By Lea Aoun

Consuming meat and dairy is a big part of Arab culture. However, a small percentage of Arab-Americans have decided to change their lifestyles and become Vegan. Veganism is a diet that excludes the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. In other words, you cannot consume meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products, nor have clothing made out of fur or leather.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to interview Sham Hasan, an Iraqi vegan, about his lifestyle. Mr. Hasan runs the popular Instagram, @VeganIraqiFood, where his West Coast adventures and unique vegan-friendly recipes are shared daily.

Tell me about yourself. How long have you been Vegan and what inspired this change?

I was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. My parents are Kurds, from Kurdistan region of Iraq. I migrated to the U.S. in 2014 because of the deteriorating political situation in Iraq. I’ve been Vegetarian for two years and Vegan for six months. My love and compassion for animals and how much I care about a clean environment inspired me to stop consuming animal products. I never felt right eating meat, even when I was younger — I have always been an animal lover. I hate what the meat factories are doing to animals and their cruel slaughtering process. I have 3 cats and they inspire me every day. That’s why I decided to go completely vegan.

How did your family and friends react when you first told them you wanted to become Vegan?

My family in Iraq were very surprised that I stopped eating meat because vegetarianism and veganism are very rare back home. The majority of people eat meat. My mother has always thought I would die if I stopped eating meat. I had to explain to them why I needed to go vegan and about the different food options that have all sorts of nutrients and protein. That is why I also created an Instagram account, to show the variety of food options vegans have. My mom always told me to eat beans when I was a child because they’re a good source of protein. I rely on all types of beans to get protein.

Is it hard being Vegan while following a traditional Middle Eastern diet?

No, it’s not hard. I just did it gradually — I was vegetarian first and now I’m vegan. I think becoming a vegan requires a good amount of research about different types of food that you would like to eat. Learning how to cook your own food also makes it easier. In all honesty, the Middle Eastern diet is not all meat. People in the Middle East love fresh vegetables and fruit. Most Middle Eastern recipes rely heavily on vegetables and good spices. In a lot of recipes, I replaced the meats with legumes. For example, I rely on soy products, chickpeas, broccoli, and mushrooms, and other type of vegetables that have protein.

What health changes, both positive and negative, have you experienced?

Since I have become vegetarian, my cholesterol completely dropped, I lost a couple of the pounds that I’ve been trying to lose, my energy levels are higher, and I sleep so much better.

What is the hardest thing about being Vegan?

You have to be more conscious of everything that you buy and make sure that it’s not being made from (or with) animal products or tested on animals. I think it’s so easy to go vegan in the U.S. There is a huge market for it everywhere.

What is your favorite Vegan meal/dessert?

My favorite meal is Falafel because it’s a great source of protein and fiber and it tastes so good with Fenugreek sauce or tahini sauce. My favorite dessert is the vegan baklava I make with olive oil and filled with green pistachios and walnuts. Both recipes are posted on my account and were saved more than 100 times by my followers.

We would like to thank Mr. Sham Hasan for allowing us to learn more about his Vegan lifestyle. If you would like to view his vegan Middle Eastern recipes, feel free to visit his Instagram at www.instagram.com/VeganIraqiFood.

‬بقلم‭ ‬ليا‭ ‬عون

إن‭ ‬استهلاك‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬ومنتجات‭ ‬الألبان‭ ‬جزء‭ ‬كبير‭ ‬من‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬العربية‭. ‬ومع‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬فقد‭ ‬قررت‭ ‬نسبة‭ ‬صغيرة‭ ‬من‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الأميركيين‭ ‬تغيير‭ ‬أنماط‭ ‬حياتهم‭ ‬وتصبح‭ ‬نباتية‭. ‬النباتي‭ ‬هو‭ ‬النظام‭ ‬الغذائي‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يستبعد‭ ‬استخدام‭ ‬الحيوانات‭ ‬في‭ ‬لأغذية‭ ‬والملابس‭ ‬أو‭ ‬أي‭ ‬غرض‭ ‬آخر‭. ‬وبعبارة‭ ‬أخرى‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يمكنك‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تستهلك‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬والدواجن‭ ‬والمأكولات‭ ‬البحرية‭ ‬ومنتجات‭ ‬الألبان‭ ‬ولا‭ ‬ملابس‭ ‬مصنوعة‭ ‬من‭ ‬الفراء‭ ‬أو‭ ‬الجلد‭.‬

لقد‭ ‬أتيحت‭ ‬لي‭ ‬فرصة‭ ‬رائعة‭ ‬لمقابلة‭ ‬شام‭ ‬حسن‭ ‬وهو‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬عراقي‭ ‬والتعرف‭ ‬عن‭ ‬أسلوب‭ ‬حياته‭. ‬يدير‭ ‬شام‭ ‬صفحة‭ ‬إنستاجرام‭ ‬تسمى‭ ‬VeganIraqiFood‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬يقوم‭ ‬بالمشاركة‭ ‬بمغامراته‭ ‬في‭ ‬الساحل‭ ‬الغربي‭ ‬للولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬ووصفات‭ ‬نباتية‭ ‬فريدة‭ ‬من‭ ‬نوعها‭ ‬يوميا‭.‬

