Naz*, a 30-year-old Iranian woman, shares the story of how her migration journey from Iran to Ireland began as a dream come true, but shortly turned into a nightmare. 
      When Naz was only 20, her family organised an arranged marriage to her third cousin. “Back in Iran, dating is not permitted - marriage was my only chance of meeting a man.” As Naz reminisces on these memories, a huge smile appears on her face. “It felt like internal bliss, I would soon be a wife. As a child, I obsessed over Irish films, so knowing that I would soon be moving there to be with my new partner - that was my idea of the perfect life. It was the most exciting thing to ever happen to me.”

The European Economic Area Family Permit is an immigration document that assists family members of a United Kingdom citizen to enter the UK. Once this is granted, the recipient can also take up residence in the Republic of Ireland. The application length varies, depending on circumstances, “As my husband lived in Ireland, I applied for an EEA visa with the notion that it would take, maximum, a year. It, in fact, took two years and a half to even get processed, due to the authorities not believing it was a legitimate marriage. It was distressing and thinking back to it, I should have taken it as a sign.”

"In many ways I felt liberated. I didn’t have to wear my compulsory hijab, and the rules weren’t as strict. I felt like could finally make my own choices, and it felt freeing."

After a long period of waiting and worrying, Naz’s visa was approved and her new life in Ireland began. Naz explained that when she first landed in Ireland, it was an experience filled with firsts. Her first time abroad, her first time away from her family and her first time meeting her husband. “He was completely different to what I had envisioned and, every day I would discover something new about him. Some discoveries brought great joy but some were disturbing. I enjoyed my time in Ireland, it was completely different to Iran and in many ways I felt liberated. I didn’t have to wear my compulsory hijab, and the rules weren’t as strict. I felt like could finally make my own choices, and it felt freeing.”

Naz goes on to note that women from devout countries with strict laws often have the opinion that life in Europe would be better for them. This is due to what the media portrays. “I used to watch the news and see protests about gender equality and people marching for same-sex marriage, and all I could think is that could never happen here. I viewed Europe to be the promised land, where everyone has open opportunity and I would have the choice to do what I pleased. Unfortunately, I learned that things don’t come as simply as I hoped they would. I faced so many challenges - you wouldn’t believe - I felt unstable for the majority of my marriage because I was on a family member visa. I was completely dependent on my husband, which ironically would have been the same in Iran. I couldn’t speak English properly, so I couldn’t even reach the shops because I couldn’t even ask for directions. So, as well as the normal struggles of living in a new country, I soon found out that my husband’s main reason for agreeing to help me come to Ireland was to provide him with a comfortable life.”

"Everything I had earned was his. He could speak English, he had the job, he knew the area and the country..."

Marriage roles have been a heavily discussed topic within the media; what is a female’s role within the household? Are stay at home mothers the most beneficial thing for a baby? No matter how forward-thinking a country is, similar discussions take place and for Naz, this came as a shock. “I didn’t feel respected because the things I thought I was getting away from I found followed me to Ireland. My now ex-husband used to make me cook and clean whilst he gambled away our earnings and savings. I thought about divorcing many times before actually doing it, but it took me so long to do it due to not wanting to disappoint my parents and not wanting to lose my visa. It took things to turn really sour - my life was on the line - for me to break it off and find myself in the position where I had lost my visa. It was the hardest, most stressful period of my life. Everything I had earned was his. He could speak English, he had the job, he knew the area and the country. My first visa application was rejected because I couldn’t renew my passport due to the divorce being finalised. After 5 years of trying and praying my next visa application was successful, I shared my story and told the authorities about being a victim of domestic violence. That helped the home office gain an understanding of what had brought me to Ireland. It wasn’t an easy ride, and I learned so many lessons along the way. I spent a lot of time hating the world, and hating my life and blaming others. I am now free, I don’t have to fear about being sent back to Iran or depend on anyone else. If I didn’t go through such pain, I wouldn’t be independent now, so I am thankful. My only advice to others looking to come to the UK, Ireland or any part of Europe would be to choose wisely and if it comes to it, you fight until the end.”

Both immigration and migration are frequently discussed topics, whether it be between friends or emblazoned on the front of newspapers. What we all know for sure is that it is challenging. I present Naz’s story with the opinion that it must be spoken about more openly. Naz, and so many others like her, exist. They deserve to be heard, and we owe it to both ourselves and them to listen. 

*Names have been changed to protect real life identities.
Image source: Karan Singh