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  • 24 July 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 7 Comments
  • Legislative Agenda

Will you sign our thank you card to the White House?

Last week, the White House hosted the first ever Iranian-American roundtable.  This was a historic moment for our community to be recognized as a distinct and important constituency.

But some would prefer Iranian Americans to be locked out of the White House and punished for the actions of the Iranian government.

Just days after the meeting, prominent neoconservative outlets Commentary and Washington Free Beacon slammed the White House for opening their doors to Iranian Americans, and called this moment of pride “a slap in the face to the pro-Israel community.”

In reality, it’s the pro-war crowd that is threatened that our community’s voice is becoming louder and more organized.  They will use every trick in the book, even outright racism, to try to silence us.

That’s why we need you to help show the community’s appreciation to the White House.

We’re sending a thank you card this Friday to President Obama’s top advisor, Valerie Jarrett, expressing our appreciation for the historic White House meeting and to support continued meetings in the future.   Please take a moment to sign the thank you card and to send the message that a handful of neoconservatives will not silence us.

 

Will you sign our thank you card to the White House?

Thank you, Valerie Jarrett, for inviting us to the White House! The Iranian-American community looks forward to working with you.

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Want to learn more?

>> Read NIAC’s response to the attacks
>> Learn more about the first ever Iranian-American Community Roundtable

  • 8 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • 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
  • 49 Comments
  • 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.

  • 15 April 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 6 Comments
  • Immigration Policy, Iranian American activism, Legislative Agenda

Tell President Obama to Fix the Single-Entry Visa Policy for Iranian Students in the US

So many Iranian Americans began their journey in the U.S. as students, but now that path is becoming increasingly closed. Not only is it more difficult for Iranians to obtain visas to study in the U.S., but Iranian students are only eligible for single-entry visas.

This means that Iranians studying in the U.S. cannot visit their family or travel abroad without losing their student visa. Even in emergencies—such as if a family member falls ill—or academic opportunities—such as an international conference—Iranian students who leave the U.S. cannot come back unless they start the entire application process over again and obtain a brand new visa.

President Obama stated in his recent Norooz message that he is “committed to increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities.”

We should thank the President for this commitment, but we must also take this opportunity to say: Mr. President, please fix the “single-entry only” student visa policy that unnecessarily burdens all Iranians studying in the U.S.

Send a letter urging President Obama to address the single-entry only policy so that Iranian students in the U.S. can visit their families, attend international conferences, and travel abroad for personal and educational purposes.

  • 14 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 1 Comments
  • Civil Rights Legislation, Congress, Immigration Policy

Tell Congress to Stop the STEP Act

Last week, NIAC united the Iranian-American community against Congressman Gresham Barrett’s (R-SC) plan to reintroduce the Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, a bill he originally introduced in 2003 that sought to deport all non-immigrant Iranians in the US and ban Iranians from entering the US.

Iranian Americans immediately sprung into action, sending nearly 5,000 letters calling on Rep. Barrett to rethink his disgraceful legislation.  Hours after NIAC delivered your letters to his office, Rep. Barrett confirmed to NIAC that the deportation language would be removed in the revised bill.

This was a major victory, but the fight is not over yet.

The STEP Act was introduced on January 13th-it still labels all Iranians as “terrorists” and would ban them from getting US visas. This bill would prevent Iranians from visiting their family in the US, and at a time of increasing repression in Iran, would impose even greater burdens on Iranians seeking refuge.

  • 13 January 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 1 Comments
  • Civil Rights Legislation, Immigration Policy

Breaking News: Language to Deport Iranians Dropped from STEP Act

Major Victory for Iranian-American Community

Washington DC – Congressman Gresham Barrett’s (R-SC) office has confirmed to NIAC that he will drop language aimed at deporting non-immigrant Iranians from the U.S. when he reintroduces the Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act today.

This is a major victory for the Iranian-American community.

When the STEP Act was first introduced in 2003, it contained provisions that would have mandated the deportation of all Iranians on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange visas, and tourist visas from the United States within 60 days.

On Tuesday, NIAC staff hand-delivered over 3,500 letters from concerned Americans, asking the Congressman to reconsider his legislation.

Though the elimination of the deportation provisions constitutes a significant victory for the Iranian-American community, the bill remains problematic. It would make it illegal for Iranians to travel to the United States, though some exceptions may be made for medical emergencies and political or religious asylum after “extensive federal screening.”

“Eliminating the deportation provisions is welcomed but it isn’t enough,” said Trita Parsi, President of NIAC. “We shouldn’t make it more difficult for Iranians to seek refuge in the US at a time when repression in Iran is increasing.”

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.

  • 11 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • 1 Comments
  • Culture, Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Iranian American activism

White House: Ahmadinejad should not expect invite to reception of leaders

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should not expect an invitation to a reception of world leaders hosted by President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday. More from Yahoo! News:

“I doubt it,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, when asked whether Ahmadinejad would be invited, at a time of extreme tension between Iran and the west over its nuclear program.

Why?

Gibbs answered: “Because Iran is failing to live up to its international obligations.”

Gibbs also hinted there may be some other world leaders who “might miss out on the hors d’oeuvers.” He did not reveal the guest list.

The UN meeting and the subsequent G20 summit in Pittsburgh are being seen as a chance for world powers to discuss whether to move ahead with a tough new regime of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

As is tradition, Ahmadinejad will be hosting his own reception in New York, which is usually attended by an array of Iranian Americans. It remains to be seen, however, whether members of the community will be as willing to attend given recent events.

  • 12 August 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

NIAC’s Membership Speaks Up: Delay Diplomacy, Opposes Broad Sanctions

Washington DC – The violence that erupted in the aftermath of the Iran elections left very few around the world untouched. Increasingly, US policymakers have looked to the Iranian-American community and to National Iranian American Council for feedback and guidance. As a grass-roots organization representing Americans of Iranian descent, NIAC in turn depends on feedback and surveys of its membership to determine its priorities and inform its directions. At no time has the input of the NIAC membership been more important than during the tumultuous post-election period.

Maz Jobrani’s Message of Support

Iranian-American comedian (and member of NIAC’s advisory board) Maz Jobrani has a message of support for the Iranian people:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mO5S1g7J4E]

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.

Sincerely,

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