First Iranians who became Famous for Different Reasons


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury

Originally published online in 2009

1. First Iranian-American Female Artist who has become Famous & Popular: Sarah Shahi

INTRODUCTION: Among many Iranian-American female artists, Sarah Shahi has become famous and popular since she was recently considered as one of the talented actresses on the 2009 List of's Top 99 Women when more than 10 million votes were cast. That was not the first successful record for Sarah Shahi. Maxim also featured her in its 2005 and 2006 Hot 100 lists (Maxim is an international magazine known for its revealing pictorials featuring popular actresses, singers, and female models).
Although she is young by Hollywood standards, Sarah Shahi has already enjoyed several showbiz careers by appearing on some of America's most beloved shows including Alias, Frasier, Sopranos, Dawson's Creek, the L Word, and Emergency Room (ER). She currently stars in the NBC television show of Life. In this article the life story of Sarah Shahi, her acting career, and some of her remarks are briefly presented and reviewed.
HER LIFE: She was born as Aahoo Jahansouz Shahi in Euless (a city in Texas, USA) on 10 January 1980 to Abbas and Mahmonir Jahansouz Shahi. Her parents divorced when she was ten years old. Sarah is her nickname by which she is actually recognized. Her family and some of her friends usually use her real name and call her as Aahoo, a name that in Persian also means as Ghazaal (in English: Gazelle). Her last name, Jahansouz Shahi, suggests that she is a descendent of Fath Ali Shah Qajar who ruled Iran from 1797 to 1834 (Read more about Fath Ali Shah in an online article written by this author).
Sarah Shahi attended Trinity High School and Dallas' Southern Methodist University, majoring in English and Opera. She is fluent in Farsi, Azeri, English and she also speaks some Spanish. Sarah Shahi started her career as a fashion model and as a beauty queen during her teen years. She won the Miss Fort Worth pageant in 1997. (Fort Worth is the seventeenth-largest city in the US and the fifth-largest city within the state of Texas). While studying at The Southern Methodist University, she became a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys in 1999 and 2000. (The Dallas Cowboys are a professional American football team in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League, and they are based in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas). During her cheerleading experience, she graced the covers of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Calendar and of Muscle and Fitness Magazine.
Sarah Shahi traveled to the troubled Balkans in January 2000, as part of a USO tour to perform for US soldiers engaged in operations in Kosovo. The United Service Organizations or USO is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the US military, with programs in over 135 centers worldwide. In 2006, Sarah married to actor Steve Howey whom she met on the set of Reba two years earlier.
ACTING CAREER: While working as an extra on the set of Dr T and the Women, Sarah Shahi met director Robert Altman who encouraged her to move from Texas to Hollywood. Sarah then moved to Los Angeles. Once in LA, she got various recurrent roles in several famous series, such as Alias, where she played as Jenny.
Sarah Shahi was also the first ghost in Supernatural, the CW paranormal drama series. She is best known for her role as the Mexican-American DJ Carmen de la Pica Morales in the Showtime drama television series the L Word, which she joined in its second season. She also appeared in the Sopranos as Sonya Aragon.
HER REMARKS: Here are some of the remarks expressed by Sarah Shahi:
1. My great-great-grandfather was a shah back in the 1800s. Unfortunately, I do not have any gold coins or jewels to show for it.
2. I think Fath Ali Shah would probably be pleased and happy of the advancements I have made.
3. My husband, Steve Howey, has the most amazing heart I have ever come across.
4. My biggest fantasy was to have a pie thrown in my face, and I always said whoever did that, that is the guy I would marry. My other boyfriends never had the nerve, but in 2006 and on my birthday, Steve threw a big gooey pie in my face. It was awesome!
Most Iranians are familiar with the best seller novel of the Husband of Lady Aahoo (in Persian: Shohar-e Aahoo Khanom) which won a Prize in Literature years ago in Iran. Actor Steve Howey who captured the heart of Sarah Shahi and choose to marry her, possibly loved that novel and liked to be called by the Farsi speaking people all around the world as Shohar-e Aahoo Khanom (Pardon the pun)!
The Image of Sarah Shahi
Afghani, A. M. (1968): The Husband of Lady Aahoo (Shohar-e Aahoo Khanom), ed., Tehran, Iran (in Persian).
Rudolph, I. (2008): For Sarah Shahi Life Is Beautiful, (An Interview), TV Guide (Published 06 October 2008).
Saadat Noury, M. (2004): About 17 Cities, an Online Article on Fath Ali Shah Qajar.
Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Various Notes and Articles on Persian Culture and the History of Iran.
Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Articles on Missing Moments.
Various Sources (2009): Notes and News on Sarah Shahi.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Notes on Sarah Shahi.

