One of many reasons why I started this podcast was that I could see how easily misconceptions and stereotypes about a certain country or people can develop, often from ignorance or unquestioningly accepting what they see in the media. Often it takes a personal connection for people to start to question their misguided views.
I feel like Iran is one of those places about which the gap between perceptions and reality are particularly large. We rarely hear good news from Iran and often conflate the government with the people, and many people don't realise that the Iranian or Persian culture is very distinct ( though similar also) to those of the Arab countries around it.
So it was really great to have the opportunity to talk to Melika, who is very far from the image many Australians might have of religious zealots with long beards, though, in my own experience of Iranians, she is not atypical either. But if I try to tell people : "Iranians are not like this...", it is never going to have the same impact as hearing someone like Melika in her own words.
But my interviews are not just about the culture and country, and no one person can tell you everything about their culture or be seen as a "typical" representative. I'm also always searching for the personal elements to each story, and there were many interesting aspects that I think people will be able to identify with regardless of their cultural background.
Of course, many of us can relate to the struggles and challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic. But not so many of us have had the experience of moving to a new country and only three weeks later have the door slammed behind you as international borders closed, with no job or government support in a place where you know no one. This was the challenge Melika and her husband faced last year in Tasmania.
It was also interesting to hear about Melika's childhood dream - to become an architect, a dream she has fulfilled. It's interesting to see the different influences on peoples' lives and Melika's choice of architecture was based partly by her mother, who was constantly doing renovations of some sort at their home. We also talked about the historic achievements of Persian architecture, including how old Persian building designed to control the heat is now a model for sustainable architecture currently.
While this is just a taste of a rich and complex culture, I hope people get a better sense of the warmth, generosity, hospitality and passion that are all strong qualities of Iranian culture.