Audio Recording of Interview
Yasmine speaks about her family’s experience as refugees from Iran, smuggled across the Mexico-U.S. border, and the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and language for her and her brother. She talks about how her Muslim faith connected her to both her Iranian and Islamic communities in the U.S., especially after 9/11, and how her life as a refugee and struggles with religious discrimination inspired her to enter politics.
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Narrator: Yasmine Taeb
Location: Washington, DC
Summary: Yasmine speaks about her family’s experience as refugees from Iran, smuggled across the Mexico-U.S. border, and the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and language for her and her brother. She talks about how her Muslim faith connected her to both her Iranian and Islamic communities in the U.S., especially after 9/11, and how her life as a refugee and struggles with religious discrimination inspired her to enter politics.
Topics: escaping violence, resettlement, family, faith, abuse of power, 9/11, religious intolerance, acclimation, racism, diversity, belonging
Section 1: (00:00 - 11:23)
Fleeing - Yasmine’s father had obtained a visa for the US and left Iran which left Yasmine - at the time six years old - forced to leave Iran with her mother and siblings, because her brother was about to get drafted to the military at the age of 15.
Obtaining a Visa - Yasmine’s family fled from Iran to Turkey and there they tried multiple times to get a visa to join their father in the US. Finding no other option, Yasmine’s mother hired a smuggler to get them to the US. This journey took them through Mexico and led them to the border between California and Mexico.
Consequences of the Conflict - Common occurrences in Iran due to the conflicts occurring there were losing electricity, sirens, going into underground bunkers, and finding out classmates had passed away.
Detention Center - Yasmine and her family were caught at the Mexican border and put into a detention center for about two weeks. They were advised not to apply for asylum and instead waited for Yasmine’s father to pay for them to leave, essentially bailing them out on a bond.
Section 2: (11:23 - 17:51)
Resettlement - Yasmine recalls that if her mother had applied to come to the US through a refugee resettlement process, they would not have been authorized. Taking the chance of getting caught and crossing the border unauthorized was their best chance of survival.
School - Yasmine felt one of the hardest parts about transitioning to the US was the fact that no one in her family spoke English. Since she was only six years old, it wasn't as difficult for her to transition into American culture and schools as it was for her older brother, who was around 15. In the transition, he lost all his friends and had to adjust to a whole new environment while also trying to figure out who he is.
Muslim Community - There was not a large Muslim community in Flordia, so Yasmine and her family did not get much support from them. However, her dad had some Iranian American friends who helped them with the transition.
Section 3: (17:51 - 27:27)
Faith - In Yasmine’s family, faith played a very large role. She acknowledges that a lot of Iranian Americans blame the religion of Islam for the rise of the government, while her family has been able to make the distincion between their faith and what was happening to them. Yasmine’s mother especially held onto her faith as they escaped Iran and tried to find a way to the US.
9/11- Faith played an even bigger role after 9/11. Many members of the Muslim community felt their religion and community were under attack, which ultinately shifted how they viewed their own faith.
Mindset - Yasmine states that faith played a large role in her life but even to this point, it is her mindset that has gotten where she is at the moment. She knows that when she is faced with a difficulty, there is a reason for it and eventually she will understand that reason.
Section 4: (27:27 - 36:46)
Refugee Resettlement- Yasmine wants others to understand what refugees go through. She especially wants the administration in the US to understand that refugees come to the US for a better life because they have no other choice and that if they understood what refugees were going through, they would be more sympathetic.
Discrimination - When running for election, Yasmine faced discrimination through anti-Iran, anti-Muslim, and nti-immigrant sentiment. On a daily basis she would get verbally attacked, and local newspapers were sent multiple letters about Yasmine, by individuals who felt discriminated against because Yasmine was not born in Virginia.
Persistence - No matter what discrimintaion Yasmine faced, she stood strong in her beliefs and did not let other people's sentiments get to her. She fought for what she believed in.
9/11 - Yasmine got interested in politics after 9/11. It made her realize that there's a need in her community for people to stand up for each other and build up that sense of community. The events of 9/11 really put that into perspective for Yasmine.
Section 5: (36:46 - 51:04)
Rights - Yasmine was constantly fighting for the rights of Muslims. The government would say that organizations that are meant to help Muslims are terrorist organizations and take away their funding.
Interfaith Work - At college, Yasmine would organize different interfaith gatherings to build relations between people of similar backgrounds and start to build a community among these people.
Discrimination - To deal with all the discrimination Yasmine faced during her campaign, she did her best to ignore it. She also did op-eds, calling out the discriminatory behaviour.
Community - Yasmine, with one of her colleagues, started an initiative called the Refugees Welcome Initiative to make refugees in her community feel more welcome. They would give welcome packages to the refugees, offer advice, and provide guidance. It was a way to get the refugees introduced into their faith communities and help them feel a little less alone in the whole process of transitioning.