2. First Iranian Young singer who appered on the Brit Talent Show: Shaheen Jafargholi

On Saturday 18 April 2009, Shaheen Jafargholi shot to fame after an excellent performance on the show of Brits Got Talent (BGT). BGT is a British television show presented by Ant & Dec, and it is a search for Britain's next best talent act featuring singers, dancers, comedians, variety acts, and other talents of all ages.
Shaheen Jafargholi is a schoolboy of Iranian descent who lives in UK. He was born in Swansea (a city in Wales), UK, in 1997. Last Saturday, Shaheen started his audition singing Valerie (a song by The Zutons) and he was interrupted by tough judge Simon Cowell, who firstly remarked "You got this really wrong", and he then said that he was unhappy with the Shaheen's song choice. After Cowell sternly questioned the young man what other songs he could sing, Shaheen just flashed his dimples and chose the Michael Jackson track. By doing that, he immediately won over Cowell and his co-judges and became an instant internet sensation and a YouTube Star. Shaheen's mom Karen and dad Jafargholi, who waited backstage during his performance, were reportedly thrilled with their son's success.
No stranger to perform in front of a crowd, Shaheen has previously acted in television shows such as Casualty, Torchwood and Grandpa in My Pocket, all on the BBC. Shaheen has also toured on stage as a young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live. He featured in BBC documentary Starstruck, where cameras followed him for six months. Shaheen also switched on the Christmas lights in Swansea city centre in front of 30,000 people. He even keeps an impressive schedule, balancing school in Mount Pleasant in Swansea with classes at the Mark Jermin Stage School, where he has reportedly been attending since the age of five.
Not long after Shaheen's performance, American actress Demi Moore posted a YouTube clip to the performance on her site and said:
"Wow, this kid is something else". An hour later one of Demi's followers sent her the same link to Shaheen's performance but Demi replied: "Thank you I already posted it, he is awesome"!
EPILOGUE: Shaheen is the latest hopeful to cause a stir since the unassuming 48-year-old Susan Boyle, who lives with her cats and has never been kissed, gave a stunning rendition of "I Dream a Dream" from the "Les Miserables" musical. Boyle's performance immediately attracted media attention for the show. Finalists for BGT will compete for the top prize of £100,000 and a chance to perform at the Royal Variety Performance in front of British monarchy scheduled for 30 May 2009.
The Image of Shaheen Jafargholi
AbsCbnNew Website (2009): Online Note on Schoolboy wows judges on Brit talent show.
Daily Record Website (2009): Online Article on Revealed: Britain's Got Talent hopeful Shaheen Jafargholi is TV pro at 12.
Smith, R. (2009): Online Article on Britain's Got Talent exclusive: Shaheen Jafargholi honed act by pretending a walking stick was a microphone.
Walesonline Website (2009): Online Note on Demi Moore dazzled by Britain's Got Talent's Shaheen.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Notes on Shaheen Jafargholi and Britains Go Talent.

