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Iranian American Life

Men in Iran are Wearing Hijabs in Support of Women’s Rights

The fight against the forced hijab has been documented since it began immediately after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iranian women have gone so far as to shave their heads in protest of wearing the hijab. Last week, however, the fight against forced hijab took a new turn. Iranian men have begun wearing the hijab in public, as well as in social media posts, in protest of the13882194_1455418324472257_9184109751125894604_n forced covering.

The campaign began on the Facebook group My Stealthy Freedom, which has been at the forefront of the fight against forced hijab. One of the submitted posts states “Compulsion is not a good feeling. I hate when they used morality police in order to force my wife to wear compulsory hijab. There are a lot of men in Iran who have respect for women’s freedom of choice, so those conservatives that are not happy with our wives’ “bad hijab”, are not representative of Iranian men at all.”

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist living in New York, is behind the widely popular Facebook group which encourages Iranian women, and now men, to post photos of themselves without their hijabs along with a caption of why they oppose the forced practice. Over one million people have liked the movement on Facebook. Prior to the #meninhijab campaign, the page has almost exclusively been contributed to by brave Iranian women submitting pictures of themselves without their hijab.

  • 29 July 2016
  • Posted By Karina Bakhshi-Azar
  • Culture, Iranian American Life, Iranian Youth, Updates

Top 5 Iranian Teams/Athletes to Watch for During the Summer Olympics

For a moment, absolve your mind of Iran: the politically charged and hotly contested nation that is so often the target of criticism in the news, and engulf yourself in Iran: the nation whose athletes led the Middle East in the most Olympic medals in the 2012 summer games and are hungry to prove themselves again.

Excluding 1980 and 1984, Iran has participated in every summer Olympic Games since 1948 and holds claim to 60 Olympic medals. Iran’s Olympic team is currently ranked 39th in the world. The team for this year’s games is made up of 64 athletes that will compete in 14 different sporting events. While all of these respective athletes have accomplished incredible feats to participate in this year’s Olympics, here are some key competitors who are sure to put Iran in the spotlight.

Men’s Volleyball Team:

As one of Iran’s most popular sports, the men’s volleyball team is sure to make a splash at the games. Iran’s volleyball team won the last Asian games in 2014 and is being called the dark horse of the competit16_Iran Volleyball Goes to 2016 Rio Olympicsion. However, they will have to work particularly hard in order to take home a medal in the event as they have been placed in group B alongside London 2012 gold medalist Russia, World Championship 2014 winner Poland, Argentina, Cuba and Egypt. However, blocker Mohammad Mousavi is confident in the team’s abilities. “This is a very tough job but we have the chance and we’ve shown our quality in the past. We have the quality to beat any team and win the gold medal,” he said. Mousavi is regarded as one of the best blockers in the world. Iran will play its first match against Argentina on August 7 at 9:30 p.m.


Men’s Wrestling Team:

Iran is also expected to shine in the wrestling portion of the competition. Iran won 3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals in wrestling in the London 2012 games. In June, Iran won its fifth consecutive Freestyle World Cup title soundly defeating Russia 5-3 in the championship. Four-time world medalist Hassan Rahimi  is ranked second in the world in freestyle wrestling and is a favorite to receive a medal at the games. Iran will have participants in both the freestyle and Greco Roman style wrestling events which will go from August 14-August 21.


Taekwondo: Farzan Ashourzadeh, Mahdi Khodabakhshi, Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin

Iranian competitor Farzan Ashourzadeh is currently ranked 1st in the world in the sport and is a strong favorite to win gold at the games. Ashourzadeh recently won the gold medal227f7f22-a40c-4edb-b271-8b161445db3d in the flyweight division at the 2014 Asian Games. Another Iranian favorite is Mahdi Khodabakhshi wh
o is the current world champion in the lightweight series. Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin also hopes to bring glory to Iran in taekwondo. She won a gold medal in the women’s 63-kg at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and defeated London 2012 gold medalist Jade Jones at the 2015 World Championship. The 18-year-old is one of nine females on the Iranian Olympic team. The entire Iranian Taekwondo team as well as
these three particular members have received widespread praise from other coaches and athletes throughout the world. The Taekwondo events will be held from August 17-20.


