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Interview: Halleh Ghorashi, ACCESS Summer 2011

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Interview: Halleh Ghorashi, ACCESS Summer 2011

  1. 1. Getting to know... Halleh Ghorashi As a 17 year-old activist in Iran, In 1988, Halleh had to leave Iran, and seeking asylum in the Netherlands she embraced her freedom with huge energy: learning Dutch and gaining Halleh Ghorashi discovered admission to study for a degree in Cultural Anthropology within a year of her when the revolution came in arrival. Flourishing as an academic and having published much research on multicultural issues over the years, since 2005 she has gained further respect 1979, that you can change the as a specially appointed Professor. With support from high profile figures such world. However, two years after as Princess Máxima, the role is intended to help improve the situation for immigrants in the Netherlands. the revolution came repression. Barred from going to university “It is difficult to change society as a whole”, she recognises, “but it is possi- ble to change your situation within a society; to find safe spaces and net- and having a place in public life, works where you can be yourself and nurture positive energy.” With a new her empowerment became wave of revolutions stirring across the world and our own sensitivities to the immigration and multicultural issues in the Netherlands, now seems like a disempowerment as she found good time to get to know one of our local revolutionaries a bit more... herself forced to put her education and, it seemed, her A mini Proust Questionnaire: whole life on hold. What is your idea of perfect happiness? To be true to yourself. When and where were you happiest? During the revolution. Although I’d say it was para- dise and hell at the same time. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Assertiveness, here [in the Netherlands], it is often taken too far. Which living person do you most despise? I believe that people are products of circum- stance, so I find it difficult to despise anyone. What is your greatest regret? That I didn’t spend more time with my mother. She still lives in Iran and I’m not allowed to go back. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I have already changed so much; from being a dogmatic revolutionary to a much more calm person. I suppose I would like to be more patient and enjoy life more. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? I feel like I have already died and come back - once is enough! Coming here as a refugee was like getting a new life. PHOTO: GUUS DUBBELMAN Who are your heroes in real life? The women leaders now in Iran. What is your motto? Stay positive and bring out the positive in others. To find out more about Halleh Ghorashi, and her work as PaVEM-chair in Management of Diversity and Integration in the Department of Organisation Sciences of Faculty of Social Sciencesat the VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands see: www.hallehghorashi.com. 50 | access | summer

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