Transcript: Why do People Return to Their Homelands? | Oct 04, 2021

Jeyan Jeganathan sits at the Agenda news desk. He wears a dark suit and a purple tie. A monitor behind him shows a red lowercase ‘a’. Jeyan rests his hands on the desk. Papers, a cell phone, and a glass of water sit in front of him.

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands?”

Jeyan begins,
THERE ARE MANY WELL-WORN
NARRATIVES AROUND
IMMIGRATION AND THE IMMIGRANT
EXPERIENCE.
WHAT IS FAR LESS DISCUSSED IS
THE REVERSE - REPATRIATION,
OR EVEN JUST
THE DESIRE TO RECONNECT
WITH THE LAND LEFT BEHIND.
IT'S A POWERFUL DRAW FOR MANY,
AS WRITER KAMAL AL-SOLAYLEE
EXPLORES IN HIS LATEST BOOK.
IT'S CALLED RETURN: WHY WE GO
BACK TO WHERE WE COME FROM.
HE IS ALSO THE DIRECTOR OF THE
SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM,
WRITING AND MEDIA AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA,
AND HE JOINS US
NOW FROM VANCOUVER.
WELCOME, SIR.

Kamal responds, THANK YOU, JEYAN.

Jeyan continues,
ALL RIGHT, SO, I'M GOING TO START
WITH THIS, IN YOUR BOOK,
YOU ADMIT TALKING ABOUT DEATH
AND BURIALS IS SORT OF A
CONVERSATION KILLER.
YET, THAT'S WHERE
I WANT TO START
BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE
YOU START IN YOUR BOOK.
YOU ASK THE QUESTION,
"WHERE DO YOU WANT
TO BE BURIED?"
CAN YOU EXPLAIN SORT
OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES
BEHIND THAT QUESTION?

Text reads, “Kamal Al-Solaylee, Author, “Return”
Kamal sits in front of a blank white wall. He has short grey hair and a mustache. Kamal wears a black shirt and white earphones that dangle from his ears. His thin framed eyeglasses rest on his nose.

Kamal replies,
YES, OF COURSE. I WAS--
I WAS IN TORONTO AT THE TIME
AND MY PARTNER AT THE TIME
AND I WERE WALKING ALONGSIDE
MOUNT PLEASANT CEMETERY
IN MIDTOWN TORONTO -
I'M SURE IT'S A PLACE
THAT A NUMBER OF YOUR
VIEWERS ARE FAMILIAR WITH -
AND THE QUESTION CAME UP,
AND MY PARTNER AT THE TIME
ASKED THAT QUESTION,
AND MY ANSWER WAS VERY
DIRECT - TORONTO.
WHY WOULD I WANT TO
BE BURIED ANYWHERE ELSE?
AND SO, PART OF
THE IMPULSE OF THE BOOK
COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THAT
CONVERSATION WAS IN 2012,
AND WHEN I STARTED WRITING
THE BOOK IN AROUND 2018,
A LOT HAS CHANGED
AROUND THE WORLD,
IN ONTARIO, IN TORONTO,
THAT MADE ME KIND OF,
IN A WAY PAUSE, AND REFLECT
AND TAKE BACK WHAT I SAID,
AND WONDER-- AND WONDER IF
I REALLY WANT MY REMAINS
TO BE IN TORONTO
BECAUSE THIS IS--
WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO BE BURIED
IS PROBABLY THE MOST
OR THE ULTIMATE--
THE ULTIMATE CONNECTION
TO THE HOMELAND,
THE ULTIMATE MANIFESTATION
OF YOUR THINKING
AND DESIRE ABOUT
WHAT IS HOME TO YOU.

Jeyan says,
NOW, YOU WERE BORN IN YEMEN,
RAISED IN EGYPT AND LEBANON,
EDUCATED IN ENGLAND,
AND NOW YOU LIVE IN CANADA,
OF COURSE, FIRST IN TORONTO,
AND NOW IN VANCOUVER.
WHICH OF THESE COUNTRIES
DO YOU FEEL MORE CONNECTED TO?

Kamal answers,
IF YOU-- IF YOU USE
THE WORD "COUNTRY",
I WILL HAVE TO USE YEMEN,
AND A PARTICULAR PART
OF YEMEN, WHICH IS ADEN,
WHERE MY WHERE
MY PARENTS WERE BORN,
WHERE I WAS BORN, WHERE
MY TEN SIBLINGS WERE BORN.
AND IT'S ADEN,
AS OPPOSED TO ALL OF YEMEN,
IS REALLY OUR HOME--
IS OUR HOMELAND.
SO, I HAVE I HAVE-- I HAVE A
COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP WITH--
WITH YEMEN BECAUSE, OF COURSE,
MY FIRST BOOK
WAS ABOUT ME
RUNNING AWAY FROM YEMEN
AND WANTING TO JUST ESCAPE
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS--
WHAT PROBABLY STILL IS A VERY
DIFFICULT COUNTRY TO LIVE IN
AND ONE OF THE POOREST
COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD.
LIKE IT RANKS
AT AROUND NUMBER ONE
SIXTY-NINE TO ONE SIXTY-EIGHT
IN AN INDEX OF A HUNDRED AND
SEVENTY, HUNDRED AND EIGHTY
COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD,
IN TERMS OF POVERTY
AND STANDARD OF LIVING.
AND YET, I CAN'T HELP BUT FEEL
MORE AND MORE OF
A CONNECTION TO IT,
MOSTLY-- MOSTLY SINCE 2015,
WHEN THE CIVIL WAR
STARTED THERE--
OR I DON'T KNOW IF I SHOULD CALL
IT A CIVIL WAR, NECESSARILY,
BUT THE...
THE ATTEMPT TO DEFEAT
THE HOUTHI REBELS WHO TOOK
OVER THE COUNTRY IN 2014,
BY A COALITION LED
BY SAUDI ARABIA
AND THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.
SO, SINCE THAT WAR STARTED,
THE COUNTRY,
WHICH WAS ALREADY ONE OF
THE POOREST IN THE WORLD,
WENT INTO WHAT IS
JUSTIFIABLY CALLED
A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER,
AND CONNECTION TO IT KEPT
GETTING STRONGER,
AND STRONGER AND STRONGER.