Men’s Weightlifting: Behdad Salimi

At 6-foot-6 and 364 lbs Behdad Salimi is referred to by many across the world as the Iranian weightlifting power house. He competes in the +105 kg class which holds the true heavyweights of the weightlifting competition. These men are considered the strongest in the world and Salimi aims to maintain his title after his gold medal performance in the 2012 London Olympic Games. There, Salimi lifted a total of 455 kg, 208 in the snatch and 247 in the clean and jerk. He was forced to miss the 2015 world championships because of a torn ACL but has made a full recovery for the games this year. You can watch Salimi on August 16.


Shooting: Golnoush Sebghatollahi

Iran is sending four female shooters to the games this year. Golnoush Sebghatollahi has already begun to make her presence known on the Olympic stage as she earned a silver medal at the Olympic Games Training Camp in France earlier this summer in the 25-meter pistol competition. She will be competing in this category on August 9. Sebghatollahi will also be competing in the 10-meter air pistol competition where she came in 4th in the event at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhi. She will be competing in this category on August 7-8.


So grab your friends, order some chelo kebab, and break out your best green, white and red clothing because this Iranian Olympic team is definitely worth cheering for.


All of the members of Iran’s team as well as their respective events can be found here.

Iranican Promotes Unity through Dialogue and Tolerance

We had the wonderful opportunity to interview the hosts behind Iranican, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization based in the Silicon Valley whose mission is to explore issues affecting “Generation Iranian-American”. This is done via radio and video interviews and shows as well as via an online blog. The Iranican team uses entertainment in order to educate and discuss communal issues.


E Pluribus Unum

It’s no challenge trying to find an American flag and seal in the U.S. State Department. Almost every place you look, you can find our nation’s beautiful seal decorated with these powerful words, “E Pluribus Unum” meaning Out of Many One.

But the reason I went to the State Department was not just to admire the flags and phrases, but to attend a conference,  The Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum.  As an Iranian American, I was interested to hear from Hillary Clinton about how diaspora communities like mine fit into the diverse American tapestry.

Kris Balderston opened the conference and noted that nowadays the meaning of our nation’s motto has transformed into a similar concept that we are one nation united under the precepts of being Americans working together towards common goals. No matter what country of origin, ethnicity, religion, or gender the citizens belong to, they are all striving towards the same things whether it is education, freedom, or peace. The purpose of this conference is to recognize and connect all the different Diasporas in the United States and provide them with a road map to the future full of success and achievement of common goals. Additionally, the conference encourages building bridges from the Diasporas in the U.S. to their countries of origin, via people to people interactions.

  • 8 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Culture, Iranian American Life

Talented Iranian American Top Ranked in Film Competition

Ali Tabibnejad knew he was meant to be a film-maker since he was a child in Ahvaz. He would go into a room by himself and act out entire films. He imagined an entire film industry in his head: from different studios — different rooms in the house– to different theaters and directors. He would even imagine sales figures for the films and pick winners among them in imaginary film festivals.

Now, Tabibnejad is turning his favorite childhood game into reality. His film, “Untitled for James,” is currently ranked as one of the top six films in Openfilm’s Get It Made Competition. “Untitled for James” is about connecting to people and how technology affects that connection. It is the story of a son who has given up on his father because the father has been a technology-obsessed workaholic, working on advancing technology and its promise all his life. The son, an anti-technology musician, thinks he has figured it all out, but in actuality his life is in tatters. Through the events depicted in the film, his father succeeds in connecting with him.

The creation of the film was no small feat. Just days before production was to begin, Tabibnejad lost his lead actress. With challenging and frantic last minute rewriting, Tabibnejad did not stop rewriting until the very last edits in the post-production.

When asked about his interest in film-making, Tabibnejad stressed the social nature of art. “I hope to be a filmmaker in the tradition of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, not just because I have admired his films growing up, but also because he uses his status as an artist for social change,” he told NIAC. “I believe that the platform for expression that artists are afforded in society brings with it the responsibility to fight for the freedom of others.”

Asked whether he views himself as a role model for other Iranian-American involvement in the arts, Tabibnejad replied, “No, but I hope to be one. Iranians are a talented people, often intimidatingly so, and if my story inspires any Iranian to commit to the arts, I would count myself blessed.”

If Tabibnejad’s “Untitled for James” is still ranked as one of the top six films at the end of July, he will have the chance to turn it into a feature film. With this jumpstart to his career, Tabibnejad hopes to later revisit and explore his Iranian roots through cinema. “I don’t think any film has done justice to the richness of Iran’s recent history… and the breadth and depth of the personal stories that Iranians have been the heroes of in the last thirty to forty years.”

