Interviews with Young Iranians: Azad, Life Goes on in Tehran Photo Blogger

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The photo blog Life Goes on in Tehran highlights ordinary Tehran life in an effort to dispel Western myths and poorly slanted media coverage about Iran. It has a very insider quality that makes you feel like you’re on your own Tehran visit. The man behind the site, 28-year-old Azad (last name withheld for reasons outlined below), documents his life there on a camera phone and updates the site with new pictures and captions each month. We sent him some questions by email, and here’s what he had to say.

Pars Arts: You are anonymous on your photo blog; without revealing your name/identity, can you tell us more about who you are and where you grew up? Can you also talk about why you’ve decided to be anonymous?
Azad: I was born and raised in Tehran and then moved to the Los Angeles area when I was 14. Following the awkward assimilation period of high school, I attended USC where I got my BA in Cinema-Television in 2001. After graduation I paid my bills doing web design, while affording myself the opportunity to make short films and travel for months at a time.

There are multiple reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. For one, I don’t want the website to become about me. I like it as it is; Tehran from the point of view of a former Los Angeles resident, regardless of who that resident is. Plus, I often point my camera at unsuspecting friends and family members at private gatherings and parties. In order to hide their identities, I feel like I should first hide mine. A more dramatic reason would be staying away from either Evin prison in Tehran or a secret CIA prison somewhere in Eastern Europe! But really, if someone tried hard enough, they could find out who is behind the photo blog. So what it comes down to is me trying to stay out of Tehran’s spotlight.

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PA: Why did you move (back?) to Iran?
Azad: Ironically, I moved (back) to Tehran to jump-start my film career. Most people go to Los Angeles to do this; I left. I think the Hollywood film scene is for when you’ve already made it. You don’t fare well in Hollywood as a struggling filmmaker. In order to meet my personal goal of making my first feature-length film before I’m 30, I weighed my options and felt that I would be more likely to do so if I were to move to Tehran. Plus, if I get started here, I will always have a base to come back to.

PA: What’s been the biggest surprise about living in Tehran for you? What’s been the most difficult part of adjusting to life in Iran? What do you miss most about your LA life?
Azad: I tested the waters with a couple of short-term stays before finally making the big move. So I had an idea about what life in Tehran might have in store for me and I can’t say there were any surprises. If anything, the fact that it’s similar to living in LA, for the most part, is a surprise in and of itself. It’s more about moving from one big city to another. I have, however, narrowed down the differences to three main things, the absence of which makes life in Tehran a tad more difficult: respect, trust and freedom to choose. Most everything that might annoy someone who has lived abroad fits in one or all of the above categories.

This is not to say that Iranians are disrespectful or untrustworthy. On the contrary, in personal interactions and relationships with people you know they’re perhaps more respectful, kind and trustworthy [than people in Los Angeles]. But when it comes to dealing with “them,” things get shady. And the place where this is most apparent is the relationship the government has with its people. All three are missing in that particular marriage. Needless to say, the three things I miss most about LA are: respect, trust and freedom to choose. I won’t get into specifics, but if I have done my job right, you’ll see examples of this on my site.

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PA: I’ve frequently wondered whether being Iranian-American (or any other sort of Iranian hyphenate) is a barrier or instead lends a certain cachet to those that grew up abroad and then move back to Iran for work/to live. Any first-hand observations/thoughts on this? Is there a sizable community of people who have moved back to Iran?
Azad: It’s definitely not a barrier. For some reason, people here take Iranians coming from the U.S. very seriously. Perhaps too seriously. This is surprising considering the type of junk-TV a handful of Iranians in Los Angeles beam to their living rooms. If my only image of Iranian-Americans were those of the LA pop stars and TV anchors as seen on satellite TV, I would question anyone who associated with anything American. But fortunately most everyone — at least among the middle-class Iranians — has a relative in the U.S. Because of these relatives, lines of communication are always open and the general public is aware of what life in the US can be like. So there’s this thought process of “Oh you lived in the US? Lucky you! Want to run my company? You single?!”

