My two truths…
- My family were forced to flee Iran in 1998.
- I’m a filmmaker and have produced music videos for artists like YungBlud.
And a lie…
- Being a refugee made me less able to achieve my dreams.
I left Iran at the age of eight with nothing. But I was always determined to follow my dreams and have now built myself a new life, a family and a successful career in film.
I was born in Tehran in 1990. My family follow the Baháʼí Faith and people like us have always been persecuted in Iran. We’re often physically abused and shunned by the rest of society. We’re even banned from higher education.
My mum didn’t want this life for her children. She dreamed that my brother and I would go to university and make something of ourselves. So in 1998, when I was just eight years old, my family left Tehran and sought asylum in neighbouring Turkey.
We were lucky to have family friends over there and managed to register with the UN. But we still had to move from place to place all the time – often sleeping in cramped, uncomfortable conditions and relying on the kindness of strangers.
Iranian refugee and filmmaker Samin Saadat discusses his journey to find his identity – an identity he had hidden away for so long. 👇https://t.co/LOUK3ulikL
— UK for UNHCR (@UNRefugeesUK) October 12, 2022
I remember arriving in one town very late at night, not knowing a single person there. My mum went to a police station and asked if they knew any Baháʼí families. After a few hours of waiting, a local family arrived and were good enough to take us into their own home. They looked after us until we could find a place of our own and I’ll never forget how generous they were to us.
After nearly two years in Turkey, we were resettled in the UK through UNHCR. Living in Essex, I was finally able to go to school again. But things were tough for me – the other kids would bully me or shout ‘You’re a refugee!’, like it was an insult. I didn’t get much support from the teachers either.
Before long, I began to feel like a total outcast. This feeling ate into me and made me ashamed of my own culture. If I wanted to fit in, I felt I had no choice but to disown my heritage and disconnect from everything to do with Iran.
Yet despite all the bullying, I did well at school and won myself a place at university. I never forgot how lucky I was to be getting an education and didn’t want to squander my opportunities after all my family had been through.
I ended up graduating with a first-class degree in filmmaking and started working for companies like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Slowly, I progressed into more senior roles, producing short films, commercials for brands like Red Bull, and music videos for artists like YungBlud, B Young and Lang Lang.
But after a conversation with my wife during lockdown, I started on a different path. She said to me, “I think you need to stop helping other people tell their stories and start to tell your own.”
Inspired by her words, I began a journey to rediscover my identity – an identity I had hidden away for so long. I’d spent much of my life distancing myself from my culture and disliking everything it stood for. But now, I’m determined to reclaim It. I want to shout about being a refugee and show that people like me can still achieve their goals and dreams.
To me, refugees shouldn’t be dismissed for what they are, but celebrated for what’s within them. That’s why I’ve written two short films that tackle the perception of race and culture within society. And I can’t wait to get them out into the world – it feels great to be reconnecting with my heritage, rediscovering who I am and proving that refugees like me can go on to achieve their dreams.
To read more stories like Samin’s, please visit this page.