Posted By 30 YEARS AFTER
Many odious entities enter Los Angeles every day--smog, D-list celebrities, hipsters from the East Coast that have had enough of the cold--but one such group is particularly disturbing: it is the host of ships that frequently enters the ports of Iran to conduct business with the Islamic Republic, and later docks at the Port of Los Angeles to, you guessed it, conduct business with the United States.
To be fair, many other American cities also join LA in currently allowing such ships entry, ranging from the Port of Oakland to Houston, Savannah, New Orleans, Miami, New York, and others. However, in LA at least, those most concerned have taken the issue to task with the person most responsible for enacting a tangible change on the ground: the future mayor of Los Angeles.
Today, 30 YEARS AFTER joined United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and a host of concerned partners in California in calling for Los Angeles Mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel to support denying docking privileges to shipping companies that access the Port of Los Angeles but also access ports in Iran, including OOCL (Hong Kong), Yang Ming (Taiwan), and CMA CGM (France).
The letter demonstrated a unified community voice, as it was also sent on behalf of the regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, as well as Sinai Temple, Beth Jacob Congregation, Young Israel of Century City, University Synagogue, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager.
Councilmember Garcetti and Controller Greuel each received a letter authored by UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace and signed by leaders of the organizations stated above, as well as 30 YEARS AFTER. Here is a snippet of the text:
... The next mayor has an opportunity to put pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program by closing the Port of Los Angeles to any ships that have docked in Iran, have offices in Iran, or import and export into and out of Iran (with exceptions on humanitarian grounds). Ocean transportation is critical for the import of raw materials required for Iran's nuclear program. Cutting off access to these raw materials would hamper Tehran's nuclear drive.
Several of the world's leading shipping lines routinely operate in Iranian ports and continue to do business with the Port of Los Angeles. This is contrary to the spirit of U.S. sanctions and President Obama's policy, and it needs to be stopped. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Obama in January, contains a provision that authorizes sanctions against any person who knowingly supports activity benefiting port operators in Iran.
In the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, Congress explicitly invited state and local governments and agencies to assist with the implementation of federal sanctions policy. Thus, local governments and port authorities can take action to ensure that ports under their control effectively bar shippers that make port calls at Iranian ports.
The undersigned ask for your commitment to ban all shippers docking at Iranian ports, operating offices in Iran, or importing and exporting into and out of Iran by: 1) confirming that this your policy; 2) asking the Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners to implement this policy and 3) only appointing individuals who support your policy to the Los Angeles Harbor Commission.
We commend UANI on their excellent leadership and initiative, and look forward to hearing from the candidates regarding their stance on this vital issue. While it is complex on many levels, for companies that dock ships in both LA and Iran, the choice is rather simple: Either conduct business with America, or with Iran. But not both.
Want to know if your city's port authority currently allows entry for ships that have docked in Iran? Click here.
Founded in 2007, 30 YEARS AFTER is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Los Angeles with a chapter in New York, whose mission is to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American civic, political, and Jewish life. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4.11.13 at 7:36 pm | The next mayor of Los Angeles should support the. . .
3.22.13 at 2:29 pm | Reflections on Persian Jewish Passover traditions. . .
2.26.13 at 7:01 pm | Congressman Ed Royce (R), Chairman of the House. . .
10.16.12 at 3:52 pm | As the 2012 elections near, we must look within. . .
10.8.12 at 3:29 pm | A biennial event reminds us why we can, and why. . .
8.21.12 at 3:14 pm |
3.22.13 at 2:29 pm | Reflections on Persian Jewish Passover traditions. . . (6)
4.11.13 at 7:36 pm | The next mayor of Los Angeles should support the. . . (5)
10.8.12 at 3:29 pm | A biennial event reminds us why we can, and why. . . (4)
March 22, 2013 | 2:29 pm
Posted by Tabby Davoodi
Growing up Iranian Jewish in LA, our Passover Seders were like long, annoying road trips, where instead of the kids asking, "Are we there yet?", our parents were subjected to repeated questions about the order of the Seder:
After the first cup of wine:
Is it Dayenu time yet??
