique name.
Did you ever have a role model when you grew up?
Lucy Liu has been my role model. I always got a strong, feminist and independent feeling when I looked at her. I think it is very important to have a role model because it is an important development in your life.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
The media puts Asians in a bad light and the stereotypes, characterization about Asians is also something that is not okay. The media is responsible for this. I would like Asians to have a more serious role in the media. I don’t know how I could change it because I have nothing to do with the media but if I ever got the chance I would.
What made you who you are now?
I think my personality is shaped by how people have treated me. The people I’ve seen in the media etc. have also played a big role in my life.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese?
I’ve been called Chinese my whole life, but I didn’t mind. I did mind if I got remarks like ‘stupid Chinese‘ etc.. In the beginning it hurt a lot to hear such remarks but after a while I didn’t pay much attention to them. Those people wanted to provoke reactions and I wanted to prevent that. I have always seen such people as inferior and you shouldn’t waste time on them.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
I think people learn these things from the media or from their parents. I think people keep doing this because Asians are generally quiet and there has never been a big protest against this.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
That I eat animals you’re not supposed to eat but I’m a vegetarian, so you can see the stereotyping. These kinds of remarks don’t make me angry or sad because I know I don’t do it and I never will.
Do you have any Iranese stereotypes, and do you identify with those stereotypes?
A terrorist, if you say you came from or grew up in the Middle East. It’s so bad, I don’t even want to talk about it.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced?
The worst racist experience I’ve ever had was at school. I had turned down a guy and he said he could order a Chinese like that and not even want my Babi pang pang head. This may sound childish now but at that moment it broke my heart. The fact that he was so sweet to me before that and could make such racist remarks through a little argument was what hurt me the most.
What is a funny trait or what is something that not everyone knows about you?
I can very well mimic some accents and sometimes animal sounds
In Asian culture, it is normal as a woman to get married as soon as possible, have children, and become a housewife. Because when you have a husband, you have children, you have “made” it in life. How do you see it?
I wouldn’t marry at a young age. My career is at the top of my list. As far as children are concerned, I wouldn’t want children at all. If I ever have children, I wouldn’t let them grow up in Europe. I don’t want anyone to experience the racism I’ve experienced, nor my children. I would feel very guilty if that happens.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m in high school at the moment and I still have to choose which study I want to do. I would like to study economics abroad and I would like to live in an Asian country in the future.
What do you want to give to the readers? What do you hope to achieve?
I hope that people stand up more for each other in this society, especially for people who are weaker. I hope people teach their children and others the norms and values. I want people to understand that remarks like ‘chingchangchong’ and ‘panki’ etc. really can’t be done and that racism against Asians will be taken more seriously in the future. I hope that in 10 years I will be able to say that I am an Asian-Dutch person and that I will feel comfortable with these words.
Where can we follow you?