I am sure a medical degree from Harvard deserves the type of respect here as it does anywhere else in the world, but as for my own degree, well, my film degree means nothing to me or to anyone in Hollywood. But here, they introduce me as “So and so, who studied film in the US.” Before I have a chance to discredit my degree, they already take me for some genius that I am not. This I find amusing. Some people use this to their advantage. I’ve run into folks who have taken courses at Santa Monica City College who consider themselves “U.S. educated,” and you’ll be surprised to see how it opens doors for them. This is not to bash on SMC or any other community college, for that matter, but it perfectly demonstrates the type of weight being Iranian-hyphen-anything carries.

I have also decided to keep my U.S. citizenship a secret. What is shadier than being taken more seriously at what you do because of some U.S. education is finding yourself in a relationship with someone who likes you for your passport! Luckily I haven’t experienced this, but I am told to be cautious. It would be really sad to have that be a qualification (but unfortunately some fellow Iranian-Americans do).

PA: Several of your images capture and comment on Iranian media consumption (satellite dishes, newspapers, film, art). Are the art, culture, and media produced in Iran – and the various means of consumption that defy censorship – vastly different from what you thought they would be?
Azad: This is too broad a topic to try and tackle with a general statement on what art/culture/media Iranians produce and consume. I personally never had any expectations or pre-conceived notions of what this may be like in Iran. But because there are many more obstacles and bans on creation and consumption in Iran, people tend to not take for granted what is readily available in the U.S. For example, in the US you can watch any movie your heart desires, have access to any website or go to any play, but you don’t necessarily take advantage of this. Because you take your freedom for granted. When you come to Iran, you start to seek that which the government wants to keep from you. Suddenly watching a banned movie or going to a blocked website becomes a more valuable (and pleasurable) experience. Then in the process you feel more “cultured.”

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PA: A lot of your photos appear to be shot in northern Tehran – a more affluent part of the city. Much of the lifestyle press coverage coming from Tehran seems to be focused on this area also (or it’s very much the opposite, looking at abject poverty), but I think you do a good job pointing out the economic context of your photos in your short captions, which is where a lot of mainstream reportage about Iran fails. I assume you shoot mostly things happening around you, but do you have plans to venture further south in the city and capture a different socioeconomic scene also?
Azad: I am not a reporter and therefore I don’t go out of my way to report on life in Tehran (unfortunately many mainstream Western reporters do the same!). My main goal is show that life in general, my life in particular, goes on in Tehran. So I point the camera at my immediate surroundings, which happens to be that of the more affluent middle-class northern Tehran. There’s no shame in this. Because it is exactly this socioeconomic scene that is under-represented — by both the Iranian media as well as the Western press coverage. One could take away from this the very fact that Tehran is so large a city that you could live your whole life in one neighborhood and never cross paths with other less or more fortunate souls in other neighborhoods. Same is true with any large cities. Many Iranians living in Beverly Hills have never set foot in Compton or South Central LA, even though they’re only a few miles apart. That said, I do have a few photos from South Tehran. One in particular is of an elderly man near Khorasan Square in the south who had lived his whole life there and had never seen Pasdaran or other neighborhoods in the north.

PA: What kind of feedback have you gotten from people that follow LGOIT?
Azad: So far I’ve only received positive feedback. Many Iranians abroad write and tell me that the site brought tears to their eyes. They thank me for finally portraying life in Tehran in such a way that they can proudly share with their non-Iranian friends. I can relate to their sentiments, because I think when you live outside of Iran, the situation is such that it becomes really difficult for you to prove to your non-Iranian friends and family that Iran isn’t all that bad, that there’s more good than evil, more positive than negative, and most importantly that we are not backwards, but similar to them, that we share many of the same values and ideals.

