Seattle’s Iranian community is small when compared to a place like Los Angeles but the energy and commitment to creating cultural events with a Persian theme is large. A big part of that energy is a passionate group of students at the University of Washington who are the engine behind the Persian Circle which puts on Iranian cultural events around the city.
The Persian Circle was founded by a group of UW students 10 years ago. The names of the original founders have long been forgotten but what’s not forgotten is their commitment to expanding the knowledge and understanding of Persian culture in the Seattle area. UW student Kimia, who is the current President of the Persian Circle and Noushyar, who is part of the leadership team, have spent a lot of energy creating events for the Persian Circle such as this year’s New Year’s party.
“In previous years we kept our New Year’s celebration small,” Kimia said. “But this year we decided to go all out. And with the help of the school’s funding we were able to put on a much better and bigger event.”
Celebrating the year 1396 according to the Iranian calendar, the Persian Circle hired an Iranian restaurant to cater the event. Persian guests and non-Persian alike got a taste of traditional Persian cuisine—lots of kabobs, rice, salads, sweets and teas. Then there was the Persian traditional dancer and the New Year’s table which held seven things starting with the letter ‘S’ to ring in a prosperous and fortuitous New Year. And about 400 people showed up to take part in the experience.
“Our events are usually about 90% Persian,” Kimia said. “And that other 10% usually have some type of connection to a Persian person.” That’s something that the Persian Circle hopes to change by creating more events that attract people who aren’t Persian but who may be curious about Iran.
“I was actually surprised by the attendance at the New Year’s party,” Noushyar said. “There were a lot of people who weren’t Persian but who just showed up to the event to see what we were doing.”
But the Persian Circle isn’t just about entertainment and education, it’s also about building a community. Kimia, who lived in Iran until she was 11 years old, says that the community she has built through the Persian Circle has been priceless.
“In Iran I never felt like an outsider,” Kimia said. “In Iran, I always felt like I was at home. So at the beginning, when I first came here it was really hard because people perceive us differently sometimes because of the media and the different things they hear about Iran. Being a part of the Persian Circle has helped me reconnect to that feeling of being at home.”
Kimia and Noushyar hope to expand the Persian Circle’s audience by bringing on speakers who are passionate about Iran but who aren’t necessarily Persian. While members of the Persian Circle must be UW students, anyone in the community can attend events.
Cover photo: 2016-17 leadership team members (Noushyar, Atrina, Camelia, Sameem, Kimia, Aryan, Auva, Novin) and guest lecturer and author, Dr. Najmeh Mousavi-Peiambari