Middle Eastern families on the move

Middle Eastern families are emigrating in large numbers. The reasons are different for each family: some are forced out of their home countries by persecution or conflict, while others are pulled to new locations by better social and economic opportunities. What is common among them, though, is the struggle to integrate into their new surroundings.

A recent episode of SAT-7 PARS program Insiders explored the phenomenon of culture shock, looking at how families can give themselves the best chance of remaining mentally healthy and socially connected while emigrating. Special guest Dr Nima Orazani, – who has a PhD in Social Psychology, was welcomed onto the show by presenter Hengameh Borji.

UPROOTING A TREE

Moving your entire family to a new country brings challenges not faced by singles or couples, and which Nima and the team discussed in detail. “The picture is more complex for families,” she said, “because when a whole family emigrates it is like you uproot a tree from its setting and try to set it in a new place. When the whole family unit is uprooted, and is then inserted into a new country with a new cultural environment, it comes up against problems.”

Nima presented research showing that families approach and respond to migration in four different ways. Some fully maintain their old culture (this leads to separation); some fully adopt the new culture (assimilation); some blend the two together (integration); while others get lost in between the old and the new, unable to embody either (marginalisation).

“Research has shown that most often the best response is ‘integration’, because it allows people to maintain their mental health,” said Nima, “through preserving our own culture and yet connecting with elements of the culture in which we find ourselves.”

ADAPTABILITY

At the heart of SAT-7’s social-impact programming is a desire to help viewers grow as people and maintain healthy relationships. To do this, SAT-7’s programs explore the key values exhibited in healthy relationships. Interestingly, the conversation on Insiders came back to one value again and again: adaptability. “Families sometimes don’t see that their values are dynamic and can change,” said Nima. “Some elements of those values might be wrong while others can be right.”

Presenter Hengameh agreed, pointing to the role of parents in adapting and evolving the family’s culture. “I think that it is very important that as parents we examine ourselves and the values that we are holding on to,” she said. “Sometimes it may be necessary for us to actively make choices and pick battles that are worth fighting. We should ask if the particular thing we are trying to preserve is of value or if we are trying to preserve just for the sake of it.”

To some extent, everybody struggles with change. But in a region where exploring new ideas can have serious consequences, families find it especially hard to take on new values and adapt to new cultures. Through careful dialogue, SAT-7 is hoping to aid Middle Eastern families as they move to new places, in their minds as well as on the map.

NEW PROGRAMMING

To further support Persian-speaking viewers on the move, SAT-7 PARS has produced a new program entitled Along the Borders, which will be launched on social media this month. Featuring expert guest speakers Mohammad Olyaeifard, Attorney at Law, Dr Saeed Peyvandi, Professor of Sociology, and Dr Setareh Kavousi, a psychologist, Along the Borders examines the legal, social, and psychological challenges individuals face before, during, and after they become refugees. The program seeks to support viewers who are on this journey to make informed decisions while also providing the general viewer with a better understanding of and insight into the challenges that people on the move can face.

Read stories from SAT-7 PARS’ viewers in Iran and Afghanistan here.

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