I also get many emails from Americans and Europeans who thank me for showing a side of Iran they had no idea existed. One American visitor even joked about me receiving a Noble Peace prize for my efforts. Because he thought it would be much tougher for the Bush White House to start a war with Iran if the word on my site were to get out and more tax-paying Americans were to see it. And the word is getting out. As of this interview I have had thousands of unique visitors from 97 countries in over 1700 cities. I for one find all this very inspiring and with each new visitor I get more motivated to continue what I’m doing. What started out as a simple site to assure my friends back home that I’m safe in Tehran has gotten a life of its own. Hopefully I will one day look back at the archives of Life Goes On In Tehran and feel that I did my small part in changing world public opinions about Iran and stopping a catastrophic war.

(Photos courtesy of Life Goes on in Tehran)

Interviews with Young Iranians: Maryam Kashani, Filmmaker

Maryam Kashani is an Iranian-Japanese-American filmmaker whose first documentary feature, Best in the West was released in 2006 and has been screening at festivals. The film tells the story of Kashani’s father and his Iranian friends who all ended up in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s, tying their narrative to the turbulent time (civil rights movement, oil crisis, etc.) in which they lived. Not surprisingly, it’s marked by a palpable warmth for its subjects. But Kashani is a careful storyteller who avoids sentimentalism, making Best in the West a truly exceptional family documentary. We interviewed her via email, and here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about Best in the West. What’s it about and where did the idea for the movie come from?
The film began as an oral history about how my family arrived in the United States, and more specifically in San Francisco. As I began doing interviews, I realized that our family story was really part of a larger story of an entire community. I was fascinated by the choices these men made and the risks they took amidst a great deal of chance and luck, as well. In any case, I wanted to tell an “American” story that is rarely told, in a way that would hopefully elucidate the reasons why it was a story relevant to all Americans. I also thought that it was a rare opporunity for a young woman to document the lives of an older group of men, and to talk about this particular type of masculinity from a feminine/feminist perspective.

How did you come to weave together the history and geopolitics of oil in Iran with the narratives of your father and his group of friends?
One of the biggest surprises for me in doing my interviews was realizing that the guys were in the Bay Area during the Vietnam War and the Free Speech movement, as well as the whole hippie counterculture and ethnic studies and black power movements. Being politically active myself, I was disappointed that they were not more politically engaged, although I understood that their situation was quite different [from mine]. I wanted to incorporate this into the film without necessarily being overtly critical of their choices and actions. While I could have told their story without including the geopolitics of oil, it seemed integral to the story. Although they were the risk takers and choice makers, they were also in a particular place at a particular time. There was a lot of luck and chance involved, or, as my father would say, fate. I also felt that it was necessary to talk about oil because that ties everyone to the story. We all have something invested in American dependency on oil, and it was important for me to bring that into the story. Perhaps it makes Iran more of a real place to tie the people to the geopolitics.

Are there particular films or filmmakers that served as inspiration for Best in the West?
I think my biggest influence was probably Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil. I must have watched it 20 times. My film doesn’t really look like his, but his ability to tie different locations and histories together was a huge inspiration. James Benning was also an influence. He was a teacher of mine at CalArts and he does a lot of portraits of landscapes on film.

The music in this film adds a lot in evoking 1960s and 1970s San Francisco. What was the process for selecting Best in the West’s soundtrack? Did the subjects of the film weigh in there, considering that some of them owned a popular night club during that time?
I am a big music collector and sometime DJ. The soundtracks are always equally as important as the picture for me, and I construct them at the same time. I had asked the men about music that they had listened to and about music that was played at the night club, and their suggestions are definitely present in the film, especially in the use of Latin funk and rock. Music is so emblematic of that time, so it was a really fun part of the filmmaking, and in a way, it was my way of inserting myself into that time.

