Iranian American participation in civic life is growing, and it is the younger generations that are leading this effort. As some of the other NIAC interns observed last week, Iranian Americans have often distanced themselves from politics in socially vibrant but politically dormant communities. From expert Iranian scholars to average Iranian American citizens, many label this lack of political engagement “understandable” and “unsurprising” given Iranians political past. And the trend is both those things.

What it is not, however, is here to stay.

Increasingly, younger Iranian Americans are helping to reverse this trend by getting involved in politics through volunteer opportunities with various politicians, letter writing campaigns, and online political discussions in blogs and Facebook groups. Having grown up in American culture, many younger Iranian-Americans embrace the political opportunities presented to them and seem to have a more welcoming attitude to political involvement than some of their parents.

In 2004, University of California at Irvine (UCI) graduate Nikan Khatibi was just 22 when he ran for Laguna Niguel City Council.

In February 2008, NPR quoted NIAC in a report on the growing political participation of Iranian American youth in the Presidential election process.

More recently, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) posted an opportunity for Iranian American students to volunteer and intern in the political campaign of Congressional candidate Darius Shahinfar, whose father immigrated from Iran 50 years ago. “I am humbled by how our campaign has been so warmly received nationally and I invite Iranian American students to participate as volunteers and interns in our campaign,” Shahinfar said to IAPAC.

In online forums, Iranian American youth speak out about political issues. There are currently over 20 Facebook groups dedicated solely to speaking out against war with Iran. Many other groups campaign for various politicians running for office.

The rise in the political participation of Iranian American youth, and indeed, all American youth (the remarkable influx of young volunteers in Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign being an example), seems to indicate a keenness for change. The younger generations want to get some done, and they want it done now.

Tomorrow, the streets will not suddenly be swarming with youthful, optimistic activists, but Iranian American youth are becoming more and more engaged, and that that may make all the difference in the future. After all, even progress within limits is progress.

Posted By Caroline Tarpey

    3 Responses to “Led by Youth, Future of Iranian-American Participation Grows Brighter”

  1. Julia Murray says:

    It is exciting to see the Iranian-American youth becoming more politically active. Many of the older generation who once lived in Iran have lost faith in politics given the aftermath of the Revolution. It is good to know that young people are not as disillusioned. America is a democracy and growing up in this society shows new Iranian-American generations that they should not be scared off by politics. Instead, they can air their views and get involved.

  2. Arsalan Barmand says:

    hopefully this trend will continue so we can gain more political clout in order to further advance our interests.

  3. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    Awesome! With such a high level of education, wealth, discipline, and inexorable work ethic among a good portion of us, it behooves us to become more active.

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Sign the Petition


7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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