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands? Longing for Home”

Jeyan states,
YOU HAD MENTIONED,
SORT OF, YOUR FIRST BOOK -
INTOLERABLE.
AND YOU KNOW,
A BIT OF A DEPARTURE -
YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE
AS AN OPENLY GAY MAN.
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT
GOING BACK TO A COUNTRY
THAT'S NOT ONLY
IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR,
BUT ALSO VERY HOSTILE
TO LGBTQ PEOPLE?

Kamal answers,
YEAH. I MEAN, THAT IS--
THAT IS PROBABLY
ONE OF THE MOST
DIFFICULT QUESTIONS
THAT I HAVE HAD TO ASK MYSELF,
AND ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT
QUESTIONS IN THE BOOK IS,
"IF HOME IS A DANGEROUS
PLACE FOR WHO YOU ARE,
"FOR WHO I AM, CAN IT STILL--
CAN IT STILL BE HOME?"
UM... AND I HAVE--
THAT QUESTION
HAS DANCED IN MY HEAD
FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS.
AND I ALSO THINK
THAT MY CONNECTION TO TORONTO,
WHICH WAS MY SANCTUARY--
I MEAN, I CAME TO TORONTO,
JUST TO KIND OF LIVE OPENLY
AND FREELY AND TO BE WHO I AM.
BUT I WOULD ALSO
SAY THAT TORONTO
BECAME MUCH MORE
OF A DANGEROUS PLACE
AFTER THE SERIAL KILLER
BRUCE MCARTHUR,
AND I BEGAN TO THINK
ABOUT RISK AND DANGER
AND SAFETY IN A DIFFERENT--
IN A SENSE, RECALIBRATE THAT
RISK ASSESSMENT, IN A WAY.
BUT TO ANSWER YOUR
QUESTION, I DON'T KNOW.
LIKE, TO ANSWER
QUESTION BY SAYING,
I DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER
TO THE QUESTION,
NECESSARILY.
I FEEL-- I FEEL THIS
COMPULSION TO RETURN.
BUT I DON'T ALSO
KNOW IF IT'S WISE,
OR IF IT'S EVEN FEASIBLE.

Jeyan adds,
YOU KNOW, THERE IS ONE THING
TO BE SAID ABOUT SAFETY,
BUT I'M ALSO CURIOUS,
YOU KNOW, LANGUAGE,
THAT'S ALSO AN IMPORTANT PART
WHEN YOU MOVE TO
ANOTHER COUNTRY.
YOU SAY IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOUR
ARABIC HAS DETERIORATED.
WHY DIDN'T YOU KEEP UP WITH IT?