The men in this film were surprisingly forthcoming about their private lives. Was it difficult to convince them to participate and to speak so openly? Was there anything you wanted them to speak more about that didn’t come through?
Sometimes I was really surprised about how open they were, especially my uncle Nasser. I think in some ways they were really eager to talk about that time because they rarely get to, and it was a really
wonderful, exciting time for them. Most of what they had to say was pretty positive, both about what they went through and about each other. I realize that it was all not so pleasant at the time, nor is it now, but I felt like I had to respect how they wanted to be represented. This wasn’t an exposé, and I didn’t want to jeopardize their relationships.

What were the reactions of the men in the film when they saw it? What about the reaction of the greater Iranian community?
The men all really enjoy the film. It’s a little more difficult for my family since the film does deal with the deaths of my grandmother and one of my uncles. But they are pretty nonchalant about it at the same time. I think they really consider it more of a school project then a real film. In terms of the larger Iranian community, it has done really well. People seem to really enjoy the film. This is the first film that deals with this particular generation of Iranian immigrants, so I think it was really affirming for many people. Many people have come up to me after screenings to tell me how similar their experiences were, in terms of school and jobs and their own group of friends. And I think the film has been really important for the second generation as well. Hopefully people go home and talk about it and share.

In a video interview with Pars Times, you mentioned you’re working on a portrait of Los Angeles and would also like to create a film about religion and immigration. Can you talk more about both those projects? Will they feature Iranians as well?
The Los Angeles film is definitely on hold, especially since I am now living in Texas. I am thinking about two films. One that actually takes place in Iran and another one about Islam in America. They are both still in the idea phase though. I definitely need to make something small soon. Maybe a music video…

(Photo courtesy of Maryam Kashani)

13 Oct 2007, 6:22pm
Events Interviews Music
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Kiosk: Interview with Babak Khiavchi, Guitar

So how long have you been with the band?
Seventeen years, since the beginning.

Wow, you don’t look that old.
I’m eighteen years old.

So you’re all child prodigies. Why is the band’s name Kiosk?
This goes back to 17 years ago… we would get together and experiment with different musical ideas. Because of the restrictions in Iran, we couldn’t rehearse anywhere, like in a proper rehearsal space. So we would clean out basements and storage spaces of our friends – just clear out the dead cats and clean up the place and we’d line the walls with egg cartons to make it sound proof. And we’d call them our “kiosks.”

What’s the weirdest kiosk you’ve practiced in?
They weren’t really all that weird. Most of our friends had storage spaces that we’d clean out and use. One was on Sohrevardi Street and that was the one where things really started happening. It became a hangout for lots of musicians in Iran… there were forty to fifty people that started recording. Everyone had day jobs and we just got together and got drunk and we’d just record our ideas and have fun., and we’d dream of performing on a stage like this.

How has the dynamic changed now that you’re all spread out everywhere?
Email and mp3 and the Internet decreases the distance between us. Everytime we get together for a concert we do a few hours of rehearsal and then we just play together.

What about distance affecting the process of writing music?
It hasn’t been an obstacle so far. Everyone contributes their ideas. Arash is the main lyricist, and he records the demos. Then we all give him input and go into the study and record bits and pieces – drums and keyboard and everything in parts. Through the internet, we’ve managed to overcome a lot of obstacles.

As far as writing the music, the lyrics always come first?  Do you ever fight about lyrics?
We don’t fight about anything. It’s all a creative process and fun.

Do you all have day jobs?
We all have day jobs and do this on the side, for love.

Have you thought about recording in English?
[Babak asks Arash Sobhani, Kiosk's lead]

Arash – We might, someday…

Babak – Never say never. But we still have a lot to say in Persian.

How has the music changed now that you have many fewer musicians contributing and collaborating?
We hope the same vibe and atmosphere continues the way the original kiosks did… it’s still the same energy level that we had all those years ago.

