Will Iranian Americans have a voice in America?

Being silent and deferential doesn’t work in a democracy


Will Iranian Americans have a voice in America?
by Shapoor_Cali

In the spirit of strengthening my voice, I chose to attend the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. held between Sep 30th and Oct 2nd.  While attending the conference, I met Iranian Americans from across the country.  Through hands-on interactive workshops I learned how an unprepared community can be defenseless and at risk while an organized and engaged community can build strong relationships and project considerable power.  I met leaders from other communities who shared stories of their challenges when they were first starting to stand up for their beliefs and, more importantly, gained inspiration from their success and determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  My voice has grown stronger indeed but it has room to grow yet... if you, my fellow Iranian American, would join me.

The more recent immigrant communities which make up the melting pot of America, like the Cuban-American, Indian-American, and Armenian- American communities, have all succeeded in having a voice.  We can too.  I took a few notes during one of the panel discussions on what steps other communities took to succeed and what Iranian Americans can learn from them: 

Lesson #1:  Build Strong Relationships
In order to reach our full potential as a community, we need to build strong relationships both within our community and with others.  We need to know the common ground and areas of disagreement and be able to discuss and deal with these disagreements openly and constructively, without resorting to name calling. As panelist Aram Suren Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, stated:  “If you do not manage your differences, others will manage your differences for you.”

One particularly good example of a community overcoming inner-differences in order to advocate for their greater good is the Arab-American community. Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, spoke about how the Arab-American community grew out of the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s.  They became politically involved with the campaign of Jesse Jackson in 1984 where they had 4 Arab American delegates at the Democratic National Convention.  By 1988 they had 52 Arab American delegates.  As they grew, they encountered internal issues related to identity.  Some Arab Americans identified themselves, and still do, based on their country of origin, others based on their religion, still others based on the village or tribe they belonged to.  These conflicts, however, had to be successfully dealt with in order to achieve the community’s core objectives.  There were also external conflicts with other ethnic communities attempting to delegitimize the voice of the newly emerging Arab-American community.  Although these attempts were painful and difficult to overcome and still an issue at times, the Arab-American community addressed them by reaching out to allies in other communities like Jesse Jackson, Ron Brown and Joe Lieberman.  I strongly recommend listening to the video taped session of this panel.

Lesson #2:  Have a Clear Mission & Strong Grassroots
To have a strong voice we need to have a clear mission, which is supported by the majority of the community.  Being able to effectively communicate and/or advocate for this mission will require both an understanding of the policy-making process as well as an energized grassroots.  For example, if we as a community are opposed to a U.S./Iran war, then intervening to prevent a bill advocating for war needs to be done not once the bill has already passed, but rather when we still have a chance to change its course.  As panelist Tom Dine, former Executive Director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), stated:  “Grassroots political action is just not grassroots. That’s where you live.  It’s what you do where you live.”  Being silent and deferential doesn’t work in a democracy.  We need to be, as one panelist put it, the “squeaky wheel” in order to be heard loud and clear.   

As reflected by these notes, there are many steps involved to owning a strong voice, but the first step is to show up.

This strategy works.  Iranian Americans, through NIAC, have been able to identify issues important to us, engage with our representatives, defend our civil liberties and achieve our objectives.  Some examples include:

● Leading the fight to change single entry to multiple entry visas for students studying in the United States.  The burden of single entry visas was both personal and professional; for example, it prevented people from attending a family member’s funeral, or precluded them from attending international conferences in their field of study.

● Earthquake relief via an extension of sanctions waiver by the US Treasury department on Oct 9th, after grass-roots outreach by the Iranian-American community.

● Consistently opposing war, including blocking Congressional measures in 2008 and 2010.

Overall, the NIAC Leadership Conference provided a great opportunity to learn about our participatory democracy and make some great new friends (I’ve already met up again with several of them both socially and to continue the important work ahead.) The NIAC platform which consists of: no war with Iran, support for targeted sanctions against human rights violators as opposed to broad indiscriminate sanctions, and the demand for human rights to be protected as part of any final negotiated settlement between the US and Iran, is compiled based on feedback from the NIAC membership.  If you agree with this platform, then join and add your voice.  Otherwise, we risk having others speak for us.



Why do we need to have "a" voice, why can't we have many voices?

by Zendanian on

All those exapmles of Cuban-Americans, Armenian-Americans, Indian-Americans are way too simplified and distorted.

If you take a deeper,closer look at any of those mentioned communities you'll see many divergent voices active within each of those communities. 

No single community in the world is so homogenous as to have a single voice. 

What Iranian communities outside of Iran (in North AQmerica, Europe,...) need is to be more organized and responsive to developments in Iran.