Kamal responds,
WELL, THAT'S A VERY GOOD
QUESTION, JEYAN. I CHOSE
ENGLISH AS--
I ELEVATE ENGLISH
AS A FIRST LANGUAGE,
TO BE PERFECTLY HONEST,
BECAUSE IT WAS THE LANGUAGE
IN WHICH I SAW
THE CREATIVE SIDE OF ME.
I ALSO SAW THAT
AS THE LANGUAGE--
I MEAN, I JOKINGLY
REFERRED TO IT AS ENGLISH--
ENGLISH AS A GAY LANGUAGE.
IT WAS THE LANGUAGE THAT ALLOWED
ME TO BECOME PART OF THE--
OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY,
TO FIND KIND OF MY
PLACE IN THE WORLD
THROUGH-- THROUGH LITERATURE,
THROUGH BOOKS, THROUGH MOVIES,
THROUGH DISCOURSE AROUND
CAMP AND MUSICAL THEATRE.
I MEAN, I DON'T KNOW
IF YOU REMEMBER,
I USED TO BE THEATRE
CRITIC AT THE GLOBE,
AND THAT SORT OF ALLOWED ME
A PLACE OF ENTRY
INTO A COMMUNITY
AND A PLACE--
A PLACE IN THE WORLD.
BUT I'VE LET-- I'VE MOSTLY
LET ARABIC ATROPHY
BECAUSE IT ALWAYS REMINDED ME
OF THE HOMOPHOBIA THAT I
EXPERIENCED AS A YOUNG MAN
IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
IT WAS A LANGUAGE-- TO ME, IT
WAS A LANGUAGE OF OPPRESSION.
IT WAS A LANGUAGE THAT DIDN'T
HAVE A SINGLE POSITIVE WORD
TO SAY ABOUT--
ABOUT GAY PEOPLE.
I MEAN, THE WORD-- THE TERM
"GAY" IN ENGLISH,
HAS SUCH A-- YOU KNOW, HAS SUCH
A POSITIVE CONNOTATION.
THERE IS NO-- THERE IS--
ONLY MORE RECENTLY
IN THE ARABIC LANGUAGE
HAS THE WORD "MITHLY",
WHICH JUST MEANS "THE SAME",
BECOME MORE COMMON.
BUT WHEN I WHEN I GREW UP,
THERE WAS NO WORD FOR BEING GAY,
EXCEPT, YOU KNOW,
A PERVERT OR AN ABERRATION.
SO, THE LANGUAGE, THE ARABIC
LANGUAGE WAS ALWAYS--
IN MY MIND,
IS WHAT'S HOLDING ME BACK
FROM LIVING THE LIFE
THAT I WANTED FOR MYSELF.
SO, I ALLOWED IT TO ATROPHY--
TO ATROPHY,
PARTICULARLY IN WRITING AND
UNDERSTANDING WRITTEN TEXT.
I CAN STILL SPEAK IT.
BUT AS I FOUND OUT - AND I
MENTIONED THAT IN RETURN -
WHEN I WENT HOME--
WHEN I WENT TO EGYPT - WHICH IS,
YOU KNOW, KIND OF ANOTHER
HOMELAND FOR ME, AS WELL,
BECAUSE I SPENT FIFTEEN YEARS
THERE - IT HAS STOPPED IN TIME
IN A WAY; IT FELT SO DATED.
IT FELT LIKE MY--
I HAVE A NEPHEW AND NIECE THERE
AND THEY WERE TALKING IN--
TALKING IN ARABIC THAT WAS
REALLY DIFFERENT FROM MY ARABIC.
MY ARABIC IS KIND OF
STOPPED IN THE 1970S.
I MEAN, PARTLY BECAUSE ALL THE
STUFF THAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING
ON YOUTUBE TO RECLAIM IT
HAS BEEN--
IT'S ALL, LIKE, THE STUFF THAT
I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS YOUNG.
SO, I THINK-- I SAY
THAT IT IS ALMOST LIKE,
IMAGINE IF CARY GRANT
WERE TO RETURN,
TO COME TO TORONTO
AND SPEAK IN THE WAY HE
SPOKE IN THE 1930S AND 40S -
IT'S STILL ENGLISH,
BUT IT'S NOT THE SAME ENGLISH
THAT YOU AND I ARE
SPEAKING RIGHT NOW.

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands? Who Returns and Why”

Jeyan says,
THAT'D BE VERY INTERESTING.
I WANT TO GET BACK TO THIS,
THE IDEA OF RETURN.
WE DO FOCUS A LOT ABOUT SORT
OF THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE
HERE IN CANADA AND WHAT
THAT JOURNEY LOOKS LIKE,
BUT WE RARELY GO THE OTHER WAY.
HOW POPULAR IS THIS IDEA
OF PEOPLE RETURNING
BACK TO THEIR HOMELANDS?

Kamal replies,
YES, ACTUALLY, WHEN
I STARTED THE BOOK,
I WAS CONCERNED, JUST LIKE,
"AM I GOING TO
FIND ENOUGH, UM...
"EXAMPLES FROM COMMUNITIES
"THAT HAVE RETURNED
TO WHERE THEY COME FROM?
"AM I GOING TO FIND ENOUGH
PEOPLE TO INTERVIEW?
"WILL THERE BE A BODY OF
RESEARCH FOR ME TO FALL BACK ON,
"SO THAT I COULD--
"SO THAT I COULD ACTUALLY HAVE
ENOUGH MATERIAL FOR A BOOK?"
AND AS I WORKED ON THE BOOK,
I REALIZED THAT IT IS
SUCH A MUCH BIGGER STORY
THAN WE NORMALLY HEAR ABOUT,
EITHER IN-- IN POLICY,
IN OFFICIAL POLICY AROUND
IMMIGRATION, OR IN LITERATURE,
OR IN JUST-- IN OUR--
IN OUR MEDIA; THAT RETURN IS
A REALLY BIG STORY
AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DO IT,
WHO AFTER, SOMETIMES--
THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF
RETURNS, OBVIOUSLY,
AND WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS,
BUT THE ONE THAT THE ONE
THAT I FOUND MOST FASCINATING
IS THE ONE WHERE,
AFTER THIRTY, FORTY, OR MORE
YEARS IN YOUR ADOPTED HOME
COUNTRY - BE THAT THE US
OR CANADA OR THE UK,
WHICH ARE THE ALL THE COUNTRIES
THAT I FOCUSED ON,
PRETTY MUCH IN THE BOOK -
YOU CHOOSE--,
SOME PEOPLE DECIDE THAT,
"YOU KNOW WHAT?
THAT'S ENOUGH.
"I'M GOING BACK TO
WHERE I CAME FROM.
"I'M GOING BACK TO THE LAND
THAT MAY HAVE KICKED ME OUT,
"OR THE LAND THAT I'VE ESCAPED",
"AND-- OR I DECIDED TO LEAVE
"IN ORDER TO OFFER A BETTER
STANDARD OF LIVING
"FOR MY-- FOR MY CHILDREN
OR MY FAMILY.
"AND I'M GOING TO GO HOME AND
SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE THERE"
OR, YOU KNOW, THE FINAL CHAPTER.
THAT, TO ME, BECAME SO
FASCINATING BECAUSE IT SAYS A
LOT, NOT JUST ABOUT OUR
CONNECTION TO HOMELANDS -
THIS SORT OF VISCERAL, STRONG,
UNBREAKABLE CONNECTION
TO WHERE WE COME FROM -
BUT IT ALSO SAYS SOMETHING
ABOUT ADOPTED HOMELANDS
AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM.

