PEI·I Live Here Now

By moving to P.E.I., Jabbar Pourbahman put the women in his family first

Jabbar Pourbahman says he came to Canada to give his family a better life.

Pourbahman had a successful business in Iran, but saw more opportunities in Canada for his wife and daughter

Jabbar Pourbahman chose to come to P.E.I. to provide better opportunities for his daughter and wife. He is one of eight immigrants from around the world featured in the CBC P.E.I. series I Live Here Now. 3:22

CBC P.E.I. brings you eight stories of immigrants from around the world who have chosen to live on Prince Edward Island. Some have come to learn. Some to work. Others for safety. The series, I Live Here Now, reveals why people left their old lives, what they're doing now on P.E.I., and their dreams for the future.

It's not that Jabbar Pourbahman was unsatisfied with life in Iran. He had a beautiful home, large family and successful construction business.

He was happy.

"I made big money in Iran," he said. "But the money is not important for me."

No, Pourbahman's decision to move to P.E.I. five years ago through the provincial nominee program was not about seeking better opportunities for himself. It was for his family, especially daughter Narges, who was 13 when they left Iran, and wife, Farah Jahandideh.

"My family, here they are happy," Pourbahman said. "When they are happy, I am OK."

Jabbar Pourbahman says living in P.E.I. is a big change from Iran, where he owned a construction business. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Narges, now 18, wants to become a doctor. Pourbahman felt she could get a better overall education in Canada. After graduating from Charlottetown Rural High School, she moved to London, Ont., to study medical sciences at Western University.

Jahandideh, who was a chef in their home city of Shiraz, runs Café Thomas-Martin in the Confederation Court Mall, along with Pourbahman. It's not the money they made in Iran, but business is good.

They work Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., preparing and selling soups, sandwiches, muffins, coffee and other freshly made food.

Pourbahman says on P.E.I., his wife is his boss. (Laura Meader/CBC)

It's a big change from constructing and selling apartment buildings in the business Pourbahman shared with two of his seven brothers in Iran. 

"Here," he said with a smile, "my boss is my wife." 

He's happy.

Pourbahman and Jahandideh do not speak poorly of Iran, but it is no secret there is more opportunity for women in countries such as Canada. According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, Iran ranked 140th out of 144 countries.

'You can do any job'

In Iran, gender segregation is common in places such as buses, beaches and schools. And women are restricted in what they can wear and where they can work.

"Here is easier because you can do any job," Jahandideh said. "But in Iran, no, it is a special job for women and a special job for men."

Jabbar Pourbahman's journey from Iran to P.E.I.


They also consider Canada to be a safer country. They happened to be in Iran for a 20-day visit in early January when the plane carrying 176 people — including 57 Canadians — was shot down after taking off from the Tehran airport. They were scheduled to fly back to Canada the next day.

Still, Pourbahman said, it was difficult to leave Iran. He misses his  29-year-old son, who struggled with English and returned to Iran for a better job only four months after arriving in Canada. 

Farah Jahandideh and her mother at their old home in Shiraz, Iran. (Masoume Jahandideh)

And his 85-year-old father begged him to stay in Iran.

"He was not happy. He told me, 'You don't go.'"

'I want to blend in with people in Canada'

It's been almost five years since they arrived in P.E.I., however, and Pourbahman and his family have grown accustomed to Canadian culture and freedoms. Narges, for example, has chosen not to cover her hair with a headscarf, which is mandatory in public for women in Iran.

"I don't believe it's necessary," Narges said. "I want to blend in with people in Canada." Her mother, however, wears one sometimes. "I like hijab, but my daughter, no. This is her choice," Jahandideh said.

Narges Pourbahman is studying medical sciences at Western University in London, Ont. (Kiana Mansouri)

When they went to Basin Head a couple summers ago, Jahandideh said it was the first time she had been to a beach where women's bodies were not covered up in the presence of men. 

They have made lots of friends on P.E.I. and have many regular customers at the café. It is clear they both have a good sense of humour and Pourbahman laughs a lot, especially at himself when he messes up his English. 

'A good husband'

Pourbahman, whose first language is Persian, said he might try to get back into the construction business if he can improve his English. But family continues to be his first priority.

Narges does homework in the family home in Shiraz, Iran. (Farah Jahandideh)

For that, Jahandideh said, she is grateful.

"He's a very good husband and a very good father."

She's happy.

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      About the Author

      Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.

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