You are 7 years old. You do not understand why your Qatari classmates look at you with such derision when you tell them that you’re half Pakistani. For the remainder of your school years, children mock you with a stereotypical Indian accent, make remarks on your distinctly South Asian appearance, and at times resort to calling you a “dirty Paki.”
You are 10 years old. After years of your cultural heritage being forcibly removed from you, your mother decides it is time that you finally learn to embrace yourself as you are and encourages you to wear salwar kameez one Eid. Your father tells you that it makes you look low class and unkept.
You are 18 years old. You are excited to attend a university with a sizeable number of South Asian students, assuming that this will finally be a safe space for you to explore aspects of who you are that were taken from you so long ago. Who could possibly be racist here? During a late night drive, a friend you’ve made here tells you how uncivilized and unhygienic he thinks “Pakis” are.
You are 20 years old. One day at work, you see an ad on YouTube for the country’s largest cell phone service provider featuring two South Asian men. They speak broken Arabic in a funny accent because they are immigrants like your mother was, and they struggle to learn a new language. They are simpletons, so much so that they do not understand how a mobile phone works. The men are working class or lower, with families who rely on their remittances back home. The men exemplify what it means to be South Asian in Qatar. Uneducated, poor, absent-minded, simple, dirty Pakis.
Ameena is a junior at Georgetown studying International Politics.