حدثني‭ ‬عن‭ ‬نفسك‭. ‬منذ‭ ‬متى‭ ‬وأنت‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬وما‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬ألهم‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬التغيير؟

ولدت‭ ‬ونشأت‭ ‬في‭ ‬بغداد‭ ‬العراق‭. ‬والدي‭ ‬من‭ ‬الأكراد‭ ‬من‭ ‬إقليم‭ ‬كردستان‭ ‬العراق‭. ‬هاجرت‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬في‭ ‬عام‭ ‬2014‭ ‬بسبب‭ ‬تدهور‭ ‬الوضع‭ ‬السياسي‭ ‬في‭ ‬العراق‭. ‬لقد‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬لمدة‭ ‬عامين‭ ‬و‭ ‬فيجن‭ ‬لمدة‭ ‬ستة‭ ‬أشهر‭. ‬بسبب‭ ‬حبي‭ ‬وشفقتي‭ ‬للحيوانات‭ ‬وإهتمامي‭ ‬بالبيئة‭ ‬النظيفة‭ ‬ألهمني‭ ‬لوقف‭ ‬استهلاك‭ ‬المنتجات‭ ‬الحيوانية‭. ‬ولم‭ ‬أشعر‭ ‬برغبة‭ ‬في‭ ‬تناول‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬حتى‭ ‬عندما‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬أصغر‭ ‬سنا‭ ‬لقد‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬دائما‭ ‬من‭ ‬محبي‭ ‬الحيوانات‭. ‬أكره‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تقوم‭ ‬به‭ ‬مصانع‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬للحيوانات‭ ‬وعملية‭ ‬القتل‭ ‬الوحشية‭. ‬لدي‭ ‬3‭ ‬القطط‭ ‬ويلهمني‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬بأن‭ ‬اكون‭ ‬فيجن‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬تام‭.‬

كيف‭ ‬تتفاعل‭ ‬عائلتك‭ ‬وأصدقائك‭ ‬عندما‭ ‬أخبرتهم‭ ‬أولا‭ ‬أنك‭ ‬تريد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تصبح‭ ‬فيجن؟

عائلتي‭ ‬في‭ ‬العراق‭ ‬فوجئت‭ ‬جدا‭ ‬أنني‭ ‬توقفت‭ ‬عن‭ ‬تناول‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬لأن‭ ‬فيجن‭ ‬والفيجن‭ ‬نادر‭ ‬جدا‭ ‬في‭ ‬الوطن‭ ‬العربي‭. ‬فغالبية‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬يأكلون‭ ‬اللحوم‭. ‬وكانت‭ ‬والدتي‭ ‬تعتقد‭ ‬دائما‭ ‬أنني‭ ‬سوف‭ ‬أموت‭ ‬إذا‭ ‬توقفت‭ ‬عن‭ ‬تناول‭ ‬اللحوم‭. ‬وكان‭ ‬علي‭ ‬أن‭ ‬أشرح‭ ‬لهم‭ ‬لماذا‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬بحاجة‭ ‬لأصبح‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬وحول‭ ‬الخيارات‭ ‬الغذائية‭ ‬المختلفة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬توفرها‭ ‬كل‭ ‬أنواع‭ ‬المواد‭ ‬الغذائية‭ ‬والبروتين‭. ‬ولهذا‭ ‬السبب‭ ‬قمت‭ ‬أيضا‭ ‬بإنشاء‭ ‬حساب‭ ‬إينستاجرام‭ ‬لإظهار‭ ‬مجموعة‭ ‬متنوعة‭ ‬من‭ ‬الخيارات‭ ‬الغذائية‭ ‬النباتية‭. ‬وتقول‭ ‬أمي‭ ‬أنني‭ ‬دائما‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬اتناول‭ ‬الفول‭ ‬عندما‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬طفلا‭ ‬لأنه‭ ‬مصدر‭ ‬جيد‭ ‬للبروتين‭. ‬أنا‭ ‬أعتمد‭ ‬على‭ ‬جميع‭ ‬أنواع‭ ‬الفاصوليا‭ ‬للحصول‭ ‬على‭ ‬البروتين‭.‬

هل‭ ‬من‭ ‬الصعب‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬في‭ ‬حين‭ ‬اتباع‭ ‬نظام‭ ‬غذائي‭ ‬شرق‭ ‬أوسطي‭ ‬تقليدي؟