After the bitter herbs:
Is it Dayenu time yet??
After the charoset/halegh:
Is it Dayenu time yet??
After Dayenu, dinner, and even dessert:
Can we do Dayenu again??
In fact, the whole Seder seemed like one long, drawn-out series of mechanically-offered blessings designed to torture little Persian kids by taking as long as possible to finally arrive at the moment we had so desperately waited for all year: the annual green onion beatings of the Persian Seder Dayenu ritual.
In my experience, non-Persians that live in Los Angeles and interact with Persian Jews know generally two facts (and one crucial piece of advice) about our community and Passover:
1. We beat each other with green onions during the Seder
2. We enjoy rice the entire week because it is not considered chametz for our community
3. Don't ever go to one of the Persian kosher supermarkets within a 72-hour vicinity of Passover
There are a few different explanations for why Iranian (and Afghan) Jews gently hit each other with green onions during the Dayenu tradition of the Seder, but most are rooted in the theme of a physical, tangible reminder that we should never long for Egypt or what it represented (see Numbers 11:5-6). Also, the long tails of the green onions are said to represent the whips of the ancient Egyptians, though the truly clever assailants, including my mother, not only whip forearms with the tails, but beat heads with the bulbs. It's really a beautiful sight.
But for most kids, the Persian Dayenu signifies the only time of the year when lightly beating one's parents seems acceptable and even religiously-sanctioned, or so we tell ourselves as we mercilessly hurl the onions across the room. One Passover, I even attacked the back of my mother's head because she had refused to buy me any video games that year. I was 17.
Some of our most beloved childhood memories of Passover Seders involve those crucial moments right before the Dayenu, when the kids anxiously grab as many green onions as their stubby little hands can hold, chase each other down hallways and under tables, flail their pungent weapons over the heads of parents and elders, and scream and giggle and turn red with laughter and energy. Of course, it's not only the children. Grandmothers beat grandfathers, uncles beat nieces and nephews, fourth cousins beat sixth cousins, and mothers beat fathers. It's all done with love, until one soul finally begs for peace and tranquility. The cease-fire usually takes effect once someone has been subjected to an onion attack in the eye, and is usually preceded by a desperate uncle yelling, "It burns! It burns!"
Yet these memories still seem empty as I grow older and learn more about the real depth of Passover, and I find myself wondering why I remember all of the fun and none of the meaning of childhood Seders here in the U.S.
My family embraced the Seder traditions in its own way. Even the Four Questions that were reserved for the children had a special Persian twist on them. We still had the questions, but they were more along the lines of our parents and elders asking,
1.Where is your meat? I don't see any on your plate.
2. What type of lawyer do you want to be when you grow up?
3. What's your backup school in case you don't get into UCLA?
4. Were you the one that threw that green onion at my eye?
As individuals and as a part of a greater Jewish community, we each struggle to tap into the unique energy of Passover in our own ways. Personalizing the theme of "We are still in Egypt" came much more easily to me when I lived in Iran as a child in the 1980s. There's something about living under the rule of powerful anti-Semites that makes the connection between your current life and the struggles of your ancestors in ancient Egypt more personal and palpable.
But for those Jews that left Iran to live in the U.S., or were born in America altogether, the notion of still being enslaved while living in the freest country on earth might seem harder to internalize. How enslaved could I possibly be, drinking a latte and people-watching on a sunny afternoon at The Grove?
Ironically, when we are feeling the least physically or mentally enslaved is the best time to ask, What does it mean for something or someone to enslave me? I believe that it simply means that someone or something is keeping you from reaching your full G-d-given potential.
