Homeless and Iranian

The man in this video is homeless in Los Angeles. He is also Iranian. Does the stigma of homelessness, mental illness, and other social problems in Iranian society create a system in our culture in which people who have these problems find it harder to overcome them? Do Iranians have a responsibility for other Iranians’ well-being? More of a responsibility than they have to anyone else, especially if they live in an affluent city like LA? Where’s the logic in this man’s thoughts regarding gambling as income? What’s the line between helping someone and enabling them? Do Persian-language social services exist in America? Is he on drugs? All questions swirling in my head as I take in this hard-to-watch report from bebin.tv. This is just part 1, and I’m looking forward to the continuation of this story.

Iranians on Facebook


Word on the street is Facebook is banned in Iran, but there are about ten jillion global Iranians on the social network anyway, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. Sadly, there are not nearly as many cool Iranian-related applications (Or maybe that’s a good thing, because application invites are getting really annoying – no, I do not want to be a zombie/vampire/pirate, you loser! And stop writing on my nonexistent FunWall!) but one I’ve found so far is the clever Faal e Hafez, which simulates the popular Iranian custom of fortune-telling via Hafez’s poetry.

More recently, Kiosk guitarist Babak Khiavchi created the Iranians of the Day application, which pulls current content from what is, arguably, Iranian.com’s best section – the one that highlights ordinary and extraordinary Iranians and satisfies your (okay, fine, my) inner Iranian-Internet voyeur. Seriously, without Iranians of the Day I don’t think I really would have gotten sucked into the whole Iranian thing, so if you’re on Facebook and you’re still waiting for an RSS feed for this section of Iranian.com, install the app and you’ll be content.

And another thing about Iranians on Facebook… it’s a really good way to connect with long-lost cousins (true story – I’ve found peeps from both sides, even) and get in touch with some pretty fancy professionals.

How do you use Facebook to get down with your Perzhian-ness? Leave a comment and I’ll update this post with your genius.

17 Nov 2007, 1:02pm
Community Culture Events

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Javad Party, Los Angeles


Tonight, if you’re in LA, you should really check out the Javad Party going on tonight in the Valley. Javads are as close as Iranians get to Britain’s chavs, so that means ridiculous outfits, strange and funny jargon, and generally awesome antics.

Tonight’s party requires a Javad costume. See the party’s flyer for more info.

The First Iranian Literary Arts Festival and ICARUS/RISE


Niloufar Talebi and The Translation Project are the forces behind a really cool event going on in San Francisco this week: the inaugural Iranian Literary Arts Festival, which features film screenings and the world premiere of ICARUS/RISE, a multimedia play inspired by contemporary Iranian poetry. Entry to the festival comes with buying a ticket to the play (tix are $50 if you’re not a student – a little steep but the play looks amazing). Beyond Persia is also sponsoring the event; see their page on it for the best info and links to buy tickets.

Mehregan: The Persian Festival of Autumn (Well, At Least in the OC)


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I never attended any annual Mehregan events. Everyone knew about the big one in Orange County, but there has never been much else for celebration-hungry Iranians to attend. Mehregan is upon us again, and it still doesn’t look like there’s much to celebrate outside of southern California.So what is Mehregan, anyway? Though most Iranians are familiar with Mehregan, unlike Norooz, it is not celebrated by all and is mainly regarded a Zoroastrian holiday. In recent years, though, more Iranians have begun to take an interest and the celebration is undergoing a revival among the community, regardless of faith.

According to Wikipedia, Mehregan is a more than 2,000-year old Zoroastrian festival celebrated in honor of Mitra, the divinity of covenant, or the Goddess of Light. Some sources say it was a day of victory when angels helped Fereydoun and Kaveh become victorious over Zahak. Yet others say Mehregan is the day when the concept of Adam and Eve was created, and finally, it could be the day when the sun was created.

Whatever its mysterious origins are, the holiday has come to represent friendship and love. Among Zoroastrians and many other Iranians, Mehregan is celebrated today by gathering with friends and giving thanks to the harvest, handing out food to the poor, preparing and eating traditional dishes like ajil and aash, and ending the festivities with bonfires and fireworks.

And if you happen to live in Orange County, Mehregan means a huge two-day celebration on October 13 and 14 featuring folk dance groups, the ever-flourishing petri dish of Persian pop singers, a naghali performance, and traditional music ensembles. More than 20,000 people attend each year, and it has me wishing Iranians outside of southern California would organize something on a similar scale for the other community enclaves. Until then, I think I’ll begin observing a little Mehregan celebration of my own each year. Friendship and love – certainly those are concepts worthy of celebration, no?

(Editor’s note: Please leave a comment if you know of other upcoming Mehregan celebrations, and we’ll add it here!)

[Photo: ariaaboom.com]

9 Oct 2007, 2:50pm
Community Events

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Iranian Domestic Violence Panel, October 11 at Berkeley

This Thursday, October 11, the Iranian-American Bar Association (IABA) and the Leona Foundation are hosting a panel entitled Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence in the Iranian Diaspora at UC Berkeley.  One of the panelists is Don Laffoon of STOP-GAP, an organization which has reached out to the Iranian community before. Also see their Facebook event listing for a list of attendees.

Hey, Where’s MY Tehrangeles?