3. First Iranian Chess Grandmaster: Ehsan Ghaem Maghami

INTRODUCTION: Iranian chess grandmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (EGM) and the world's former Russian chess champion Anatoli Karpov competed during 7 days in 20 matches in Tehran. The competition was held by Iran's Chess Federation from January 27th to February 3rd, and it was judged by a referee from the Philippines. The game performance included three classic, rapid and blitz events, consisting of 20 matches. Overall scores showed that the former world champion Karpov lost the game and the Iranian chess grandmaster EGM was declared as the winner. In this article the life story and the works of EGM as the First Iranian Chess Grandmaster would be briefly presented and reviewed.
HIS LIFE: Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (EGM) was born on 11 August 1982 (in Iranian Calendar: 20 Mordad 1361) and has won many Iranian and international Chess Championships. He is not only a chess player but he is also a graduate of Law School which is the journey to practice law.
In 2000, EGM was entitled as a Chess Grandmaster (in Persian: Bozorg Amuzegaar, Ostad-e Bozorg, Ostad-e Azam). The title of Grand Master, aka GM, is awarded to extremely strong chess masters by the world chess organization FIDE (founded in Paris, France on July 20, 1924), and it is the highest title a chess player can attain. FIDE stands for the French name of Federation Internationale Des Echecs (in English: World Chess Federation), which is an international organization that connects the various national chess federations around the world and acts as the governing body of international chess competition. As a requirement for becoming a Grandmaster a player must have a rating of at least 2500 by FIDE at one time. In the FIDE rating card published online in January 2009, EGM has a rating of 2604.
EGM married to Shayesteh Ghaderpour who is also a chess champion. In the Iran Chess Championship which took place in December 2006 in Tehran, Shayesteh Ghaderpour won the Silver medal.
HIS CHESS FILE: Here is the Chess File of EGM:
Name: Ehsan Ghaem Maghami
Nationality: Iranian
Age: 26
Number of games in database: 384
Years covered: 2000 to 2009
Current FIDE rating: 2604
Highest rating achieved in database: 2633
Overall winning percentage: 58.7%
HIS MEDAL RECORD: Though EGM as a chess competitor for Iran has been awarded many prizes and medals, his international medal record reads as follows:
Asian Games in Doha, Qatar (2006): Bronze Medal
Asian Indoor Games in Macau, China (2007): Bronze Medal
HIS LATEST COMPETITION: As already noted from January 27 to February 3, 2009, EGM and the world's former Russian chess champion Anatoli Karpov competed in 20 matches in Tehran, and EGM was declared as the winner. The details of this competition may be viewed online as reported by many websites in Persian and in English.
The Image of Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (EGM)
BBC Website (2009): Online Article on Latest Competition of Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (in Persian).
ChessGames Website (2009): Online Chess File of Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.
FIDE Website (2009): The Chess Rating Card for Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.
Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Online Article on First Iranian Words which Made their Way into English, in reference to Checkmate and Rook.
TehranTimes Website (2009): Online News on Iranian GM to play Anatoly Karpov.
Various Sources (2009): News and Notes on Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Note on Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.