Jeyan says,
WE'LL GET INTO SOME OF THE
STORIES, BUT I AM CURIOUS ABOUT,
SORT OF, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE
LOOK AT THE TYPE OF PEOPLE
WHO GO BACK-- YOU KNOW, YOU
MENTIONED THAT YOU SORT OF
WERE WORRIED THAT YOU
WEREN'T GOING TO FIND PEOPLE
TO SHARE STORIES; IT SEEMED LIKE
YOU FOUND AN ABUNDANT AMOUNT
OF PEOPLE, VARYING STORIES.
BUT IS IT?--
IS THERE A TYPE OF PERSON WHO
RETURNS TO THEIR HOMELAND?
IS THERE ANY SORT
OF COMMON CONNECTIONS
AND LINKS TO THOSE PEOPLE
THAT YOU SPOKE TO?

Kamal answers,
I WOULD SAY YES. AND IN A WAY,
WHAT I'M ABOUT TO SAY MAY SOUND
LIKE IT IS A PRIVILEGE,
BUT IT IS MOSTLY PEOPLE
WHO CAN AFFORD TO DO SO.
IT IS-- ON SOME EXTENT--
TO SOME EXTENT,
IT COULD BE PEOPLE WHO HAVE...
WORKED, AS I SAID,
FOR, LIKE-- FOR DECADES
AND HAVE SAVED ENOUGH
MONEY IN US DOLLARS
OR CANADIAN DOLLARS
OR ENGLISH POUNDS,
OR EURO, OR WHATEVER,
AND THEN THAT MONEY GOES
A LONG WAY IN THEIR--
IN THEIR LAND OF BIRTH.
OR YOUNGER PEOPLE WHO ARE MUCH
MORE MOBILE
AND WHO ARE, IN A WAY,
INTERROGATING THEIR
SENSE OF IDENTITY
AND CAN-- AND CAN GO TO
DIFFERENT ECONOMIES
AND EXPORT THAT KNOWLEDGE.
SO, THERE IS A CERTAIN
ELEMENT OF PRIVILEGE
AND SOMETIMES EDUCATION,
SOMETIMES MONEY TO WHO RETURNS.
I MEAN, IT'S A BIG DECISION,
IT REQUIRES PLANNING.
AND WHAT I'VE FOUND
IN WRITING THE BOOK,
A LOT OF IT ALSO REVOLVES AROUND
BUYING A HOME IN THE HOMELAND.
THIS IS SUCH A CENTRAL THEME
THAT I-- THAT I FOUND A LOT OF MY
CHARACTERS GO AND REFERRING TO
TIME AND TIME AGAIN. AND OF COURSE,
WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT TORONTO
OR VANCOUVER HOUSE PRICES HERE.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING--
PARTICULARLY IF YOU MOVE TO
PLACES IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
AND EVEN, I MEAN, THE BOOK
ALSO HAS A CHAPTER IN SPAIN -
THE BASQUE REGION OF SPAIN -
AND IN NORTHERN IRELAND;
RELATIVELY SPEAKING,
YOU COULD-- YOU COULD AFFORD -
I MEAN, JUST TO PUT IT IN REALLY
CRUDE REAL ESTATE TERMS -
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCKS
IN TERMS OF HAVING A HOME AND
HAVING A HOME WITH A GARDEN
AND HAVING A HOME-- AND OWNING A
PIECE OF THE HOMELAND.
IT IS SOMETHING THAT I'VE NOTICED
TIME AND TIME AGAIN, YEAH.
I WANT TO START WITH SOME OF
THE PLACES THAT YOU VISITED.
YOU VISITED THE BASQUE REGION
LOCATED IN NORTHERN SPAIN
AND JAMAICA, RESPECTIVELY.
I'M CURIOUS, HOW ARE RETURNEES
TREATED IN THOSE COUNTRIES
WHEN THEY COME BACK?