Nazanin of Iranian Truth just wrote a post pointing to a PostGlobal article by Amar Bakshi about Iranian-Americans and how they feel about U.S.-Iran relations. The PostGlobal project counts Hossein Derakhshan and Ali Ettefagh as its two Iran-expert bloggers, and Bakshi’s series, “How the World Sees America,” looked at Iranians in Los Angeles recently. His post about the politics of so-called “Tehrangelinos” includes a short video clip of Reza Aslan, who says, “The Los Angeles Iranian community came here with their Swiss bank accounts and, you know, with their suitcases full of cash, and they created a pretty good life for themselves here in Los Angeles”:

I have nothing but respect for Aslan, our community’s most visible and prolific political wunderkind, but I want to challenge what I think are some gross misrepresentations of Tehrangeles in this statement (though it’s important to note that it’s a very short clip which may just be lacking some context, and I think Bakshi actually did a pretty good job getting a fairly representative slice of Tehrangeles life, even if many of its players are already so recognized that Iranians in L.A. might not get much new info). I won’t deny for a second that, yes, many Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles are indeed “established” – it’s just a way to say that lots of them live on the Westside as doctors/lawyers/engineers who drive expensive cars. Yes, many of them were very wealthy in Iran and got out immediately after the revolution, many were very pro-Shah, many have ridiculous or ill-informed political views.

But I am getting more than a little annoyed at the poor picture that the rest of the country – and the global Iranian community – has and keeps getting of us “Tehrangelinos” as clueless rich people living in a nostalgic bubble in Westwood, because that’s only part of the picture. Why is it okay to boil down all of Tehrangeles to this stereotype?

The truth is that Tehrangeles is home to a really diverse if disjointed Iranian community. And Iranians continue to immigrate to Los Angeles long after the revolution, but for some reason, the more recent transplants are nearly invisible in most mainstream reports about the community.So my question is: why don’t we recognize the Iranians in Los Angeles who work in supermarkets, who drive old cars? Who are poor, on welfare and food stamps, or homeless? What do they think about Iran and the U.S.? There’s a sizable community of Iranian Christians, who are largely ignored in most reportage, which always touches on Muslim and Jewish Iranians. Where are they in stories about us, or stories by us? There are Iranian “day care” centers in Los Angeles, full of senior citizens that have seen a lot of history and might have some interesting things to say about Iran; does anyone care about them?

Nazanin’s post tells Iranian-Americans to wake up. I’m inclined to agree, but I’d flip that around to ask anyone that writes about Tehrangeles to wake up, too. Perhaps drive over the hill and into the Valley, look beyond what’s deemed the “established” community, and give Iranians in Los Angeles a little respect and a little credit. I’m so tired of smug Iranian San Franciscans or Torontonians, among others, talking smack about my city. Tehrangeles is not as narrow as the vision of the people who disdain it.

What Persian blogs do you read?

Sorry to be brief and follow with another question, but I’m looking to populate my feed reader… do you have any recommendations?

“Cultural Renaissance in Iran?” Panel at Stanford, October 10

NorCal Iranians: Check out this cool panel discussion entitled “Cultural Renaissance in Iran?” this Wednesday, October 10, from 6-9 pm at Stanford University’s Lane History Corner (click for the map – it’s building 200). The panelists are:

  • Abbas Milani, director of Stanford’s Iranian Studies Program and noted Iran scholar
  • Arash Sobhani, musician and Kiosk’s front man
  • Ahmad Kiarostami, director of the two most recent Kiosk music videos
  • Pardis Mahdavi, anthropology professor at CSU Pomona who’s writing a book about Iran’s sexual revolution

Kiarostami and Mahdavi were among the most memorable speakers of this year’s IAAB conference, and Arash Sobhani and a couple of Kiosk members are scheduled to perform, as well.

Iranians on the Internet: Post-Mortem

So it’s been more than a week since the Iranians on the Internet conference happened in SF, and here are my thoughts, which I’ve been mulling over pretty much all this time:

1. Could blogs be the best teach-yourself-more-Persian tool for Iranian hyphenates? I think so! Some of the bloggers read some really good writing, particularly Leva Zand, whose profanity-peppered, satirical short story taught me at least one new choice word. (Sort of – I’m still trying to get someone to explain to me exactly what it means, but I’m not really sure who to ask because, well, it’s a bad word but I don’t know just how bad.) So while I’m not abandoning my efforts to find a good Persian book to read, I’ll be adding some Persian blogs to my feed reader. They’re much easier to read than news sites, seeing as blogs don’t generally employ the same horribly stilted, formal language of, say, Iranian newspapers.

2. Gathering does not equal conference. My expectations of the day were my own fault, because I expected a conference format – for instance, panels of bloggers instead of individual readings of blog posts. The event’s flyer clearly called it a gathering, though, which is what it was: a group of people who mostly knew each other from the online world, coming together offline. Gatherings and conferences are very different things. But regardless, two things that I was expecting from the day didn’t happen and I still wish they had. The first was an actual panel on Iranian.com, which I thought was going to happen because of the advertising about the day, but which actually turned out to be a surprise award ceremony with speeches about the site from various contributors. Jahanshah Javid definitely deserved the recognition but perhaps there could have been a panel talking about the site and its impact, and then the award? The second was a Balatarin.com presentation, which didn’t happen at all and which I’d really been looking forward to.

3. The music was awesome. Hamed Nikpay has some pretty legit pipes, man. I missed the first half of his performance because I was taking a breather outside and then kicked myself for it when I saw how good he was. And he had a non-Iranian guy playing the daf and miscellaneous accompanying percussion. Arash Sobhani of Kiosk was there, too, but unfortunately there was no singing from him.

4. Iranian bloggers = friendliest bloggers ever? Again, I think so. It was such a giving, open, friendly, and forthcoming group. I liked the questions people asked each other after each blog reading, and several times what I heard was that blogging was a crucial part of community building for recent immigrants of Iran to the U.S.

Also – lots of coverage of this event, which is cool… though I still wish they had a website for it all! See Iranican’s coverage below:
Part 1

Part 2
Also, photos: take a look at Talieh Shahrokhi’s pictures of the event.