"Persian Watch Cat" Seeks Leadership Participation
in the US"
By David Rahni,
Ph.D. PWC President and Professor of Chemistry Environmental Science and
New York, January 2001
Even though people of Persian/Iranian heritage have immigrated sporadically
to the US since the 19th Century, it is, nonetheless, within the past three
decades particularly in the late 70's and early 80's that the rate of such
immigration, due to fundamental socio-political changes in Iran, has increased
immensely. While the 1990 US census underestimates this Iranian American
population at only 240,000, it is hoped that due to efforts of so many,
including Persian Watch Cat (PWC) that the 2000 Census results will place
the number much closer to the one million mark, as quoted by numerous researchers
and officials including US Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
With a blossoming community here in the US, the Iranian American population
is one of the most vibrantly affluent, as well as one of the most influential
people of distinct cultural heritage due to their ever- increasing contributions
in the arts, sciences, technologies, businesses, government, etc; it is
worth noting they are preceded by the contributions to the global village
of great many of their Persian ancestors, Avicenna, Rhazes, Algorithm,
Birooni, Khayyam, Ferdowsi, Cyrus, Saadi and Hafez since antiquity just
to name a few. In Retrospect, however, this distinct population was caught
between a "rock and hard place" throughout much of the 80's and
on, when they were faced with carrying the psychological "guilt"
burden of many politically charged incidents worldwide portrayed egregiously
by the media.
That they had nothing to do with, and in fact these incidents were contrary
to the desires of the vast majority if not all Iranian Americans was either
conveniently overlooked or deliberately misrepresented. This had in turn,
led to their suppression of identity, cultural pride and self-esteem, i.e.,
an urge to "mix in with the crowd" by " biting the bullet
coming form either directions" per se.
At the same token it is deemed it must have adversely impacted their
professional and personal aspirations. For instance, there is strong evidence
indicating that despite all odds, even though most Iranians Americans progressed
to become outstanding contributing members in their chosen fields, there
persisted a perceived or real level of discrimination in the society at-
large, that impeded their advancements to middle and upper level executive
and academic management; this is evident in the government sector for GS,
SES, elected and, or appointed positions, in particular.
After the advent of acquiring US citizenship by large numbers of Iranian
Americans through the 90s, many recognized the need and merit to have "come
out of the closet" so as to fully realize their dreams by exerting
their presence felt. Persian Watch Cat (PWC): The Iranian
American Anti-Discrimination Council, also known as Persian Watch Center
(PWC), is one of the many natural outcomes of such foresight. PWC has now
successfully completed the first period of the development of its mission
statement, by-laws, and committees and regional chapters structures.
Furthermore, it has successfully launched and offered three petitions
and other actions generating over ten thousand cumulative signatures, the
result of which have been shared with the community and with federal Government
and policy officials.
PWC is committed to the principle of not-for-profit [501(c)(3)], non-political
and non- denominational endeavors that encompass the concerns of Iranian
American citizens, either as a community or as individuals. PWC was indeed
preceded with similar activities consistent with its Mission, as typified
by a 1996 article this author wrote in the fall issue of Persian Heritage
Magazine entitled, "Persian American should seek Leaders," and
through the efforts led by Dr. Ala Mollabashy, a renowned Detroit-based
Orthopedic Surgeon in 1997. After a period of latency, the effort was revived
by Dr. Kamiar Kallaantar a California based physician and other compatriots
in California, New York and Washington, DC areas.
Hence, the notion of establishing such an organization is not novel,
yet its recent restructuring has certainly been a major endeavor. PWC now
has a well-organized infrastructure. It consists of a few hundred members
and elected boards, local chapters, and several subcommittees. Each year,
toward the end the year, the Board of Supervisors (BoS), an elected body
of 21 to 30 professionals to oversee the PWC activities, nominates and
elects five members of the Board of Directors (BoD) to serve for one year:
president, executive director, treasurer, public relation director, and
webmaster. The members of the BoS are to be elected every four years by
the general membership.
Moreover, the establishment of an arching Board of Trustees comprised
of philanthropists and individuals of (inter-) national stature is envisaged.
Currently we have over 350 active members (including over 120 members of
the PWC daily discussion list). The current BoS is the founding board of
advisors of the year 2000, who together founded the new PWC and constructed
the bylaws and has registered it in the US. The next BoS election will
be in year 2004. We believe that by that time, the PWC membership will
include at least a few thousand active members. The goal is to have an
organization to defend the legal rights of over one million Iranian Americans
in the US and to be the strong voice of our community, similar to what
American Arab Antidiscrimination Council
or Anti- Defamation League have achieved,
each having 25,000 to 50,000 members in the US, respectively. Promotion
of, and seeking recognition for the many contributions by our community
as a whole or our distinguished members toward the society at-large is
another main objective set forth by PWC.
PWC strives to emulate similar associations like the Anti-Defamation
League, American Civil Liberties Union, Arab American Anti-Discrimination
Committee, etc. to exclusively concentrate on the concerns of the Persian/Iranian
American Community. Recognizing the sustained momentum PWC has achieved
in just the past year, one should hasten to ponder the work we face ahead
of us. Many thousands of community members have at one point or another
participated in PWC endeavors.
Nonetheless, everyone is invited to join PWC Organization by going to
its web site http://www.antidiscrimination.org/,
then selecting the JOIN PWC button on the lower left blue region of the
screen to complete a simple application form. We urge the readers to visit
periodically the PWC web site for the upcoming action items as well.
PWC Board of Directors and Supervisors acknowledge they certainly have
an ambitious task ahead of them.
Some of the forthcoming action topics include a new petition to the
incoming Bush Administration asking for the cancellation of finger printing
and excessive security checks of persons of Iranian heritage, a relaxation
of visas for the relatives of Iranian Americans in particular, and a comprehensive
survey to assess the quality of air travel and airline services taken by
people of Iranian heritage, especially to Iran.
Among our upcoming endeavors for which your leadership and input is
so sincerely trusted, requested, and applauded for are as follows: diffusion
of any stereotyping and collective or individual discrimination against
us, and pursuit of appropriate legal action, petitions, newsletters, and
press releases. PWC strives to promote social justice, equity and empowerment
for the nearly one million Citizens of Persian/Iranian heritage by upholding
constitutional and civil rights, and last but not least facilitating the
positive image for the Community.
PWC further endeavors to deter and resolve discrimination by the following
means, arranged in order of preference: Education, Information, Communication,
Participation, Deliberation, Mediation, Arbitration, Negotiation, Media
Dissemination, Government Intervention and Prosecution, Litigation and
Persian Watch Cat: Iranian
American Anti-Discrimination Center