Interviews with Young Iranians: Porochista Khakpour, Novelist

Porochista Khakpour

Porochista Khakpour’s Sons and Other Flammable Objects is the first great Iranian-American novel, breathless and overwhelmingly good. Its protagonist, Xerxes Adam, Iranian immigrant and son of Iranian immigrants Darius and Lala (nee Laleh) – whose relationship with his father is broken, who is lost in his vague notions of homeland – awkwardly and uncomfortably grows up in Los Angeles and flees father, mother, culture, all those vague notions of homeland, for college in New York and doesn’t look back, living from temp job to temp job, subsisting on Fruity Pebbles, alone in a crappy apartment in Lower Manhattan. After hearing a particularly harrowing story from his father, business as usual means total estrangement. Then the Twin Towers fall, and Xerxes’ already tenuous notions of self begin to crumble, too.

Maybe it’s because Khakpour is so young (she’s 29) and has lived some of this (though it’s no autobiography nor, thank God, another damn memoir) that she really gets it, what it can feel like to grow up Iranian in America. We asked her some (very long, in retrospect) questions about her book and her writing, and here’s what she had to say. more »

Iranians on the Internet: Omid Memarian

Nazy Kaviani is introducing me to everyone here – thanks, Nazy! Just chatted with Omid Memarian, who’s going to be making the introductions when this starts. He is a journalism grad student at Berkeley. Most of the stuff I’d read by him was very Iran-politics oriented so I sort of assumed that was what he’s still writing, but I just learned his beat for this semester is west Oakland. He noted that being a journalist in the U.S. with an accent has its challenges when digging around for a story via phone – so he usually shows up in person.

Q&A: Nahid Rachlin on Persian Girls

Persian Girls

Nahid Rachlin is the author of several works of fiction. Her memoir, Persian Girls, was published last year. We sent her some questions about the book and about writing. Here’s what she had to say.

For readers that haven’t yet read the book, what’s it about?
PERSIAN GIRLS extends from the time of the late Shah to the present in Iran and goes back forth between Iran and America. I develop my relationship with my aunt, Maryam, who adopted me from my mother when I was six months old, and with my birth mother, after my father forcefully took me back from my aunt when I was nine years old.

My aunt couldn’t get pregnant and she had always been begging my mother, who was very fertile, if she could adopt one of her children. In fact my mother gave birth to ten children. When I was six months old my mother allowed my grandmother to take me to my aunt, who lived in Tehran, an eighteen hour train ride from Ahvaz where my parents lived. At the time my father was a circuit judge and traveled a great deal. Then when I was nine years old he decided to take me back. By then he had resigned from being a judge and started a private practice. He was more focused on his family and missed this child away from home.

A big part of PERSIAN GIRLS is also focused on the stories of my sister Pari’s and my own lives in Iran and then as we took different paths–she remaining in Iran and I coming to America. When I started living with my birth family I became very close to my older sister Pari. We both resisted the roles prescribed for us by our parents, our school, the wider society. She wanted to become an actress and I a writer, both considered undesirable for one reason or another. We were allies against our middle sister, whose dream was closer to what was expected of her.

Then I managed to come to America while Pari got trapped in a bad arranged marriage and had to give up her aspiration to become an actress and all the independence she was striving for. I was stronger and more determined than Pari, perhaps because of all the love and attention that my aunt Maryam had given to me, whereas Pari didn’t have that kind of attention from our mother.

After I had been in the U.S. for many years and witnessed the Islamic Revolution from here, I got a phone call that Pari had fallen down the staircase of her house and died. I was married then and had a child and was involved in writing and teaching but I dropped everything and went to Iran to find out more about what happened to Pari. I knew it wasn’t murder because she was with her friends when she fell but I feared it could have been self-inflicted, since she had been depressed about her life for a long time.

Nahid Rachlin

Why did you write Persian Girls? Who did you write it for?
I believe if I write about a subject that means a lot to me and I am passionate about the chances are I can convey it to others. So, first I wrote it for myself, and then hoped others will connect to it. For a long time I was totally obsessed by how my path went in an entirely different direction from that of my sister Pari’s. I wanted to bring her to life by writing about her.

