Caught Between Borders in a Borderless World
BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN (www.yaghmaian.com)
Delacorte Press, Hardcover (November 29, 2005).
An eye-opening personal account of an epic human drama, Embracing the Infidel takes us on an astounding journey along a modern-day underground railroad that stretches from Istanbul to New York. In this groundbreaking book, Iranian-American Behzad Yaghmaian has done what no other writer has managed to do-as he enters the world of Muslim migrants and tells their extraordinary stories of hope for a new life in the West.
In a tent city in Greece, they huddle together. Men and women from Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries. Most have survived war and brutal imprisonment, political and social persecution. Some have faced each other in battle, and all share a powerful desire for freedom. Behzad Yaghmaian lived among them, listened to their hopes, dreams, and fears-and now he weaves together dozens of their stories of yearning, persecution, and unwavering faith. We meet Uncle Suleiman, an Iraqi veteran of the Iran-Iraq war; once imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, he is now a respected elder of a ramshackle tent city in Athens, offering comfort and community to his fellow travelers...Purya, who fled Iran only to fall into the clutches of human smugglers and survive beatings and torture in Bulgaria...and Shahroukh Khan, an Afghan teenager whose world at home was shattered twice-once by the Taliban and again by American bombs-but whose story turns on a single moment of awakening and love in the courtyard of a Turkish mosque.
A chronicle of husbands separated from wives, children from parents, Embracing the Infidel is a portrait of men and women moving toward a promised land they may never reach-and away from a world to which they cannot return. It is an unforgettable tale of heartbreak and prejudice, courage, heroism, and hope.
"An El Norte or Grapes of Wrath for the Muslim world-affecting, immediate and well written."-Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A riveting account of the hardships and survival strategies of Muslim migrants who are trying to make their way to the West. Embracing the Infidel adds an entirely new and human dimension to our understanding of migration and asylum issues."-Dr. Jeff Crisp, Director of Policy and Research, Global Commission on International Migration
"Journalists like myself should be doing more work like this....Yaghmaian offers the reader vivid descriptions of the waterfront street bazaars in Istanbul, the migrant ghettos of Athens, and the creepy underworld of human smugglers....He shares the touching, often disturbing oral histories of these modern-day hobos. They "ride the rails"; paddling across seas in rubber rafts and crossing snow-covered mountains on foot without maps or compasses. By the end, you realize the clash of civilizations is not one of religions violently colliding, but of the poor who are desperately trying to get to the West, to share the freedoms, wealth and stability that we so often take for granted."-Ivan Watson, National Public Radio
"An immensely remarkable book; a clear humane and startling account of the perils, sufferings and anxiety which both forced and economic migrants have to go through in order to reach the West. This book marks a return to civilized discussion of the need to proactively address questions related to the root causes of contemporary migration. Equally significantly, it also emphasizes the need to ensure that States respect the human rights of refugees and other sorts of migrants."-Jose Fischel de Andrade, Center of International Studies,
"With none of the rambling typical of unedited oral histories, Yaghmaian tells these unforgettable stories with terse drama, combing his sympathetic commentary with the immediacy of rich, diverse voices." -Booklist
"Yaghmaian tells unforgettable stories with terse drama, combining his sympathetic commentary with the immediacy of rich, diverse voices." -Booklist
Behzad Yaghmaian is an Iranian-born author living in the United States. Currently, he is a professor at Ramapo College in New Jersey. He has taught international political economy in the United States, Iran, and Turkey.
Yaghmaian has published a number of articles on globalization and Third World Studies in various academic journals. His book, Social Change in Iran: An Eyewitness Account of Dissent, Defiance, and Movements for Rights, was written after a year-long visit to Iran during the time of the brief political opening in Iran in 1998-99. During that period, Yaghmaian was a columnist for a popular reformist newspaper, Neshat, while also contributing articles to other widely-read dailies and magazines. He was the consultant for a 2003 PBS/Channel 4 (England) documentary about Iran.
In September 2002, Yaghmaian left the United States, traveling for two years in the Middle East and Europe following migrants from Muslim countries on the journey to the West. He lived among them, listened to their hopes, dreams, and fears, weaving together dozens of their stories of yearning, persecution, and unwavering faith in his latest book, Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West.
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