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands? Stories of Going Back”

Kamal says,
WELL, THEY'RE TWO
COMPLETELY DIFFERENT--
DIFFERENT COUNTRIES AND
WITH DIFFERENT SETTINGS,
AND I GROUPED THEM TOGETHER
BECAUSE THE ONE THING THEY
HAVE IN COMMON, I WOULD SAY,
IS A KIND OF CERTAIN MYTHOLOGY
AROUND THEIR HOMELAND.
I MEAN, THERE ARE COUNTRIES
THAT ARE THAT WOULD--
WHETHER IT'S IN JAMAICA
AS AN ISLAND
AND THE BASQUE REGION
AS A KIND OF A
HISTORICALLY INDEPENDENT
OR A REGION THAT THE DREAMS OF--
THAT DREAMS OF
COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE,
THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF
MYTHOLOGY AROUND BOTH
AND THEIR DESCENDANTS ARE ALWAYS
ATTACHED TO THESE HOMELANDS.
UM… IN THE BASQUE REGION,
I THINK WHAT I FOUND IS THAT, UM,
THE RETURN STORY IS MUCH EASIER
IF YOU WERE SOMEONE WHO LEFT AND
THEN CAME BACK.
BUT IT'S-- BUT IT IS
MUCH MORE COMPLICATED
IF YOU ARE A THIRD
OR FOURTH GENERATION
OF SOMEONE FROM
THE BASQUE REGION
WHO EMIGRATED TO
THE AMERICAN WEST,
AND OR, UM-- AND OR
SORT OF LATIN AMERICA.
SO, IT IS-- IT ISN'T-- THERE--
IT REALLY DEPENDS ON THE
KIND OF DIRECT BLOODLINE.
AND WHEREAS,
IN JAMAICA, HOWEVER,
THE STORY KIND OF GOES
ALONG A COUPLE OF LINES.
THEY'RE THE ONES WHO,
AS I MENTIONED,
THAT WAS MOSTLY FROM BRITAIN,
WHO IMMIGRATED IN THE 1960S--
50S AND 60S,
I MEAN, OTHER THAN
THE WINDRUSH GENERATION
OR THE GENERATION
THAT CAME AFTER THAT.
AND THERE IS THE OTHER
GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE--
WHO ARE REPATRIATED OR DEPORTED,
WHO TEND TO BE YOUNGER,
TEND TO BE MALE, YOUNG MEN,
AND SOME DIFFERENT AGES,
BUT BETWEEN TWENTY TO FORTY,
AND SOMETIMES MUCH OLDER
THAN THAT, OF COURSE.
AND THESE ARE TWO
DIFFERENT STORIES -
THEY'RE EITHER
VOLUNTARY RETURN -
SO RETURN TO JAMAICA
BECAUSE THEY--
THEY JUST WANT THAT
PIECE OF THE YARD,
WHAT THEY CALL--
WHAT THE A LOT OF JAMAICANS
DESCRIBED TO ME AS THE YARD,
WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, THE HOME -
AS OPPOSED TO THE ONES WHO--
WHO ACTUALLY HAD NO CHOICE
ABOUT THEIR RETURN,
THEIR RETURN JOURNEY;
THEIR RETURN JOURNEY
WAS FORCED ON THEM
BECAUSE THEY
WERE DEPORTED FROM--
I MEAN, FROM THE US,
FROM CANADA,
OR FROM-- OR FROM ENGLAND.
AND THEIR EXPERIENCE COULD
NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT,
BUT THEY ARE UNITED IN A WAY,
BY THE REALITIES OF LIFE IN
JAMAICA, WHETHER THAT IS--
WHETHER THAT'S LIKE VIOLENCE,
AN INCREASING
LEVEL OF VIOLENCE,
OR THE FACT THAT THEY BOTH ARE
SEEN AS COMING FROM--
COME FROM FOREIGN,
WHICH IS THE EXPRESSION
THAT I'VE LEARNED WHEN
I WAS IN JAMAICA.
THAT THEY ARE--
THEY ARE PEOPLE WHO WENT AND
THEY COME BACK, BUT THEY HAVE--
COMING BACK DOESN'T
GIVE YOU THE IMMEDIATE RIGHT
TO CLAIM THAT LAND AS YOUR OWN.
THERE ARE A LOT OF LOCAL
PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT--
WOULD ACTUALLY SAY THAT THEY--
THAT THEY ARE STILL FOREIGNERS
TO THEIR-- TO JAMAICA.

Jeyan replies,
I WANT TO JUMP TO
NORTHERN IRELAND
AND TAIWAN.
YOU TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW,
A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY,
A PHYSICAL JOURNEY.
THIS ONE IS, IN SOME CASES,
HAS TO DO MORE WITH,
YOU KNOW, SORT OF THE ECONOMIC
SITUATIONS IN THOSE--
IN THOSE REGIONS.
IS RETURN, IN THAT CONTEXT,
MORE PRECARIOUS,
GIVEN THAT IT APPEARS
TO BE BASED ON MONEY
THAN SORT OF THE EMOTIONAL
CONNECTION TO THE LAND?

Kamal nods.