You’ve primarily published fiction in the past. How was the process of writing a memoir different from that of writing fiction?
Writing Persian Girls was more of an emotional journey for me than writing fiction, as in it I directly confront the pain of my past. I partly wanted to bring Pari alive and partly to examine how she, like many women, become trapped by forces of traditions that are not suitable to them.

Ultimately the process was healing but not completely. I still day dream that she’s going to read the book and give me feedback as she used to when we were adolescents and I showed her the pieces I wrote.

There’s been a spate of memoirs by exiled Iranian women in recent years. As one of these women, why do you think this is happening recently? (And where are all the male voices?)
I think Americans are fascinated by the fact that Iranian women have so many problems to deal with and still many of them manage to survive and do significant things with their lives. The contradiction is puzzling and interesting to them. Iranian men’s lives don’t seem as complex and interesting.

What are you working on now?
I am always preoccupied by issues of identity and belonging. Many of my shorts stories and novels focus on those issues. In my new novel, with Iranian identical twin sisters as protagonists, I will be developing similar themes.

You’ve lived in the US for many years; how has your writing become more “American,” if at all, since your earlier years? When you write, do you think in English or Persian, and how does this affect your stories?
I don’t think my writing has changed in that respect. When I was in Iran I always read books in translation, many of them by American writers. So I was influenced in my writing, not just by Iranian writers but American ones too. By now I think in English.

Do you have any words of advice for young Iranian writers?
Write about what you are passionate about and is meaningful to yourself. If you feel strongly about a subject, the chances are you will be able to convey it well to your readers. It is best not to try to calculate and say, ‘Well, if I write about this subject, it will sell or it will reach such and such reader.

Interviews with Young Iranians: Ali Seradge, Artist

Ali Seradge
Ali Seradge is a 28-year-old artist living in Oklahoma City. He has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and a Masters of Public Health.

His artwork has been published in various journals, and hung multiple times in OVAC’s 12 x 12, LiT lounge in OKC, as well as other venues.

A selection of his work is currently on display at the Gold Dome Multicultural Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ali Seradge artwork1    Ali Seradge artwork2


When did you become interested in art?
I have been interested in art as long as I remember. From cartoons, to comics, to movies to fine art. The visual and the process behind it has always been fascinating to me.

How long have you lived in Oklahoma? In the States?
I’m an Okie. I was born in Florida, then my family moved here when I was one. So, 27 years in Oklahoma. My family moved to the states in ’75.

Living in Oklahoma, what type of Iranian community have you been able to experience? Is there any artistic Iranian presence?
Well, yeah there is a Iranian community here. Larger than most people anticipate. It is different than the bigger cities I must say. More… I don’t know the right word… blended? There is an Iranian art presence, but again, it isn’t an island. I do feel connected to the community. However, being American-born and in an area where we are incredibly integrated, there is a degree of separation for me from Iranians and from Americans.

In what ways has your Iranian background influenced your work?
Actually the previous question leads to this influence.
There is a feeling of isolation, of "almost being being there." A lot of people born in Iran say they have some urge to go back, that it feels like home. In a way, that is a bit distant for me, I don’t have that feeling. On the other hand, I still stand out among people here. There is also something my parents often said: "Be sure you can survive anywhere, you may have to move, be able to go back." I know that happened to them.

Iranian parents aren’t always known for their encouragement of their children when they pursue the arts. How did your parents respond?
Wow, again, the previous question… I think a big reason Iranians, and other foreign nationals, tend to be hesitant towards the arts as profession is a matter of survival. If you are a doctor, engineer, or professor of science there is a sense that you can get a job anywhere, regardless of location.
So, in short, they weren’t thrilled. My father is coming around. My mom still calls it "a hobby." But I guess I could tell them that there are paintings in every culture.

