Shifting Priorities And Concerns For The Iranian-American Community

The reality of most Iranian-Americans has probably changed since the beginning of the Trump Administration. The change from a Democratic president, willing to dialogue and consider other points of view, to a Republican leader who has set up travel restrictions on citizens from Iran and other countries does turn the page drastically. However, the Iranian-American community is also diverse, and opinions concerning the political change vary.

The Iranian-American community, although being mainly Muslim, includes also other religious groups, such as the Baha’i, Zoroastrians and the not less important Jewish Iranian community. Each one of them, holding its own interest, has had a different impact on the elections of Donald Trump depending on their grade of involvement. Some of the most influent Iranian families are of Jewish origin and do have collaboration and involvement with the political public sphere, such as the Nazarian family (Younes Nazarian and his relatives) and the Canadian Ghermezian family, which is already involved in the American market and donated to the Republican Committee. Each subgroup of the community has its own concerns and interests and that reflects generally on the political vote; there are those who are pro-Pahlavi (supporting the last heir of the Iranian royal family, Reza Pahlavi), those who are pro-diplomacy (mostly secular Muslim Iranian-Americans) and those who are ready to support President Trump in all his endeavors towards Iran.

Based on PAAIA’s latest survey on Iranian AmericansThe Iranian reviewed some of the community’s general social features and how they have changed since President Trump’s election victory:

  • Iranian Americans remain, for the most part, are deeply attached and in contact with their family in Iran. According to the recopilated data since 2009, most try to visit the country (from often to rarely, the percentage altogether is 50%) and keep a decent level of contact with their family there (about 55%, from communicating daily to several times a month with their relatives), with 1/3 having received Iranian family members to the U.S. since the past decade.
  • One of the highest fears for those who travel to Iran is to have problems in the airports, may it be in Iran or the United States, due to the passports and the current relation between both countries since the new administration took office. That said, 89% of the interviewed individuals said to have had no problem with both administrations (Iranian and American). About ¾ of those asked by PAAIA (83%) admitted being concerned about President Trump deterring their ability to visit Iran in the future and actively oppose the established travel ban. The change in politics has also had a clearly negative effect for Iranian Americans in terms of discrimination and racial profiling at the airports: more than 50% of those interviewed have experienced racism in 2017 and in previous years, including employment discrimination.
  • Previously concerned mainly about the political situation in Iran and about the human rights conditions, most Iranian-Americans have shifted to domestic concerns – i.e. the social perception of the community in the United States- since the elections and during this 2017. As a result, ¾ of those interviewed by PAAIA (mainly Muslim Iranian-Americans and agnostics) hold a negative view of President Trump, having favored the previous Obama administration, both in domestic issues and in their management with Iran. Most (52%) consider the impact of the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) as positive, and would want to keep it.
  • Most of those interviewed (55%) hold a positive opinion of Hassan Rouhani, while only a 6% holds a positive view on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Regardless, the bulk of Iranian-Americans would prefer it to be a secular democracy, but are not optimistic about a regime change. Those who would want a regime change in favor of the crown prince Reza Pahlavi comprise of only 37% of those interviewed. It should be taken into consideration that the most conservative segment of Iranian-Americans, Iranian Jews, are generally supportive of the Trump Administration due to religious concerns, as well as other non-Muslim factions of the Iranian-American community, which comprise the 36% of those interviewed.
  • Only 20% of those interviewed are not concerned with Trump Administration’s policy and how it can affect Iranian Americans. The rest of those polled are concerned on how their relationship with Iran will be affected, as well as being subject to closer scrutiny by U.S. law enforcement.
  • The last two concerns regarding the near future are the concern over the public image of Iranian-Americans (79%), and how will President Trump deal with Iran: most (55%) think that one of the priorities of the U.S. government should be “advancing democracy and promoting personal and civil rights”, as well as lifting the economic embargo to improve Iran’s economy. About a 15% would want Iran’s role in supporting terrorist organizations to be diminished.

One can conclude, therefore, that the community’s concerns changed because of the change in administration. The former concern and will to involve itself in promoting democracy and human rights in Iran was overrun by the domestic concerns.

The Trump Administration’s policies have clearly had an adverse impact on Iranian-Americans, a highly successful and educated  community that has integrated itself in the United States – the matter now may be, if the United States will consider the community as its own or if it will be further targeted due to its origin, regardless of how much it has contributed to American society in the last decades.

Cover image: Marian Vayghan reacts after her uncle is released from a detention center for deportation back to Iran as people protest President Trump’s travel ban from Muslim-majority countries at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 28. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

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