He responds,
MM-HMM.
I THINK IN BOTH OF THESE,
YOU'LL NOTICE THAT ALL THE
CHARACTERS IN THESE TWO CHAPTERS
ARE MUCH YOUNGER PEOPLE;
THEY'RE PROFESSIONALS
IN THEIR TWENTIES AND THIRTIES,
AND MAYBE EARLY FORTIES.
SO, YES, SO THINGS COULD CHANGE,
DEPENDING ON
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.
BUT I WOULD ALSO SAY
THAT, IN BOTH--
AND THE REASON I CHOSE
THOSE TWO DESTINATIONS
AND PUT THEM TOGETHER
IS BECAUSE THE GEOPOLITICAL
FORCES ARE ACTUALLY MUCH BIGGER
THAN THE INTENTIONS AND
ALL THE GOOD INTENTIONS
OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE RETURNED,
THE CHARACTERS THAT I SPOKE TO.
IN NORTHERN IRELAND,
YOU STILL HAVE--
IT'S NOT-- I MEAN, ALTHOUGH THE
TROUBLES HAVE, YOU KNOW,
OFFICIALLY ENDED WITH THE GOOD
FRIDAY AGREEMENT IN 1998,
AS WE'VE NOTICED
EARLIER THIS YEAR,
THERE ARE STILL SOME CLASHES
BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES -
UH... SORT OF THE LAW--
THE LOYALISTS
AND THE REPUBLICANS;
PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC.
AND THEN THE BREXIT MADE
THE NORTHERN IRELAND STORY
MUCH MORE COMPLEX.
I'M SURE WE DON'T HAVE TIME TO
GET INTO UNWRAPPING BREXIT
AND HOW IT AFFECTED THE BORDER
BETWEEN THE REPUBLIC
AND NORTHERN IRELAND,
AND SOME OF THOSE DETAILS
ARE IN THE BOOK. AND IN TAIWAN,
YOU HAVE ALL OF THESE RETURNS
AND ALL OF THESE
STORIES OF YOUNG MEN
AND WOMEN GOING
BACK AND KIND OF--
AND EXPLORING, FIRST OF ALL,
WHAT WAS A MUCH BETTER
ECONOMY THAN THE WEST
AFTER THE FINANCIAL
CRASH OF 2008-2009.
SORT OF THE ECONOMY
IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
WAS FAR MORE RESILIENT THAN
IT WAS IN THE WEST,
AND THAT ALLOWED SOME
OF THESE PEOPLE TO RETURN
AND FIND WORK
AND FIND OPPORTUNITIES.
BUT OBVIOUSLY
THE BIGGEST STORY HERE IS CHINA
AND THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN TAIWAN AND CHINA,
AS IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
CHINA AND HONG KONG,
IS ONE, ACTUALLY,
A KIND OF RETURN STORY,
THE BIGGEST--
LIKE A BIGGER RETURN STORY,
IN THAT CHINA SEES BOTH AS KIND
OF BREAK AWAY CONSTITUENCY,
THAT THEY ACTUALLY ARE PART AND
PARCEL OF CHINA AND INTENDS--
AND I-- YOU KNOW I HAVE A COUPLE
OF QUOTES FROM XI JINPING.
THERE IS LIKE THE PRIMORDIAL,
THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN MAINLAND CHINA
AND THESE ISLANDS
ARE PRIMORDIAL,
AND THEREFORE, IT WILL--
THOSE COUNTRIES OR THESE ISLANDS
WILL RETURN TO CHINA.

Jeyan says,
I WANT TO TALK ABOUT
THE ANCESTRAL CONNECTION
TO THE HOMELAND.
AND SO, I WANT TO
TALK ABOUT YEAR OF--
THE YEAR OF RETURN CAMPAIGN
THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT IN GHANA.
THAT WAS A CAMPAIGN IN 2019.
WHAT WAS THAT?
AND I UNDERSTAND, YOU KNOW, THAT
WASN'T THE FIRST CAMPAIGN;
THERE WERE MANY CAMPAIGNS
WELL BEFORE THAT
THAT HAVE, YOU KNOW,
BEEN LOOSELY DOCUMENTED.
BUT TELL US ABOUT THEM.

Kamal states,
OKAY, SO IN-- I GUESS
IT WAS THE END OF 2018,
GHANA DECIDED TO MAKE 2019
THE YEAR OF RETURN,
TO MARK FOUR HUNDRED YEARS
SINCE THE FIRST--
THE FIRST SHIP THAT THAT LEFT
THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA
AND LANDED IN WHAT IS NOW THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
AND THIS, YOU KNOW, 1619,
HENCE, THE PROJECT OF 1619.
SO, TO MARK FOUR HUNDRED
YEARS OF THAT MOMENT,
SORT OF THE
OFFICIAL KIND OF START
OF THE TRANSATLANTIC TRADE,
GHANA DECIDED TO OPEN--
TO MARK THAT WITH
A YEAR OF RETURN,
BY WHICH SORT OF
OPENED THE COUNTRY TO--
PARTICULARLY TO THE
DESCENDANTS OF SLAVERY
OR ANYONE WHO IDENTIFIES
AS AFRICAN IN ORIGIN,
TO COME BACK
TO EXPLORE THE COUNTRY,
TO THINK OF IT AS A SECOND HOME.
YOU KNOW, THERE WAS A REALLY,
SORT OF,
BACK TO AFRICA MOVEMENT
THAT, AS YOU SAID, JEYAN,
IT GOES BACK,
IT GOES BACK IN TIME.
BUT WITH THIS,
IT WAS A VERY
SAVVY MARKETING
AND PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN.
LIKE, LUCKILY, IT ENDED
BEFORE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN.
SO, YOU HAD
CELEBRITIES COMING IN
AND LEAVING A LONG TRAIL
ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
YOU HAD-- YOU HAD A
COMBINATION OF THE SPIRITUAL,
AND YOU KNOW--
AND SOME PEOPLE GOING BACK
TO THE DOOR OF NO RETURN
AND THE CASTLE,
ONLY THE CASTLE AND
OTHER PLACES WHERE, YOU KNOW,
THAT BEING THAT WAY
THROUGH WHICH THE JOURNEY OF
PARTICULARLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN
EXPERIENCE BEGAN.
SO, IT WAS AN
INTERESTING MIX BETWEEN--
BETWEEN PAN-AFRICANISM
AND POLITICS,
BUT ALSO BUSINESS
BECAUSE ULTIMATELY,
WHAT'S UNDERWRITING A LOT
OF THAT YEAR OF RETURN
IS USING THE--
PARTICULARLY THE MORE AFFLUENT
OR THE HIGHLY EDUCATED
AFRICAN-AMERICAN,
AND AFRICAN CANADIAN,
AND AFRICAN CARIBBEAN,
AND CARIBBEAN IN GENERAL
TO BRING TO HELP
THE COUNTRY ECONOMICALLY,
TO USE THE RESOURCES THAT
THEY THAT THEY'VE LEARNED
AND THE MONEY, OF COURSE.
SO, THERE WAS, YOU KNOW-- THERE
WAS A BUSINESS SIDE TO IT
THAT IS-- THAT IS--
AT ONE POINT,
I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY
AT ODDS WITH THE HISTORY
OF SLAVERY, OBVIOUSLY.
BUT YOU KNOW, I WILL LEAVE IT TO
PEOPLE TO READ IT IN THE BOOK
AND TO SEE HOW
THE COUNTRY SORT OF
AND HOW PEOPLE
INVOLVED IN THE CAMPAIGN,
AND PEOPLE WATCHING IT FROM THE
OUTSIDE FELT ABOUT THE IDEA
OF USING MARKING
FOUR CENTURIES OF SLAVERY
THROUGH A KIND OF A VERY SLICK
AND SAVVY PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN.

