Speech given by Fariba Nejat, president of the Iranian Federated Women's Club,at the Human Relations Commission of Santa Clara County, California, on Jan 28, 1997.
The mission of this organization is to advocate for and take affirmative action to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in Santa Clara County based on race, religion, national origin, cultural background, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability, and to promote peace and harmony in the community between individuals and between groups.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, thank you for giving me an opportunity to express the concerns of the Iranian community. My name is Fariba Nejat, I am the president of the Iranian Federated Women's Club.
The Iranians are fairly recent immigrants to this country. They are a diverse people, made of many ethnic and religious groups. Although Islam is the religion practiced by the majority of Iranians, there are thriving minorities of Christians, Jews, Bahais and Zoroastrians living in Iran . Iran is a culturally and historically ancient and rich society.
Many immigrants to the US came here as a result of the Iranian revolution in 1979. Most Iranian immigrants to this wonderful country are highly educated. Among them are doctors, engineers and educators. Iranian professional societies meet regularly throughout the U.S. Many of their members are women.
The Iranian community is faced with many problems common to all recent immigrants. One such problem is the "language barrier"; many highly educated Iranians are now working in occupations greatly below their capabilities. We need your help in introducing to our community resources for acquiring language skills.
One problem which is unique to Iranian immigrant and very painful for all of us is our "negative portrayal" in the mass media. In almost all feature films on terrorism, there is a mention of Iranians. The news media never covers any sentiment other than the anti-American sentiment of the Iranian government.
We began our migration to the US, as a journey of hope. We have determined to make a better future for ourselves. Yet, this negative view of Iran has diminished our hopefulness and optimism. It forces many of us to deny our heritage. This has a terrible effect on all Iranians, particularly our children. It further impairs their social and cultural adjustment to the American way of life .
Undoing this negative image and its subsequent effect, poses a major challenge and can not be done by Iranians alone. We need to draw on a greater involvement of other concerned citizens. We need community leaders including the commissioners of human relations to spread the word that Iranians are legitimate and responsible members of the community. If you see some thing negative please write to them.
We as a community are very concerned about the future of our children, and it was this concern that made us form a group. Our group, the Iranian Federated Women's Club, was founded specifically to reach out to any member of our community in need of our help. We sponsor the Payvand Iranian school. This school was founded to educate our children about their heritage including the Farsi language. This in turn gives our children pride and hope for their future, which we hope will make them better citizens of their communities and the American society at large. We hope to meet this challenge with your guidance.
We also brought to the Cupertino Community Center an Iranian arts and cultural event , which attracted over 3,000 people. We hope to make this an annual event. We have many plans , one of them is "A Spring Celebration Along the Silk Road" which will be on Sunday March 2, 1997 from 4:00 PM Till 6:30 PM at Center for the Performing Arts (San Jose).This program will be presented in English and Farsi.
We hope the Human Relations Commission will sponsor this event and we hope you accept our invitation to attend the program. We are hopeful that these activities give us a chance to create in our community a positive image of Iran and Iranians. Once again, any guidance you can give us in this area will be greatly appreciated.
The Iranian Federated Women's Club greatly appreciates this chance to present our point of view. We hope to work closely with the commission to resolve our problems and enhance our position within this community.