Iranian Americans In Politics: Utah’s Shireen Ghorbani

Five months ago, I interviewed Shireen Ghorbani when she was running for Congress for Utah’s 2nd District. She ran for office because of the rise of fear of immigrants and the limited access to quality healthcare.

She was an Iranian American running in a red state and had managed to raise a half million dollars for her campaign without taking any corporate PAC money, and she earned more votes for a Democrat than ever before in her district. She ran a grassroots campaign – spending hours out in the community and speaking to residents to find out what is important to them. She said she saw very little negativity on her campaign in social media. She was encouraged to find her community was very open to hearing her thoughts on the issues and many voters were looking for a strong alternative.

I remember watching the election and was super excited to see her leading at first before the incumbent won as more rural portions of the district voting returns came in. She said that as the election results were coming in, she had an outpouring of love from the Iranian American community. Individuals from around the country and the world reached out to say how proud they were and the messages were so appreciated.

I hope my story inspires my fellow Iranian Americans to get more politically involved. I want the community to have a voice and representation on big issues like the Muslim ban.

I recently checked in with Shireen and found out she is serving as the Salt Lake County Councilwoman. She is an elected official representing all of Salt Lake County – an area that has over a million residents (37% of Utahns live in this county) and they oversee a budget of $1.5 billion. They have a rapidly growing population and expect another 500K people by the year 2050. The Council oversees the adoption of ordinances, rules, and regulations of the county. She is getting to work on projects that are close to her heart like access to quality healthcare, ending homelessness, access to mental health care, addiction treatment, aging services, improving air quality and supporting a restorative approach to criminal justice services. The state is still losing one Utahn a day to opioid addiction, and Shireen is working on getting them treatment instead of incarceration.

Shireen Ghorbani being sworn in as Salt Lake County Councilwoman

Shireen is also an advocate of a program that works with residents wanting to become US Citizens. “Utah is proud to have a strong community of refugees, and I found that Utahns have very positive feelings about immigrants,” she said. It’s called the New Americans Task Force, and it is focused on making Utah a welcoming state and making Salt Lake more vibrant and globally competitive.

It’s not hard to see how proud Shireen is of her state and her community. She calls Utah one of the most beautiful states in America. She feels the state provides a lot of opportunities for every community. She recognized early on in her campaign that people felt a bit disconnected to politicians and took it upon herself to change that by being more responsive to her community and helping when she can.

“I hope my story inspires my fellow Iranian Americans to get more politically involved. I want the community to have a voice and representation on big issues like the Muslim ban.” She also said she feels very encouraged by the new young and diverse congress that is focused on greater transparency. She is proud of how many females were elected to office.

As I said before, I think Shireen is just getting started. You can follow Shireen on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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