Jeyan replies,
OF COURSE, THE LAST COUPLE
CHAPTERS, YOU FOCUS ON ISRAELI--
ISRAEL AND PALESTINE.
AGAIN, THESE ARE TWO PLACES
THAT HAVE COMPETING NARRATIVES
OVER THE STORY OF RETURN.
HOW DO THEY EACH UNDERSTAND
THE MEANING OF RETURN?

Kamal answers,
VERY DIFFERENTLY, JEYAN,
AND THAT IS
AT THE HEART, I THINK.
THERE'S ONE WAY
WE WANT TO UNDERSTAND
WHAT IS NORMALLY REFERRED
TO AS A PROTRACTED CONFLICT
IS THAT IT ACTUALLY
KIND OF REVOLVES AROUND
TWO DIFFERENT NOTIONS OF RETURN.
FOR THE FOR THE ISRAELI
AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY,
IT'S A RETURN TO ZION,
A RETURN TO THE LAND
THAT GOD PROMISED
TO BE THE PROMISED LAND
FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
AND, AND OF COURSE,
THE STATE OF ISRAEL,
NOT LONG AFTER IT WAS
ESTABLISHED IN 1948.
ESTABLISH THE
LAW OF RETURN WHICH GIVES,
WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS -
I WILL NOT GET INTO THE DETAILS
HERE BUT WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS,
EVERYONE WHO IS
OF JEWISH BIRTH,
OF JEWISH BLOOD
OR JEWISH HERITAGE,
THE RIGHT TO JUST CLAIM ISRAEL
AS THEIR HOMELAND;
YOU KNOW, TO LEAVE THE DIASPORA
THE JEWISH DIASPORA,
TO RETURN TO THE PROMISED LAND.
OF COURSE, WHEN THAT
HAPPENED IS ALSO THE--
ON THE OTHER SIDE,
WE HAVE THE PALESTINIAN,
WHO EITHER LEFT OR WERE
DISPOSSESSED OF THEIR--
OF THE VILLAGES AND THE HOMES
THAT THEY OWNED
UP UNTIL THAT POINT.
AND, OF COURSE, THAT OPENED,
OVER THE YEARS AND OVER THE
COURSE OF SUCCESSION OF WARS,
MORE AND MORE PALESTINIAN LANDS,
WHERE MORE AND MORE
PALESTINIANS LOST THEIR LAND.
AND THE RIGHT OF RETURN, THEY'VE
STILL HOLD THE RIGHT OF RETURN,
NOT JUST THE RIGHT OF RETURN
TO WHAT THEY WOULD
LIKE TO BE PALESTINE,
BUT THE VILLAGE, THE HOME
FROM WHICH THEY WERE EVICTED
OR WERE FORCED TO LEAVE.
AND THESE ARE TWO VERY COMPETING
NOTIONS OF RETURN IN GENERAL,
THAT-- AND SOMETIMES,
THEY FEEL UNRECONCILABLE--
IRRECONCILABLE.
AND SOMETIMES, I THINK, TO ME,
WHAT I FOUND WAS MOST SURPRISING
IS THAT THERE'S
A LOT OF WILLINGNESS
IN THE MIDDLE TO WORK TOGETHER.
IT'S JUST THAT THE IS THAT THE--
IS THAT, EITHER THE PALESTINIAN
AUTHORITY ON ONE SIDE
OR, AT THE TIME,
THE GOVERNMENT OF NETANYAHU
WERE UNWILLING TO SORT OF
WORK THAT MIDDLE GROUND.
BUT DEFINITELY, THE WHOLE--
I MEAN, THE, TO ME, AT LEAST
AND TO A NUMBER OF OTHER PEOPLE,
THE CONFLICT HINGES
OR REVOLVES AROUND
WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO RETURN
AND WHOSE HOMELAND IS IT ANYWAY.