You are having an artist’s reception soon. Could you talk about your works, and what you are trying to achieve with them?
The body of work hanging in this show reflects the feeling of isolation I mentioned earlier. This is a fairly universal phenomenon, the idea that there is something that separates the self from the group, from community.
I felt that this was appropriate in this show for the Gold Dome Multicultural Society. Given their mission of forming stronger multicultural community, I felt it would be good to show pieces reflecting a separation of community.

Every artist has a personal "creative process," explain yours.

My trade secrets! It is actually fairly simple. I look around, read, talk to people. Given that I am a night person, nightlife has a big influence. Then I sketch, whatever comes to my head. Then I set off the paper or canvas. One of the things I took in, then sketched, will come out. After it starts, it is a matter of showing what the original emotional state was when the stimulus arrived, in order to evoke it in the viewer. The bases are laid down, then it is a lot of decision making, not excluding practical ones, such as size and materials. Actually, that wasn’t as simple as I thought.

How do you think/want other people to respond to your art?

First, I hope they DO respond. I want them to sit there and look at it, to try to figure out what the image means to them. How they identify with the characters in the work. I have an illustrative style. I like to hear the story people make for the picture. That’s why I rarely explain meanings of my work.

Finally, is there a website where we can see more of your work?
Yeah!
I am in the artists in OVAC
I’m also part of the Monkey Chainsaw Projects

I can be contacted by email: junkmonkey13[at]hotmail[dot]com

Any final thoughts?
I guess to artists out there: It is possible to live as an artist. Very possible. Scarily possible.

Goftam.com

Pars Arts contributor Javod Khalaj’s new site, Goftam.com, is one of our new favorite bookmarks. The name of the site means “I said” in Persian, and its tag line is “All Iran, all the time.” Goftam.com aggregates feeds from English-language sites about Iran and Iranians (Pars Arts included) along with relevant news stories, for a one-stop site that helps you stay on top of what’s you care about. We asked Javod some questions about the site via email:

Why did you create Goftam.com?
While there are a lot of “linkdooni” sites out there, such as Hoder’s blogsbyiranians.com, they’re very poor in filtering out the fluff. Just because some guy is named Hassan and is Iranian doesn’t make pictures of his dog any more interesting than Jim’s in Nebraska.

How does it work?
I felt a site that had only relevant links about Iran and Persians was needed. And while RSS has done a lot of the work in getting us the content we want immediately, it’s still a pain to wade through the dozens of sites we want one at a time. So I created goftam.com, a site that not only shows the most frequently updated and relevant blog posts about Iran, but also retrieves up-to-the-minute news articles from all major English written news sites throughout the world.

How many feeds does it include? What sites?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. The news aggregator was written to retrieve as many sources as possible, so I assume it’s around 20-25 MSM [mainstream media] feeds; however, I personally filter the blogs. Currently blogs number at 10 and they are:

http://www.iraniantruth.com

http://jadi.civiblog.org/blog

http://zayyani.free.fr/blog

http://i4hrd.blogspot.com

http://omidmemarian.blogspot.com

http://arthemis11.blogspot.com

http://www.kamangir.net

http://www.eyeranian.net

http://persianperspective.wordpress.com

and last but certainly not least our very own http://parsarts.com

What are your criteria for including a new feed?
I’m always looking out for good new blogs about Iran and Iranians. Basically as long as the site’s content is predominately about Iran or Iranian related, it’s fairly well written (and I take into account if the writer is writing English as their second language), and it’s not disparaging to the Persian people, I’ll include it. I’m also open to suggestions; people can suggest a feed via Goftam.com.

The PARSA Community Foundation

A few weeks ago, I found the PARSA Community Foundation’s website as I was scoping out the Iranian non-profit world online. Intrigued by the big names that started the foundation, and by its even bigger goals, I emailed them for more information and was pleasantly surprised when a Pars Arts contributor, Mariam Hosseini, responded. Mariam recently wrote the Pars Arts story Adventures in Online Iranian Food Shopping, and she answered my questions for this piece.