4. First Iranian Musician who was titled as the Artist of the Year: Javid Afsari Rad

The Oslo municipality of Norway granted the title of “Artist of the Year” to Javid Afsari Rad (JAR), an Iranian musician for his efforts in the world of art on May 10, 2008. JAR, the Iranian musician, also received the title of Artist of the Year from Norway Radio and Television last year. In this article the early history of Iranian music, the various instruments used in Persian classical music, and the life story of JAR, the First Iranian Musician who was titled as the Artist of the Year, are studied and discussed.
EARLY HISTORY OF IRANIAN MUSIC: Reliable research documents indicate that music in Iran can be traced back to the days of the Elamite Empire (2500-644 BC). Little is known about the music during Elamite Empire. But it is revealed that various instruments, such as guitars, lutes and flutes were invented and played. The plucked lute (in Persian: Barbat, aka Oud) and other instruments are said to have originated in that period, probably around 800 BC. During the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), music played an important role in Persian culture, especially in the Royal Court. Barbod the Great of the 7th Century AD, a court musician of the Sassanid Empire (226–651), created the first ever musical system in the Middle East known as the Khosrowani dedicated to the king Khosrow II.
VARIOUS MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Instruments used in Persian classical music include the bowed spike-fiddle (in Persian: Kamancheh), the goblet drum (in Persian: Dunbak, aka Tombak), the end-blown flute (in Persian: Nay, aka Ney, the frame drum (in Persian: Daff), the various long-necked lutes (in Persian: Tar, Setar, Tanbur, Dotar), and the dulcimer, aka hammered dulcimer (in Persian: Santur). The ordinary violin is also used, with distinctively Persian tuning. Harp (in Pesian: Chang) was a very important part of music up until the middle of the Safavid Empire (1501-1722).
HIS LIFE: JAR was born in Isfahan, central Iran, in 1965. His first mentor was musician Saeed Naeemi Manesh. At 16, JAR entered the Tehran Academy of Arts, where he studied music theory and was introduced to Radif (the Persian classical music repertoire) by the masters Faramarz Payvar and Parviz Meshkatian. His studies led him to Norway, where he later graduated from the University of Oslo in the field of Musicology.
HIS WORKS: JAR has performed solo in world music festivals in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, and he has done ensemble works with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (PHC), Dr. L. Subramaniam (DLS), and many others. PHC is known internationally as a player of the bansuri, the North Indian bamboo flute. PHC is also a classicist who has made a conscious effort to reach out and expand the audience for classical music. DLS is an acclaimed Indian violinist, composer and conductor, trained in the classical music tradition, and renowned for his virtuoso playing techniques and compositions in orchestral fusion.
The 2002’s Combinations featured musicians from Iran, India, China, Morocco, Senegal, Gambia and Brazil; and Caravan, musicians from Iran and India. That same year, JAR conceived and composed Asiatic Caravan featuring musicians and dancers from Iran, China and India, the audio highlights of which were released as Golestan. He has also composed for film and theater.
JAR is also a member of Persian Percussion Ensemble known as Zarbang, aka Zarbahang. Other members are Pejman Hadadi, Mehrdad Arabi, Behnam Samani, Reza Samani, and Morshed Mehregan. Zarbang was founded in 1996 with the aim of introducing Persian percussion instruments to international audiences and combining them with percussive and melodic instruments from other cultures.
As noted earlier, in 2007 JAR was awarded the Norwegian Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra’s Prize for Best Composition of the Year.
On May 10, 2008 Fabian Stang, the mayor of the Norwegian capital of Oslo, paid tribute to JAR’s significant contribution to the world of music. The Oslo mayor entitled JAR as the Artist of the Year and said, “Javid Afsari Rad is known for his innovative performances and ingenious composition”. “He is a pioneer in world music in Norway and his various performances are highly regarded in multicultural areas,” the mayor added.
LISTEN to His Music 
The Image of Javid Afsari Rad

Persian Art Music Website (2008): Online article on Javid Afsari Rad (in Persian).
PHC Website (2008): Online Notes on Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Press TV Website (2008): Online Article on Oslo Pays Tribute to Iranian Musician.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Various Articles and Notes on First Iranians and History.
Small World Music Website (2008): Online Notes on Zarbang.
Various Sources (2008): Online Notes and News about Javid Afsari Rad.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2008): Online Notes on Persian Music, PHC, and DLS.

5 & 6: First Iranian Female and Male Experts in Genetics: Pardis Sabeti and Maziar Ashrafian