  • 17 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Culture, discrimination, Iranian American Life

Will the Real Iranians Please Stand Up?

In the past three decades, American perceptions of Iran have shifted dramatically.  The very people who once had an empire, who drafted the first human rights declaration, and who were one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East are now among the most misunderstood and discriminated-against populations in the country.

First, Iran was labeled as a member of the ‘axis of evil’. Then, in the movie 300, Persians were depicted as pillaging, deranged savages wearing rags. Public officials and famous politicians oftentimes make off-hand and flippant comments about killing or hating Iranians.

All of this has led much of the public to equate all Iranians in their minds with terrorists and suicide bombers.  (I actually had a World History teacher tell one of the Iranian-American kids in my class to be quiet because “All Iran exports is terrorism.”)

With Prince of Persia, we were finally portrayed in a good light. Our ancient world was being shown in romantic and mythological ways based on revered Persian literature, The Book of Kings and A Thousand and One Nights. For once, my dad said he’d actually sit through a movie without falling asleep. We were all excited.

We should have known that it wouldn’t last long…

Enter: Jersey Shore — The Persian Version.

“Two thousand years ago the Persian Empire ruled the ancient world…but they didn’t have your soundtrack, your style, or your swagger,” reads the casting call for the new reality show, seeking “anyone who uses exotic appeal to get anything or anyone [they] desire.”

For anyone who has not seen Jersey Shore, the show currently consists of a cast of young Italian Americans, whose “reality”-show lifestyle is little more than drinking and partying. They live on the beach, but refuse to tan anywhere but a tanning salon, and take an hour to get ready, with a lot of hair gel and a lot of hair spray involved. The characters either hook up, or attempt to hook up, with a sort of mad desperation.

And now they’re going to do the same thing with Iranian Americans.

A short while ago, the Iranian band Zed Bazi came out with a song called “Iranian of LA,” making fun of the very people who are chosen to represent our community in this show.  Now everyone knows that Iranians are the real origin of the hair “poof” and can party as much as anyone else. But honestly, no one wants to be represented by the type of people and lifestyles shown on Jersey Shore.

The sad thing is there are hundreds of amazing Iranian Americans who deserve some recognition: artists, fashion designers, film directors, actors, doctors, website founders, and more.  But the quiet dignity with which these people live their lives isn’t considered “good TV.”

For a moment, we thought our reputations might be saved with a last-minute addition to your nightly TV line-up: Funny in Farsi. But sadly, that show was nixed after the first episode.

Silly Iranians, we were told by Hollywood, you have three options only: terrorists, savages, or party animals. Take your pick.

Amanpour: Attacked for Being Iranian

As with anything in politics, there should be room for a lively debate about Christiane Amanpour’s recent appointment to host ABC’s This Week. Legitimate arguments can be made both for and against the decision to hire an acclaimed foreign correspondent to do a Sunday morning show that previously focused on domestic issues.  And employees at ABC are well within their right to be miffed at the network’s decision to pay top dollar for a star like Amanpour at the same time they are scaling back and laying off long-time employees.

But what cannot be countenanced is accusing her of bias based only on insinuations about her Iranian heritage.  The attacks on Amanpour follow in a long line of Iranophobic attempts to keep qualified Iranian Americans out of the public sphere in America, and it should be called out for what it is: anti-Iranian bigotry.

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • Congress, Culture, Iranian American Life

Khodahafez America?

This week Congressman Greshman Barrett announced that he would like to reintroduce the Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act, originally introduced in 2003. STEP is an attempt to “step up” national security policies by amending our nation’s current immigration policies. Basically, the STEP ACT would prohibit the admission of aliens from countries deemed to be “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” including Iran.

The United States has come a long way since the days of the Mayflower — in both good ways and bad — but our nation was ultimately founded by immigrants; everyone has immigrant roots, including Congressman Barrett.

One could say to suddenly bar all Iranians seeking to come to the US could be seen as a eugenic measure of some sort, keeping out specific groups of “aliens” from US soil, and adhering to the bigoted idea that only specific ethnic groups belong within the US. It would also deport Iranians on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange visas, and even tourist visas within 60 days. This would mean that if the STEP Act were to pass, my Calculus tutor Bijan would be deported before we even take our final exams, simply for being here on a student visa.

The STEP Act doesn’t take into account that Bijan has only twenty more credits to complete his B.S. in Biology, simply focusing on the fact that he is Iranian.

