Nika Jazaee dreams of the full integration of Iran into today’s global culture.
When I moved to London three years ago I knew it was only a matter of time before cravings for my mother’s Persian cuisine was going to kick in. I didn’t doubt that London would have several Iranian restaurants or shops. But I did start off by heading over to the nearest Sainsbury’s to buy basic ingredients for the dishes I wanted to cook. I couldn’t find the right herbs or dried limes that I was desperately looking for. I continued walking through the section for Indian food, Thai food, Mexican food and so on, without any luck.
However, I started to Google around and it was a bit complicated to find an Iranian shop near me. I was living in East Ham at that time, and I managed to find a shop in South East London called “Persepolis” (capital of the old Persian Empire). I read through the positive reviews and headed all the way south of the river to buy myself some Persian goodies.
Since UN sanctions against Iran were finally lifted, I have been going back to this experience over and over again. Will there soon be more Iranian shops around? Will people actually know what I am talking about when I go on about dried limes in a lamb stew? Could Iranian cuisine become more mainstream in a city with approximately 90 000 Iranians currently living in it?
I have been reading through various articles about investment opportunities. It is true that the country of my birth has many possibilities for economic growth. Many of my own relatives are traveling back to see about opening a shop, or something similar. My best friend is planning to buy land in the country.
Could this trend happen the other way around? Will people actually start investing more in Iranian cuisine, cinema or art over here? Will the lifting of sanctions finally shed some positive light on a country – mine – which has been the target of international criticism for longer than my lifetime.
I wish it were that simple. The recent agreement led to only some sanctions being removed, and most of them still remain in place. Recently the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said “our banking trade, our efforts to return wealth from their banks, various kinds of businesses that require financial services, all of these are still facing problems.”
The reason why America is not lifting all its sanctions is because according to the US State Department, Iran is still involved in terrorism and abuses human rights. Leaving aside the vexed question of whether Iran’s ‘involvement’ and ‘abuse’ are any more culpable than the USA’s, the fact is that more than half of the sanctions are still in place, Iran’s economy growth continues to be limited.
The people of Iran seem fairly optimistic about the situation. However, with their neighboring countries falling apart (or coming close), it does worry me that even now my home remains under severe pressure – intensified by oppressive sanctions.
Meanwhile I continue to dream of a Persian cuisine section at Sainsbury’s.