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Are we a minority group?
Americans of Iranian descent may or may not wish to be legally classified as a minority

Abtin Assadi
July 20, 2004

United States and International laws protect the rights of minorities. To that end, minorities are mostly defined in legal terms. For example the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as part of the Fair Housing Laws, defines minorities as follows:

"Any group, or any member of a group, that can be identified either: by race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin; or by any other characteristic (such as familial status) on the basis of which discrimination is prohibited by a federal, state, or local fair housing law".

The United Nations Charter is to promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifically asserts the promotion and protection of minorities' rights.

The United States constitution's First Amendment protects free speech and religious rights, the fifteenth Amendment protects the right to vote regardless of race or color and the nineteenth Amendment protects the right to vote regardless of gender.

The constant promotion and realization of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the rule of law, would contribute to the strengthening of friendship and cooperation among peoples and States.

Americans of Iranian descent may or may not wish to be legally classified as a minority, but historically the majority has marginalized minority groups; hence the legal protection afforded to them by U.S. and International laws.

The Iranian-American community is by no means homogeneous; all colors and skin tones as well as several distinct languages and a variety of religions are represented in the community. Some members have assimilated faster and gained economic, social and cultural success, while others face marginalization due to age, class, disability, gender or other factors.

Although Iranian-American community members differ in their success levels in economic, social and cultural aspects, the community as a whole suffers uniformly from the lack of civic participation and lack of access to political power. The reasons behind this shortcoming are steeped in our community's historical background and the lack of democratic institutions in the home country.

The quest to facilitate Iranian-American civic participation appears to be the immediate challenge facing the community as a whole and education appears to be the first order of business. We all need to learn how to best engage and influence our local, state and federal elected officials. Furthermore, we need to recruit other talents inside and outside the community to mobilize a large sustained campaign to overcome the lack of political clout.

Abtin Assadi is member of board of directors at Bay Area Iranian American Voter Association

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By Abtin Assadi



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