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Iranian American Life

  • 1 December 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian American Life

Iran, a Nation of Bloggers

h/t Boing Boing

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Iranian-American Artists Urge You to Vote November 4!

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Remember: Election Day is November 4!

Click here to find your polling location.

Darius Shahinfar Loses Race to Represent NY-21 in Congress

Darius Shahinfar lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to represent NY-21 in Congress

Darius Shahinfar lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to represent NY-21 in Congress

Darius Shahinfar, the first generation American of Iranian descent who ran in the Democratic primary in the NY-21 Congressional race, lost last night.  New York voters in the district, which includes parts of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Johnstown, voted for Paul Tonko with 39% of the vote.  The low turnout election brought out over 38,000 voters.  Mr. Shahinfar, who was not considered a favorite recieved 3,879 votes.

Shahinfar’s canidacy did draw the interest and attention of the Iranian American community that raised over a hundred thousand dollars for his campaign.  During the campaign, he posted a video on his website in which talked about his heritage and what it meant for him personally and politically.

Colin Abele who covered the NY-21 primary election for the popular New York blog The Albany Project said of Shahinfar that “He ran an excellent campaign on true American values.”

Darius follows in the footsteps of other Iranian American candidates such as Goli Ameri, Ross Mir-Karimi, and others who have entered the political arena and embracing their Iranian American identity.

Rochester’s 200 Iranian Americans

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting down with about ten IAs at a restaurant in Rochester, MN.  The town of 99,000+, the third largest in Minnesota, is home of the renowned Mayo Clinic medical facility (treating the likes of George HW Bush, Henry Kissinger, Jalal Talibani, and King Hussein of Jordan), which employs about a third of the city’s working-age residents.  The Clinic, and its associated School of Medicine and various medical fellowship and residency programs are a big draw for Iranian American students and that is reflected in the Iranian American community that has been formed in Rochester.


So as you can imagine, we had a vibrant and eclectic conversation about our community’s political activism, healthcare laws, the Presidential election, and…  tax policy!! 

Do you know your neighbor?

Last night, NIAC held an informal meet and greet where members of the community were welcomed to come by to meet NIAC staff and ask questions and discuss any issues on their mind.  Between the hours of 7-9 pm, Iranian-American Denver residents dropped in at their own convenience to say hello and talk politics.

During the meeting I was amazed to find out that there are approximately 4,000 to 10,000 Iranians in Colorado!  The large difference in the numbers is mainly due to a lack of accurate data since the last census was taken.  The 2000 U.S. Census places the overall Iranian number far lower than what is commonly predicted and Iranians are constantly growing in numbers. Hence, speculation often tends to range from the very low to the very high.

My amazement at the discovery of the numbers in Colorado came at the fact that we don’t know we exist!  We all know about Tehrangeles and New York and some other key locations Iranian Americans have chosen to migrate to, but we’re not too sure about our own neighbors.

Regardless, I am impressed by the large numbers and the apparent vibrant community here.  The individuals that we had an opportunity to meet with are well informed and very much aware of the political environment.  All in all, our informal event was well received and well attended.  Thanks to all of those who chose to take an hour or two of their evening to join us for an informal chit chat session!

To be or not to be: what is your identity?

Soldiers crowding the streets, strapped with imaginary guns, make their way through the city as they reenact combat as if they are on the streets of Baghdad.  Military veterans from Iraq are only few of the many groups in Denver, here to make a statement.  Everybody here has a message, whether in suits and in formal panels, or in dreadlocks and on the streets.  But it is obvious what the big issues are: everything!  Oil dependency, the economy, poverty, environment, race/gender/ethnicity/religious issues, women’s issues, healthcare, foreign policy, to name a few and all of them with their own long list of subcategories.

Guest Post: “Lost in Opposition”

Special guest post by Pedram Moallemian

This post first appeared at

One of the many problems with the primarily “in-exile” opposition to the Iranian government is their choice to detach themselves from the day-to-day lives of their compatriots back home. I say choice, as with the state of today’s technology, distance is an almost non-existing barrier and they could certainly connect to current issues and hot topics within Iran if they wanted to.

The latest example is a piece of legislation that has already passed primary screening procedures of the appropriate committee and is about to be presented to the Iranian parliament, Majles. Introduced and backed by both the judiciary as well as cabinet and under the title of “Family Assistance Bill” [layehe-hamayat-az-khanevadeh], it will become law if passed by the greater chamber and then ratified by the Guardian Council to ensure its compatibility with the constitution as well as Islamic law and traditions.

Uninformed or Apathetic?

A few weeks ago I met with an elderly Iranian gentleman who had come from Tehran to visit his family in the US. Because of his affiliation with an Iranian non-governmental organization (NGO) he is involved in the political arena as well as current social and political reform movements. Because of the various risks, I choose not to mention the name of this gentleman. However, for me, his perception of the Iranian America community and the general American society was very interesting. Being born in Iran and raised in Sweden, it is relatively easy for me to act as an unbiased observer and objectively gauge the flaws of American society. Interestingly, even with our different life experiences and age difference, we seemed to be in agreement on our perspective of this country.

Led by Youth, Future of Iranian-American Participation Grows Brighter

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.

Day 1 with NIAC

One of the great aspects of America is that we have many different cultures and identities living together in relative harmony. As a democracy, the American political institution functions best when citizens participate. The Iranian-American community may be small, but as an important minority it is our duty as US citizens to engage in American civic life. Unfortunately, the Iranian community is largely politically inactive, but non-partisan organizations like NIAC have sought to encourage the community to engage in American civic life to a greater extent.

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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