In the U.S., the Iranian-American Jewish community also has incredible potential. It's not fair to generalize, however there do seem to be a few matters that keep us enslaved as well, whether on the individual or communal level. I believe the most important are as follows:
1. An Obsession with Saving Face
Real life example: at 21, you're embarrassed that you have a boyfriend and at 31, you're embarrassed that you don't have a husband.
Our borderline-obsession with reputation and good standing has created an environment that pushes us away to deal with our struggles on our own, because we believe that our community might respond to us with alienation, gossip, and even scorn. This was the predominant theme of an important panel of young Iranian American Jews at a UCLA Fowler Museum event earlier this month.
2. Deflection of Responsibility for Things that Really Matter
Real life example: You don't care enough about anything to ever vote, or to even register to vote, and you believe that you'll never make a difference anyhow. You go about life in your own way and leave others to make the decisions for you. Or, you're relatively proud of who you are, but secretly hope that no non-Persians will ever ask you to explain anything about what it means to be an Iranian American Jew, about the community back in Iran, about the gravity of Iran's nuclear pursuits, about if and why you support Israel, etc. because you won't really be able to answer any of these questions (or so you think).
3. An Over-Embrace of Insularity
Real-life example: As one friend recently told me, "I always celebrate the Passover Seder in the Persian way, with my Persian family, and then after it's over, I watch the basketball game at home with my Persian friends."
Again, this is a generalization, but it begs the question of whether our community had found a healthy balance between insularity and openness. Just once, I would like to see an Iranian Jew from Beverly Hills attend a Shabbat dinner with a group of young professionals, mostly non-denominational Ashkenazim, from Eastside Jews at the Silverlake Jewish Community Center or somewhere else. He or she would learn so much about the amazing tapestry of the Jewish community all over this city. I would go myself, if I could find a place nearby to sleep so that I wouldn't have to drive on Shabbat. I love their self-description: "We hold monthly events at unlikely venues during unpopular holidays for Jews with confused identities."
And just once, I would like to see a group of young Iranian American Jews spend Thanksgiving volunteering at a food shelter on Skid Row in downtown LA, rather than taking road trips to Las Vegas with 60 of their closest friends. Vegas is fine, but it will still be around for Christmas, New Year's, Spring Break, Persian New Year, birthdays, bachelor parties, spontaneous weekend getaways when you need some space from your mother, clandestine weekend getaways with your secret boyfriend/girlfriend, and much, much more.
How about this as a starter: let's each take a moment to reflect on whether we have a Jewish friend that for whatever reason, will not have a Passover Seder to attend this year (and probably won't care). What if each of us invited one non-Iranian Jew to our family's Seder? (please ask your mother first and warn relatives in advance that this person is NOT your lover nor does he/she work in Admissions at USC). Or what if this year, you join a non-Persian Seder or a Passover meal and see how different Jewish communities celebrate this incredible holiday? Perhaps by showing each other the beauty of our traditions, we may begin to appreciate them ourselves, to contemplate the "mental chametz" and noise that continue to enslave us and drive a toxic wedge between us and our potential, and the powerful and auspicious spiritual energy of Passover that makes liberation truly attainable.
Plus, it never hurts to have an extra set of hands armed with green onions...on our side of the table.
30 YEARS AFTER is a civic action organization (501(c)(3) that aims to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American civic, political, and Jewish life. Founded by a group of young professionals in 2007, it has chapters in Los Angeles and New York.
February 26, 2013 | 7:01 pm
Posted by Oron Maher and Sam Yebri
U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R), currently serving his eleventh term in Congress representing Southern California’s 39th District, attended an intimate meeting with political, community, and business leaders from Los Angeles’ Iranian-American Jewish community on February 19th, to discuss American foreign policy. Royce assumed the influential position of Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January.
