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Why in Ba Sing Se do Iroh & Zuko hide being a fire bender or fire nation citizen? Not all Russians support Putin. Or well maybe there so much propaganda that most citizens actually do support the war. Idk.

Of course out-of-universe explanation is that it works great because of Jin & Jet, but well...

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The Earth Kingdom sees every firebender as an enemy because, in their perspective, all firebenders are soldiers. In the series, there is only one firebender who actually deserts the Fire Nation military.

Also, Zuko and Iroh are not normal firebenders, but the son and brother of the Fire Lord, respectively. It is more risky for them to be discovered than a normal firebender. 

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  • oh right ok thanks so indeed there is 'so much propaganda that most citizens actually do support the war' ?
    – BCLC
    Commented Apr 5 at 9:45
  • Pretty much, in season one Aang is looking for a teacher for fire bender and one of the plots is the rarity of a non warmonger firebender, even between the non benders the norm is to support the war, only four characters in the fire nation are against the war at some point.
    – wolfpirate
    Commented Apr 5 at 23:48
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Fire Nation citizens are clearly unwelcome in the Earth Kingdom

And by "clearly unwelcome" I mean that it's nearly gotten Zuko killed twice that we know of. Once when he's driven out of the town he just finished saving from Earth Kingdom brigands, and once when Jet attacked him over the possibility that his uncle might be an enemy citizen and therefore a spy.

Zuko and Iroh have seen firsthand how the Fire Nation and its people rate in the eyes of the Earth Kingdom and they aren't keen on taking their chances with that again.

More specifically, Zuko and Iroh are wanted criminals

Iroh directly points out when they begin their exile that if they're found out by the Earth Kingdom, they'll be tried and executed. And he should know, since that very fate awaited him when he was captured in the first season.

Since they have no support network, no real ability to disguise themselves, and Zuko in particular couldn't live a legend to save his life, they need to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Living as open foreigners (let alone from a belligerent state) is not a good way to avoid notice.

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This question belies a very modern perspective, one which pre-modern societies wouldn't have shared.

Prior to the industrial revolution, and really even for quite awhile after it, travel was exceedingly difficult. So most people would never meet a foreigner; if they did it would have been a traveling merchant they wouldn't really get to know. So it is quite likely that most of them would be highly prejudiced against any firebenders. The obvious assumption would be "They're spies." Which to be honest, Azula proves it would be a reasonable assumption, too.

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