Since all these Iranian communities outside of Iran are heterogeneous, naturally there will be different voices.

What we lack  are organic, bottom-up, grass root community organizations.

There's no need to confine all our efforts in coming up with a "single" "voice!"


 unprepared community can

by vildemose on

 unprepared community can be defenseless and at risk while an organized and engaged community can build strong relationships and project considerable power

Fearmongering much? Defensless against what??American government and the interest of America and Americans?

You want to project power for what reason?? To defend the IRI?? To defend Islamist and their ideology? To shout Death to Israel and Death to America more freely?


All Oppression Creates a State of War--Simone De Beauvoir


what a tragic

by vildemose on

what a tragic sham. We do have a voice in America. What we don't need is the IRI lobby to become "our voice". This is an insult to our collective intelligence as a community.



All Oppression Creates a State of War--Simone De Beauvoir


Dear I am fine

by masoudA on

in thje case of NIAC - Iranians did not try to organize - Oil companies needed an organization to speak for Iranians and they created NIAC.   Also - NIAC has a history of failures to be our voice....you can't hide it - and they can't get away with it.    


there is a problem

by iamfine on

Anytime Iranians try to organize them self to do something positive for the Iranians in Iran or abroad, there are bunch of losers try their best to fail it. A good example is Fred


Did they have Noam Chomsky there Again?

by masoudA on

It would truely have been a last supper if he was. 

I also find it amazing how an organization or "voice" can be created despite any support for the community it is suppose to speak for!!  

Shapoor - Iran Americans may be inactive, voiceless, even lazy when it comes to politics.......but we are not stupid.   We also have better memories than what you have apparantly assumed.   In 2010 when the Green movement was protesting against the theocracy in Iran - what was our so called voice saying on our behalf?  You don't know - so let me tell you - NIAC position was that they are not a human rights organization !!!  with that said - go %^$# yourself and the hell with the voice which has never spoken for Iranians or Americans. 

BTW - I find it interesting that the photo of the last supper is just the size that nobody can be identified......I also looked around to find photos just to see if anyone I know was stupid enough to stand next to or behind Trita Parsi......Can anyone help? Are there any photos anywhere?



by Kabriat on

I am not an employee of NIAC or their supporter.  I think NIAC should be criticized on the basis of things they have actually done (or failed to do) such as failing to give enough attention to registering Iranian-Americans to vote, or focusing on immigration laws that discriminate against Iranians but not based on false and defamatory accusations that they lobby for the IRI, which even Hassan Dai wasn't even able to argue was true.



by Fred on

Thank you for your response.

Since your other comments/contributions on this site have been against PIAA, a NIAC Lobby competitor, would you mind clarifying your position with NIAC Lobby?

That is, are you responding as an individual, a NIAC Lobby member in good standing and not one of those 46000 and change supporters claimed by the lobby or are you an employee of the Lobby.

If you are an employee/official, and you are willing to state your name and title, I will be more that glad to get into an extended back and forth with you on the subject, otherwise, take care.



by Kabriat on

Your questions are pretty ridiculous, so I'll answer them:


1. NIAC doesn't have a lifetime President, since it's bylaws don't created one.  But to satisfy your curiosity, the current sitting President of AIPAC has been leading that organization since 1994, far longer than Trita Parsi.

2. That question is also ridiculous because Hassan Dai didn't win by proving his accusations that NIAC is a IRI lobby is in fact true.  He dropped that defense and simply won by proving that at the time he made those lies, he didn't know AT THAT TIME, that they were lies.  

3. The answer to your question is here: //www.niacouncil.org/site/News2pageNewsArti.... Read it.

4. Which questioner?  You?  Probably because you're not actually interested in the truth.  


The right voice

by Fred on

You make many great points in your write up, starting with this one:

“The more recent immigrant communities which make up the melting pot of America, like the Cuban-American, Indian-American, and Armenian- American communities, have all succeeded in having a voice.”

In the same spirit that you began your write up I have number of questions:

1-    Name one successful immigrant community organization of the kind you mention that has a lifetime president.

2-    Name one such organization which has lost a Federal court case which it had filed against one of its critics who based on documents accused the organization as working with the nemesis of the  people it claimed to look out for.

3-    Why did NIAC Lobby oppose addition of the terrorist revolutionary Guard to the U.S terrorist list?

4-    Why NIAC Lobby refuses to answer legitimate questions and labels the questioner?

There are many oddities about NIAC Lobby which in its present posture make it unlikely that it will fulfill what you have in mind, and in fact is an impediment to what you seem to be desiring, a legitimate voice for Americans of Iranian descent.  

NIAC Lobby respond!