Among the various topics discussed was the need to strengthen and enforce economic sanctions against the Iranian government. Royce, a leading voice in Congress on the issue, pledged to continue to use all available economic measures to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Royce warned that those who oppose sanctions underestimate the manipulative tactics of the Iranian regime. Royce was the original co-sponsor of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012. Following the bill’s passage, with Royce’s support, Iranian officials engaging in censorship activities were targeted with asset freezes and travel bans. The leaders from the Iranian-American Jewish community thanked Royce for his steadfast support of sanctions against Iran, which last week week began installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plans at Natanz, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Royce also voiced his criticism of U.S.-government funded media that is being broadcast into Iran, such as Voice of America, which he believes fails to serve the best interests of the United States. Royce argued that such media programming should serve as a foreign policy tool that effectively impacts the hearts and minds of Iranian citizens. Likening the matter to Cold War broadcasts into the former Soviet Union, Royce advocated for a more robust Iran strategy that would include discussions with recent immigrants to the United States from Iran because only they can testify firsthand to the political climate on the ground in Iran.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee that Royce chairs is responsible for overseeing broadcasting to Iran. As such, Royce pledged to work tirelessly to ensure that U.S. broadcasting initiatives effectively promote democracy and human rights in Iran. Other topics discussed included the vital importance of a strong U.S.- Israel relationship and the critical role of the Iron Dome air defense system in protecting Israeli citizens.
30 YEARS AFTER was proud to have convened this meeting with Congressman Royce and commends his steadfast leadership and friendship in the United States Congress. We agree in the strongest terms with his recommendation that Iranians who have immigrated to the United States are in the best position to inform both the American government and the American people regarding the true nature of the Iranian regime – including its human rights abuses, persecution of minorities, and global support for terrorism.
For the Iranian-American Jewish leaders who met with Royce this week, it was a privilege to have offered our input regarding Iran to the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs – an individual with tremendous influence on American foreign policy towards Iran, Israel, and the entire world.
In a broader sense, the meeting provided a truly unique and invaluable opportunity to inform our policymakers about issues we care deeply about and to hear the policymaker’s perspectives and policy agenda directly. Such meetings stand as a testament to the exceptional nature of America's democratic system.
Oron Maher, a real estate broker and attorney, serves on the Board of Directors of 30 YEARS AFTER. Sam Yebri, an attorney and Los Angeles City Commissioner, serves as the President of 30 YEARS AFTER.
October 16, 2012 | 3:52 pm
Posted By: Michael Yadegaran
November 6th will be a special day for me. It is, of course, Election Day. The next President of the United States will be chosen and hundreds of local, state, and federal legislative positions will be filled. Yet none of this is what will make me immensely proud to be an American on that day. I am not a partisan voter; I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans and will not pledge undying allegiance to any one party or politician. I am not an ideologue nor will my vote be based solely on dogma.
November 6th is significant to me because of history. As a student of history, I have taken great interest in the story of my community. By some miracle of fate, I was born an American. After thousands of years rooted down in the Middle East, our families fled from the land of Esther and Cyrus and trekked over seas and continents; they discarded memories and wealth, endured emotional hardship and physical pain, and settled from Santa Monica to Manhattan, where they picked up freedom and liberty.
This story has been recounted countless times in the years since. My generation will attest to having heard this tale told every time their grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles remember one more detail, one more lost friend, one more childhood playground or neighborhood market. The significance and importance of this communal story is not lost upon us. At the Shabbat dinner table, despite being more focused on the tadig my grandma cooked for us than the stories she’d tell of her journey, the influence of those stories never left my side.
True, hundreds of immigrant communities have left their homes for America, many of them leaving far more dire circumstances. Nobody forgets the photos of Holocaust refugees packed onto boats, longing for a glimpse of Lady Liberty. But those photos have driven our desire to pay tribute and do right by our parents and grandparents. As first generation Americans, we realize the gravity of our choices as the children of refugees: to take part and contribute to the strengthening of a greater union, or to dismiss the sacrifices of our immigrant families and take our education, health, and freedom to assemble for granted.