What is PARSA’s mission?
PARSA Community Foundation’s mission is to become the leading institution practicing strategic philanthropy and promoting social entrepreneurship towards a strong global Persian presence. PARSA invests in these common causes:
Preservation and advancement of Iranian arts and culture;
Development of leaders through education and awards systems; and
Encouragement of civic participation and non-profit capacity building.

Who’s behind PARSA? Why did they start the organization?
Inspired by the work of passionate social entrepreneurs and the impact of strategic philanthropy, The H.A.N.D. Foundation organized a summit in Fall 2005 and invited generous members of the Persian community to share their philanthropic experiences and brainstorm on how successful efforts of the community could be taken to the next level. The participants, facing similar opportunities and constraints, and believing that the social impact of collaborative work can be just as important as producing the public good itself, agreed to pool their resources to create a platform to facilitate large-scale philanthropy for Persians worldwide. This infrastructure would enable the free flow of information, training and funds necessary to address the needs of the community. To create an enduring institution, the founders committed to hands-on involvement, professional management and the establishment of an endowment fund.

PARSA’s board consists of the following members:
Anousheh Ansari: Treasurer, PARSA Community Foundation; Co-founder and Chairman, Prodea Systems, Inc.

Noosheen Hashemi: Chairman, PARSA Community Foundation; Co-founder and President, The H.A.N.D. Foundation

Salar Kamangar: Secretary, PARSA Community Foundation; Vice President, Product Management, Google, Inc.

Omid Kordestani: Co-Founder, PARSA Community Foundation; Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Business Development, Google, Inc.

Hamid Moghadam: Co-Founder, PARSA Community Foundation; Chairman and CEO, AMB Property Corporation

Camran Nezhat: Co-Founder, PARSA Community Foundation; M.D., F.A.C.O.G., F.A.C.S., Stanford University Medical Center

You can read more about the board here: http://parsacf.org/about/board.

What are some beneficiary projects of PARSA’s efforts? What kinds of organizations or projects should know about PARSA’s work?
In 2006, PARSA made its inaugural grant of up to $210,000 to Ashoka: Innovators for the Public as part of the Ashoka PARSA Initiative to support an Ashoka fellow of Iranian origin from anywhere in the world where Ashoka operates.

Currently, we are processing grant applications from our first grant cycle, which just ended on February 15, and are excited to be announcing grantees around the Norouz timeframe. In addition to our semi-annual grant cycles where we encourage non-profits that fit our guiding principles to apply, PARSA also supports strategic grantmaking in projects such as the Cyrus Cylinder North American Tour, initiating a census campaign, and supporting voter registration. PARSA also reaches out to Persian diaspora philanthropy through its philanthropy workshops and planned NGO summits, aimed at promoting networking and collaboration among nonprofits.

How can young Iranians, like Pars Arts readers, get involved either as volunteers or as young philanthropists?
There are many ways for young Iranians to get involved, such as: Hosting a philanthropy work shop at your home, school, or any other appropriate place; facilitating a philanthropy workshop; writing articles for our newsletter; and volunteering pro bono professional services such as legal, financial, accounting services to support NGOs that don’t have the resources to purchase them.

16 Feb 2007, 2:23am
Interviews Music
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Interviews with Young Iranians: A Podcast with Haale, Musician


We wrote a post about Iranian-American musician Haale after seeing her play live a few weeks ago, and we’re happy to follow that up with a podcast we recorded last week (see below). She released two EPs last month, which you can purchase on her website, haale.com, or via iTunes. Enjoy:

Pars Arts podcast with Haale
(Please right-click and download this mp3 instead of streaming it from the site – our server thanks you!)

[Editor’s Note: This podcast is our second installment in the ongoing Interviews with Young Iranians series. If you like this podcast, you might also like our podcast with filmmaker Bahman Farmanara.]