Even those seeking emergency medical treatment, political, or religious asylum will only be granted entry after “extensive federal screening.”  Anyone who has experienced the “extensive federal screening” process knows how difficult it is.

If a law like this had been implemented ten, twenty, even thirty years ago many of us Iranian-Americans would not be here today. Many of the great contributions that Iranian Americans have made to the United States — in medicine, engineering, science, and academia — would not have occurred.

The US has tried rounding up people based on where they or their families were born — Japanese internment camps during WWII being the most poignant example — and there are even some pundits in Washington who still think it was a good idea.  But even in today’s frenzied political atmosphere where teabaggers set the bounds for discourse, this has to be crossing a line, right?

If you think so, check out what NIAC is doing on this.

Congressman Introducing Legislation to Bar & Deport Iranians from U.S.

Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) has announced his intention to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.”  The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, first introduced in 2003, also would have required all persons from these countries on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange and tourist visas to leave the United States within 60 days, despite their legal status in the country.  Residents and nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen would be affected.

The bill makes an exception only in the cases of individuals who are seeking political or religious asylum, or who have immediate emergency medical needs.

Congressman Barrett said his bill came in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas-day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. “While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens.”

The American Army major and Nigerian alleged to have committed those attacks would not have been affected by the STEP Act.

In response to Barrett’s announcement, the National Iranian American Council has launched a campaign against the bill, saying it is “offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests, and discriminates against Iranians and Iranian Americans.”  The group also noted that no Iranian has ever committed a terrorist act on American soil.

The 2003 version of the bill is available online.  Congressman Barrett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.  Aside from the inclusion of Yemen, and a new provision to prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States, Congressman Barrett has not indicated any further differences between his new bill and the legislation he introduced in 2003.

Green Movement and Iranian Government Clash Flares Up

While Iranian authorities continue their campaign against the growing opposition, the Green Movement does not appear to be letting up, even as some of its leaders’ efforts were thwarted from participating. Yesterday’s National Student Day protests were preempted by arrests of student activists from universities across Iran as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights. Nevertheless, tens of thousands protested in solidarity with the Green Movement against the current Iranian government in “the biggest anti-government rallies in months.” Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, widely regarded as the movement’s leaders, were feared to be under house arrest.

According to AP:

Plainclothes men on motorcycles — likely Basijis — also harassed the opposition’s leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, at his Tehran office on Tuesday. Up to 30 men on motorcycles, some in masks, blocked Mousavi as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses.

Mousavi got out of his car and shouted at them, ”You’re agents, you’ve been tasked with threatening me, beating me, killing me,” before his aides hustled him back inside, the Gooya News Web site reported. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.

“When Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard arrived at Tehran University’s art faculty, where she is a professor, female Basij members tried to stop her and attacked her and her entourage with pepper spray, opposition Web sites reported, citing witnesses.

Protesters took some of the boldest actions yet in their demonstrations against the ruling clerics, breaking “the biggest taboo in Iran—burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.”

The New York Times reports further symbolic breaks from the current government as protesters “carried an Iranian flag from which the signature emblem of ‘Allah’– added after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution— had been removed.” Iranian authorities stepped up their threats against demonstrators while attempting to barricade universities to contain protests. Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, warned on Tuesday that the judiciary will be harsher than in the past:

“So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied,” Ejehi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday’s demonstrations. They were detained for ”violating public order,” including setting fire to vehicles and chanting slogans, he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Large demonstrations are expected to occur on December 12th, the 6-month anniversary of the disputed June 12th elections. Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is spreading the word about the Global Day of Arts in Support of Iran’s Civil Rights Movement on December 12th, when activists and artists will come together under the banner of ArtsUnited4Iran. Sponsors of associated worldwide events will include Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, ARTICLE 19, and Front Line. More detailed information can be found at United4Iran:

Iran experts and activists speaking out in support of the civil rights movement in Iran include Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Professor and CNN commentator; Hadi Ghaemi, Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s International Coordinator; Omid Memarian, Iran expert for Human Rights Watch; and Reza Moini, Iran expert for Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Following the UN General Assembly’s resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran on November 20, 2009, members of the international community are calling on the Iranian government to:

  • Respect Freedom of Assembly, Expression, and Press,
  • Free all Prisoners of Conscience,
  • End Rape and Torture in Prisons,
  • Hold Those Responsible for Committing Human Rights Crimes Accountable.