If my parents had stayed in Iran, under the grasp of religious intolerance, I would not be free to don a tallit or wrap tefillin without fear. If our family had stayed in Iran, whose women are not treated as its greatest asset, my sister would not be free to earn a decent education and employment. If our community had stayed in Iran, whose president denies the existence of gay people in his country, and where sexual orientation is not protected, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters would not be free to live. If we had remained in Iran, where school children are indoctrinated every morning with chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” we would not be free to proudly sing the Star Spangled Banner and HaTikva.
So no, I’m not going to the polls on November 6th because I feel a particularly strong affinity for President Obama or Governor Romney. I’m not going to the polls due to a personal inclination for low taxes or free healthcare. I registered to vote the day I turned eighteen and will vote in every election until my dying day because I know our involvement in this society matters. I understand that when our families settled in the United States and earned material wealth, education and success, the most valuable addition to their lives did not come in the form of a diploma or shiny status symbol, and did not have to be earned. It was endowed upon them by our creator and protected by this nation’s most sacred documents and revered doctrines. I will vote on November 6th simply because I am granted the freedom to do so.
Michael Yadegaran serves as 30 YEARS AFTER's Vice President of Civic and Governmental Affairs
October 8, 2012 | 3:29 pm
Posted By Tabby Davoodi
The last time I saw my grandmother alive, she was sitting in a wheelchair at an elder care hospital in Israel. She wore a little silk scarf over her hair and spoke to me in a perfect mix of Persian, French, and broken Hebrew. My grandmother's first name was Iran. Yet she lived in Israel. And that about captures the complex relationship that Iranian Jews have with their native country and their ancestral homeland.
I'd like to believe that there was no Iran in Israel until my grandmother arrived there.
She was a product of the dilapidated Jewish ghetto of Tehran, born in the 1920s to a world without Ahmadinejads, nuclear weapons, old ideologies and new terrorists. And without a modern Jewish State of Israel and Jewish oversight of Jerusalem. A time when praying at the Western Wall was as much a dream as a man landing on the moon. Before she passed, my grandmother told me that when she was a little girl in Tehran around the time of Passover, she would affix as many pieces of matzah as she could together, line them up against a window, press her face to the solid surface, and pretend that she was at the Western Wall--a pipe dream for practically any Jew in the 1920s; a Travelocity ticket away for me in 2012.
Some sixty years later, her wish came true when she and my grandfather escaped Iran after the Revolution and moved to Israel. From then on, she found a way to make it to the Kotel, first by bus, then in a car driven by her grandchildren, and finally, with a cane. When I asked her why she kept going back in her fragile state, she lovingly admonished me:
"What do you mean?! BECAUSE I CAN!"
I had never thought about it quite that way before. Despite the fact that I too was born in Tehran, albeit after the Revolution, I am a product of a more self-serving generation. Less because I can and more because I want to and because it makes me feel good.
Five years ago, I committed myself to an amazing cause. 30 YEARS AFTER is a non-profit organization that promotes the participation AND leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic, and Jewish life. Its name signifies the moment in time that the lives of 80,000 Iranian Jews changed forever--in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Founded by a group of young professionals in LA in 2007, it's led almost entirely by volunteers, a fact even more unbelievable considering that we are hosting our third biennial Civic Action Conference on October 14th in Los Angeles at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Almost 35 speakers and over 60 different co-sponsors will be there, including ambassadors and diplomats (keynote speakers will include Ambassador Dennis Ross), congressmen and elected officials, academics, brilliant rabbis, stellar authors, the 2013 candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles, and representatives from both the Obama and Romney campaigns. A full conference schedule may be found on the link above.
There are many reasons why I am so proud to belong to 30 YEARS AFTER, yet they're all fueled by an underlying motive. And it's the same reason why I take advantage of the PCH on a winter's day, enjoy a beer during a Lakers' game, and sing the Israeli national anthem of Ha'Tikva: because I can.