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands? Coming Full Circle”

Jeyan says,
I WANT TO ASK THIS QUESTION,
YOU KNOW, AS YOU KNOW,
CANADA PRESENTS ITSELF AS A
NATION OF IMMIGRANTS,
BUT HOW DO YOU NATION-BUILD
WHEN YOU STILL HAVE
A FOOT BACK HOME?

Kamal states,
I DON'T THINK ANY--
I DON'T-- I THINK CANADA
AND OTHER COUNTRIES
WILL ALSO HAVE TO UNDERSTAND
THAT THESE RELATIONSHIPS
ARE TO OUR HOMELAND,
WHETHER THEY BE FROM
THE DEVELOPING WORLD
OR FROM, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE WHO
COME FROM EUROPEAN ANCESTRY.
THESE ARE DEEP,
DEEP AND DEEPLY ROOTED,
AND THERE'S NO NATION
THAT CAN JUST CUT IT OFF.
AND I THINK MOST COUNTRIES--
I'LL JUST FOCUS ON CANADA.
CANADA WILL HAVE TO ALSO
RECOGNIZE TWO THINGS,
FOR ME, IS THAT PEOPLE
HAVE MULTIPLE BELONGINGS
AND THEY CAN ACTUALLY BE -
LIKE MYSELF -
LIKE, I'VE NEVER MISSED A
FEDERAL OR PROVINCIAL ELECTION,
I'VE NEVER MISSED, LIKE, VOTING
AND I THINK I TAKE MY CIVIC DUTY
AS A CANADIAN CITIZEN VERY
SERIOUSLY; BUT I CAN STILL
HAVE AN ATTACHMENT
TO MY BIRTH CULTURE, MY BIRTH
LANGUAGE AND MY HOMELAND.
AND ALSO, I WOULD
ACTUALLY SAY THAT--
THAT MANY OF THE STORIES,
BUT NOT ALL, IN THE BOOK,
ARE FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE FELT
THE STING OF RACISM IN CANADA
AND PARTICULARLY IN THE U.S.
AND I THINK COUNTRIES,
THE HOST COUNTRIES, LIKE CANADA,
ALSO HAVE A DUTY OF CARE TO
THEIR IMMIGRANTS,
TO MAKE SURE THAT
THEY ARE NOT EXPERIENCING
THE FULL WEIGHT OF RACISM
AND THAT THEY ARE--
THAT THEY ARE--
THAT THEIR STORIES
AND THEIR EXPERIENCES
ARE ACKNOWLEDGED
AND THEY'RE NOT OSTRACIZED.
I THINK WHAT-- THE LAST FEW
YEARS, YOU KNOW, IN POST-TRUMP,
POST-BREXIT ERA AND,
IN A WAY, WHAT ARE WE
SEEING WITH THE PANDEMIC
IS THAT WE ACTUALLY--
YOU KNOW, UNLIKE THE PHRASE
THAT WAS VERY POPULAR
IN THE PANDEMIC,
WE'RE NOT IN THIS TOGETHER,
WHATEVER THAT PHRASE WAS.
THERE WAS A NUMBER
OF DIFFERENCES
BASED ON RACE AND
CULTURAL AND BACKGROUND
IN HOW SOME PEOPLE--
AND LABOUR, OF COURSE -
THE JOB YOU DID - AND HOW
PEOPLE EXPERIENCED RACISM.
SO, IT'S NOT UNREASONABLE
FOR A COUNTRY LIKE CANADA
TO RECOGNIZE THAT--
THAT ITS CITIZENS
WILL STILL REMAIN GOOD AND
DILIGENT CITIZENS,
BUT WILL ALSO HAVE A PIECE OF
THEM IN THE HOMELAND.
LIKE YOU COULD
TAKE OUR ALLEGIANCE,
YOU CAN TAKE OUR LOVE,
BUT YOU CAN'T TAKE OUR SOUL;
OUR SOULS BELONG
IN OUR HOMELANDS.

Jeyan adds,
KAMAL, I HAVE ABOUT,
LIKE, TEN SECONDS LEFT,
AND I KNOW THIS IS HOW YOU
NORMALLY END YOUR INTERVIEWS,
BUT I'M CURIOUS -
THROUGHOUT ALL THESE INTERVIEWS
AND STORIES THAT
YOU'VE GOT TO LISTEN TO,
HAVE YOU SETTLED ON WHERE
YOU WANT TO BE BURIED?

Kamal replies,
I THINK I HAVE, I THINK I HAVE.
I WANT TO BE BURIED IN ADEN.
I WANT TO BE BURIED
CLOSE TO MY PARENTS
AND I WANT TO BE--
I WANT TO END MY TIME ON EARTH
IN THE PLACE WHERE IT STARTED.

Jeyan says,
KAMAL, THANK YOU
SO MUCH FOR THIS,
REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

Kamal responds,
THANK YOU SO MUCH, JEYAN.
WHAT A PLEASURE.

Text reads, “Why Do People Return to Their Homelands? Produced by: Colin Ellis @ColinEllis81”

Watch: Why do People Return to Their Homelands?