Her følger en artikel af den canadiske journalist Abouali Farmanfarmaian, der forklarer, hvordan "fremmedartet" udseende mennesker i stigende grad bliver udsat for racebestemt forfølgelse verden over:

Third World Border Hysteria

Mistaken for a terrorist. Interrogated by guards. Wanted by Interpol. A passport stating “Place of birth: Tehran” can mean a rough time travelling through the global village.

By Abouali Farmanfarmaian

Last February, I was stopped at the Canadian border as a terrorist. It was six weeks after Ahmed Ressam, a young man of Algerian origin, was arrested crossing into the U.S. from Vancouver. He was later charged with intent to blow up a millennium bash or two.

The Montreal Urban Community police had recently warned people to be on the look out for Algerian and Muslim “gangster-terrorist thieves” in the city. Eleven Algerians had been rounded up on terrorism charges. Ressam’s alleged accomplice, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, still has a five million dollar price on his head.

I am not Algerian. I am a Canadian citizen of Iranian origin who suffers from Third World Border Hysteria. Symptoms range from feelings of vulnerability usually seen in abandoned toddlers to seizures and a puckered sphincter at passport control booths. When it comes to borders, I think there is no reason or logic to being stopped and questioned. I think borders were erected just to nab me. I think border guards eat their young.

Borders are for special people, and since the 1979 U.S./Iran hostage crisis, I’ve had a string of lessons in the petty rituals of border crossing. Visas, applications, statements, notarized documents. It seemed like I needed a visa to go see a soccer game. In the ’80s, my Iranian passport had so many visas that a passport control officer had to turn it sideways to get enough space between other stamps to place his own. I’ve been turned back from the border of Sweden while Eurailing as a teenager, laughed at by Belgian patrols on a train, refused entry into France. I’ve been pulled aside by the Brits, the Swiss, the Americans, the Italians, the Dutch. I think I’ve been held up at pretty much every major Western border. Hell, I was once interrogated for five hours at the airport in Cairo.

With an Iranian passport, you get used to it. When I was sworn in as a Canadian and received my hallowed blue document I thought it would be all over. It wasn’t.

February 2000, Champlain, Quebec — the kind of place with a single highway, lots of rural roads and nothing in between but people with strong opinions about aliens. Like every other Canadian passport, mine has a blue cover and a government of Canada stamp. Inside, it says, “The bearer of this passport is a Canadian citizen.” But it also says, “Place of birth: Tehran, Iran.” My passport has an old picture of me, with a beard and long hair drawn back in a ponytail.

“Mais c’est pas vous ça!”

I think she’s joking. I laugh. She doesn’t.

“Oui, bien sur que c’est moi.”

She covers my photograph up to the eyes with her palm. And then she asks if I’m Algerian.

“Non, je suis canadien.”

“Oui, oui, mais d’origine?”

I point to my passport, to where it says, “Place of birth: Tehran, Iran.” I can tell she’s computing, that her brain’s using all its extra RAM: Iranian connections, Algerian terrorist, Big Catch, promotion.

I answer all her questions honestly and simply but I’m getting nervous. My mouth is dry. Third World Border Hysteria kicks in. Handing me a pink slip, she points me to another section. The section soon fills up with brown faces. Their luggage is searched, they are interrogated, they pass through.

All of a sudden I’m there on my own. That’s when it finally hits me: the pink slip means they’re running a check on you.

Five minutes later, the phone rings. She speaks and then walks over with a swagger, and a dagger in her eyes. Ready to bury it in my back. Ready to claim that promotion.

“Have you ever had any problems with the law?”

“No. Never. Of course not.” I’m still calm, thinking this is a trap. Make me trip. Make me fall. Make me incriminate myself. They want to see my eyes shift, my hands tremble. They want to see me pee my pants and wet the plastique I’m hiding in my pocket.

“You’ve had no problems with the law?”

“No. Never.”

“You are sure you’re telling me the truth?”


“Well, monsieur, you are wanted by Interpol!” I can still see that face, flushed the colour of boiled shrimp with her sense of victory.


“Oui. Vous.”

“Moi?” I ask again. And again. “Moi? Moi?”

“Arretez de dire moi! moi!”

“Moi?” I didn’t know what else to say.

At least Interpol has more cachet than the Sûreté du Québec. I mean, if you’re going to get carted away it might as well be by the international police. But for what? Is there anything in my past? In my bag? My mind races.

I think back to the ’80s, to the long spate of hijackings, bombings and other incidents between 1979 when the U.S. hostages were taken in Iran and 1987 when everyone, including the terrorists, got a severe case of terrorism fatigue.

I was in Heathrow right smack in the middle of all that. The officer was taking too long to clear me. I had an Iranian passport at the time, but I had all the right visas. He was flipping through one of two volumes of a green tome, each one thicker than War and Peace. The title said Interpol. It was a list of names, a directory of the wanted. And he was not on F (for my last name) but on A, looking through page after page of names that not only started with A but with Abou or Abu. As in Abouali, my first name. As in Abu Abbass and Abu Nidal and Abu al-Harb (Abu means “father of” in Arabic), all of which are noms de guerre adopted by those ’80s terrorists responsible for the hijackings and embassy bombings.

Fifteen years, one nationality and five full-time jobs later, at the Canadian border, all I can think of is that day when I realized that though I may not be a terrorist, my name is. I want to tell the border guard my Heathrow story. Talk sense into her and make her realize the error. Hey, I’m not your man. I’m just some dude who... who... who worked at the UN, damn it!

“But are you still working there?”


“Did you quit or were you fired?” That’s what she was driving at: the UN as a hotbed of third-world terrorists.

“What is my crime?”

“I don’t know. We have to wait for another phone call.”

So I wait and she waits and the bus driver and the passengers on the bus wait. Right outside the window, staring in at me. Then the phone rings again and she jots down some notes on a pad and she waves the bus away. I wave at the passengers.

“You have five arrest warrants.”

OK, catch me ’cause I’m about to pass out. Not one, not two, but five. Conspiracy to bomb major U.S. targets including MTV headquarters, crossing borders carrying dirty thoughts... I don’t know. “They are all for overdue parking tickets,” she says, disappointed.

Usually people are stopped for parking violations and later turn out to be terrorists. But I have to be stopped as a terrorist only to be cuffed for parking tickets. It’s a little unheroic. Undignified even. The Sûreté du Québec arrived 20 minutes later and escorted me to Montreal, to the main precinct on Guy Street where I would be held in custody if I were unable to pay the parking tickets. At the precinct, they put all my possessions in a yellow bag and then took my bank card, ran it through a direct debit machine and poof, two months’ rent was transferred to the city.

The most elating experience I’ve ever had was to pass through three frontiers — Holland, Belgium, France — without ever crossing a border. Frontiers are different from borders. Frontiers are the perimeters of a territory. They are disputed, changed, expanded, retracted. They are delineated by mountains, rivers, wars, peace agreements, diplomats. Borders, on the other hand, are just there, fixed, no matter where they might be. When you fly into an airport, for example, you cross the frontier long before you cross the border. You only cross the border once you manage to get past the immigration desk.

Frontiers define the silhouette of a country. Borders define its character.

I had a friend who once spent six months in the transit area of Frankfurt airport. I read about another Iranian who spent 11 years in transit at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. They lived in no man’s land, between here and there. They lived nowhere. The fact is, we come out of the womb, we are weaned off the teat, we’re given our borders and we guard them.