لا‭ ‬إنها‭ ‬ليست‭ ‬صعبة‭. ‬أنا‭ ‬فقط‭ ‬قمت‭ ‬بهذا‭ ‬تدريجيا‭ – ‬كنت‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬أولا‭ ‬والآن‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬فيجن‭. ‬وأعتقد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تصبح‭ ‬فيجن‭ ‬يتطلب‭ ‬قدرا‭ ‬كبيرا‭ ‬من‭ ‬البحوث‭ ‬حول‭ ‬أنواع‭ ‬مختلفة‭ ‬من‭ ‬المواد‭ ‬الغذائية‭ ‬التي‭ ‬ترغب‭ ‬في‭ ‬تناولها‭. ‬تعلم‭ ‬كيفية‭ ‬طهي‭ ‬الطعام‭ ‬الخاص‭ ‬بك‭ ‬أيضا‭ ‬يجعل‭ ‬الأمر‭ ‬سهلاً‭. ‬بكل‭ ‬الصدق‭ ‬النظام‭ ‬الغذائي‭ ‬في‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬الأوسط‭ ‬ليس‭ ‬قائم‭ ‬على‭ ‬اللحوم‭. ‬فيحب‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬في‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬الأوسط‭ ‬الخضار‭ ‬والفواكه‭ ‬الطازجة‭. ‬وتعتمد‭ ‬معظم‭ ‬وصفات‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬الأوسط‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬كبير‭ ‬على‭ ‬الخضروات‭ ‬والتوابل‭ ‬الجيدة‭. ‬وفي‭ ‬الكثير‭ ‬من‭ ‬الوصفات‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬استبدل‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬مع‭ ‬البقوليات‭. ‬فعلى‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬أعتمد‭ ‬على‭ ‬منتجات‭ ‬الصويا‭ ‬والحمص‭ ‬والقرنبيط‭ ‬والفطر‭ ‬وأنوع‭ ‬آخر‭ ‬من‭ ‬الخضروات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تحتوي‭ ‬على‭ ‬البروتين‭.‬

ما‭ ‬هي‭ ‬التغيرات‭ ‬الصحية‭ ‬الإيجابية‭ ‬والسلبية‭ ‬على‭ ‬حد‭ ‬سواء‭ ‬التي‭ ‬واجهتها؟

منذ‭ ‬أن‭ ‬أصبحت‭ ‬فيجن‭ ‬انخفض‭ ‬الكولسترول‭ ‬تماما‭ ‬فقدت‭ ‬بضعة‭ ‬كيلوجرامات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬أحاول‭ ‬أن‭ ‬أخسرها‭. ‬ومستويات‭ ‬الطاقة‭ ‬لدي‭ ‬أعلى‭ ‬وأنا‭ ‬أنام‭ ‬الآن‭ ‬أفضل‭ ‬بكثير‭.‬

ما‭ ‬هو‭ ‬أصعب‭ ‬شيء‭ ‬تواجهه‭ ‬كونك‭ ‬نباتي؟

عليك‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬وعيا‭ ‬في‭ ‬كل‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تشتريه‭ ‬والتأكد‭ ‬من‭ ‬أن‭ ‬الأغذية‭ ‬ليست‭ ‬مصنوعة‭ ‬من‭ ‬أو‭ ‬مع‭ ‬المنتجات‭ ‬الحيوانية‭ ‬أو‭ ‬اختبارها‭ ‬على‭ ‬الحيوانات‭. ‬أعتقد‭ ‬أنه‭ ‬من‭ ‬السهل‭ ‬جدا‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تصبح‭ ‬نباتي‭ ‬في‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬وهناك‭ ‬أسواق‭ ‬ضخمة‭ ‬في‭ ‬كل‭ ‬مكان‭.‬

ما‭ ‬هي‭ ‬الوجبات‭ ‬النباتية‭ ‬او‭ ‬الحلوى‭ ‬المفضلة‭ ‬لديك؟

وجبتي‭ ‬المفضلة‭ ‬هي‭ ‬الفلافل‭ ‬لأنها‭ ‬مصدر‭ ‬كبير‭ ‬من‭ ‬البروتين‭ ‬والألياف‭ ‬وطعمها‭ ‬جيد‭ ‬جدا‭ ‬مع‭ ‬صلصة‭ ‬الحلبة‭ ‬أو‭ ‬صلصة‭ ‬الطحينة‭. ‬الحلوى‭ ‬المفضلة‭ ‬هي‭ ‬البقلاوة‭ ‬النباتية‭ ‬أنا‭ ‬اصنعها‭ ‬مع‭ ‬زيت‭ ‬الزيتون‭ ‬ومليئة‭ ‬بالفستق‭ ‬الحلبي‭ ‬والجوز‭. ‬وأقوم‭ ‬بنشر‭ ‬كل‭ ‬الوصفات‭ ‬على‭ ‬حسابي‭ ‬وتم‭ ‬مشاركة‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬من‭ ‬100‭ ‬مرة‭ ‬من‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬أتباعي‭.‬

نود‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نشكر‭ ‬السيد‭ ‬شام‭ ‬حسن‭ ‬على‭ ‬السماح‭ ‬لنا‭ ‬لمعرفة‭ ‬المزيد‭ ‬عن‭ ‬نمط‭ ‬حياته‭ ‬النباتي‭ ‬والفيجن‭. ‬إذا‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬ترغب‭ ‬في‭ ‬بالتعرف‭ ‬على‭ ‬وصفاته‭ ‬النباتية‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬أوسطية‭ ‬لا‭ ‬تتردد‭ ‬في‭ ‬زيارة‭ ‬صفحة‭ ‬الإنستاجرام‭ ‬www.instagram.com/VeganIraqiFood‭.‬