INTRODUCTION: The science of genetics is the study of how, in all living things, the characteristics and qualities of parents are given to their children by their genes. This science is actually a discipline or a branch of biology, which discusses the subjects of heredity and variation in living organisms. An expert in genetics, aka a geneticist, is a person whose job is to study genetics and to perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of traits. Due to a great deal of thoughtful contributions and some interesting findings in genetics, two Iranian geneticists have become internationally famous in the recent years. They are known as Pardis Sabeti (a female), and Maziar Ashrafian (a male). In this article, the life stories and the works of those geneticists as the First Iranian Female and Male Experts in Genetics, will be presented and reviewed.
PARDIS SABETI: Pardis Sabeti was born on 25 December 1975 in Iran, and immigrated to the US when she was three years old. In responding to what she was doing at age 9, she said in an interview that, "At 9 I think I had really gotten into tennis, I liked writing short stories, I loved solving math problems, I was learning a little piano, and I was collecting Garbage Pail Kids cards". Sabeti plays guitar and bass and is the lead singer of a rock band (see below).
She is a geneticist who developed a statistical method which identifies sections of the genome that have been subjected to natural selection. Sabeti is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She is rated 49th among Top 100 living geniuses (in Persian: Naabegheh) of the world by the Daily Telegraph, a British broadsheet newspaper.
Sabeti completed her undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and continued her education at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School where she was only the third woman ever to graduate with the Latin Honor of summa cum laude (the honor with supreme praise). She has also received a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences. (The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities).
Sabeti addressed the problem of telling whether a mutation is due to natural selection or just random. When humans are exposed to diseases, like malaria and Lassa fever, they evolve traits that resist those diseases, such as sickle cell trait. Biologists can tell from comparing DNA sequences in populations whether mutations were due to natural selection, but those methods would not work for evolutionary changes during the last ten thousand years, when diseases like malaria arose.
Sabeti took advantage of the fact that genes on the same place in the chromosome are inherited together. If a particular variation is subject to natural selection, its frequency will increase, along with the frequency of genes that have hitchhiked along with it. She developed a test that would use this principle to tell whether recent changes were due to natural selection or just to a chance. She applied this test to malaria variants, and saw a whopping signal of positive selection. This research was published in Nature, a prominent scientific journal.
Currently, she is studying the effect of natural selection on the human genome and the genomes of other organisms to uncover how humans and other species have adapted to their surroundings over time. In her spare time, Sabeti enjoys performing with her band Thousand Days, which recently won an honorable mention in Billboard's World Songwriting Contest for the track Headlight Waves. On 14 June 2008, the Boston Globe (the most widely circulated daily newspaper in Boston and in New England, US) published an article entitled as Infectious Melodies and wrote that, "Pardis Sabeti, a pioneering geneticist, has a second life as a singer and songwriter".
MAZIAR ASHRAFIAN: Maziar Ashrafian, aka Maziar Ashrafian Bonab, was born on 20 September 1966 in Tehran, Iran. He is a population geneticist specializing in forensic genetics (the use of the DNA markers in the investigation of crimes). His groundbreaking research uses human DNA markers to identify the ancestral history of humans in both anthropological and forensic cases.
In 2003, he got his MS degree in Biomolecular Archaeology from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). He has published various books and research papers. Before doing his PhD in Cambridge, he first qualified and worked as a Medical Doctor (1984-1991) in Iran. After passing a course in forensic medicine at the Iranian Legal Medical Organization (in Persian: Saazmaan-e Pezeshki-e Ghaanooni-e Iran), he was appointed as the head of Legal Medical Centre at Hormozgan Province of Iran for four years (1992-1996). As well as dealing with many different forensic cases and having done more than 400 autopsies, he taught forensic medicine and medical anthropology to the undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Bandar-Abbas University of Medical Sciences and Bandar-Abbas Azad University. He worked as a biological anthropologist at the Iranian Archaeological Research Centre at the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization from 1996 to 2002 and he participated in seventeen archaeological excavations around Iran.
Currently he is a Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth in UK. One of his latest articles on Genetic Structure of Human Populations co-authored by Handley and Balloux appeared in the international periodical of Heredity.
The Image of Pardis Sabeti
The Image of Maziar Ashrafian
Ashrafian Bonab, M., Handley, L., and F. Balloux (2007): Is Urbanization Scrambling the Genetic Structure of Human Populations? Heredity 98: 151-156.
Kahn, J. (2008): Infectious Melodies, the Boston Globe, 14 June 2008.
Nova Website (2008): Online Profile of Pardis Sabeti.
Nova Website (2008): Online Interview with Pardis Sabeti, Ask the Expert.
Saadat Noury, M. (2008): Various Articles on First Iranians.
Sabeti, P. and Others (2007): Genome-wide detection and characterization of positive selection in human populations, Nature 449: 913-918.
Thousand Days Website (2008): Pardis Sabeti, Bob Katsiaficis, Dana Goulet.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2008): Online Note on Maziar Ashrafian Bonab.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2008): Online Note on Pardis Sabeti.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD



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