Where I was born, Ha'Tikva is never sung. Israel's flags are not displayed, and even the sale of all "Zionist" goods and products are banned. There is no Israel in Iran, except for the government-fueled depiction of a heartless false state and its faceless, soulless citizenry of occupiers. I can still remember our first grade chants of "Death to Israel" each morning at school. The fact is that Jews that remain in Iran today (roughly 20,000)--the same kids that were in classrooms with me back in the 1980s--cannot sing the words of Ha'Tikva, though the song belongs to them as much as it belongs to American Jews, French Jews, or Iraqi Jews. This is all the more reason for me to take Ha'Tikva more seriously.
You see, when you realize that you are holding the voices of 20,000 additional Jews on your shoulders, including everyone that you left behind in Iran, you feel a certain responsibility and even privilege...to sing just a bit louder. To enunciate the words and to consciously understand that you are somewhere that allows you to congregate in a room full of Jews and actually sing Israel's national anthem without fear of being arrested, tortured, and even sentenced to death.
If you are an Iranian Jew living in America, and you feel connected with Israel and are able to sing Ha'Tikva from time to time, someone paid a price for your voice to sing this song freely. Whether it was a parent that sacrificed fortune and familiarity to bring you to a new, free land, or the part of you that is still in Iran- in the form of a fourth cousin or great grandparent that has since passed or even a Jew in the streets of Tehran whom you have never met--whose fate is still intertwined with yours, whether you know it or not.
Iran and Israel are also inextricably linked--bridged together in the hearts of Iranian Jews from Shiraz to Los Angeles. Therefore, I would like to offer an anomaly: the words of Israel's national anthem, the soul song of the Jewish state and the Jewish people, in the rich language of its single greatest modern threat. The very same language that Mr. Ahmadinejad uses to tear apart Israel, now presented here to uplift Israel.
THIS is Ha'Tikva in Persian, and I have yet to find it published anywhere else online, until now.
If one Jew in Iran can access these words and recite them in the confines of his or her private space, it will mean something. If one non-Jew in Iran can access them despite the government's censorship and block of all things Israel...it will mean even more.
30 YEARS AFTER will be singing Ha'Tikva at our third biennial Civic Action Conference on Sunday, October 14th in Los Angeles. One of our most talented young members will also be singing the American national anthem. Her family escaped during the Revolution, too. The third national anthem, that of imperial Iran (pre-Revolution)--an emotionally loaded piece for most of us-- will be sung by legendary Persian singer Andy, who fled Iran 30 years ago to settle in Los Angeles. The Revolution has made it impossible for him to sing in his native country ever since, but he packs sold-out venues in concerts all around Iran's borders--from Armenia to the United Arab Emirates. In addition to the imperial anthem , he will sing his 2009 hit with Bon Jovi, "Stand By Me," in support of the people of Iran. That means a lot, folks.
Everyone is welcome--and we expect many members of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community as well--whether Ashkenazi or Sephardi.
I hope that you join us on October 14th, and if you find yourself compelled to sing, that you recall whose voice you are shouldering...the ones that have since passed, or the ones that cannot be there to experience the eternal unity of a national song, and the sacred gift of free expression. Why would you invest such time and energy? Because we would love to have you. Because this signifies a moment in time. And maybe, just maybe, because you can.
Tabby Davoodi is the Executive Director of 30 YEARS AFTER. For more information about the Third Biennial Civic Action Conference on Sunday, October 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, please visit here.
August 21, 2012 | 3:14 pm
Posted Posted by Tabby Davoodi
There is one country in the world that has the highest ratio of female to male undergraduates, according to UNESCO.
It is not the United States. Nor is it a European state. Nor is it Israel.
It is the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).
Surprised? I’m not. Iranian women are brilliant. In fact, women outnumbered men in a ratio of three to two this year alone in passing Iran’s notoriously difficult university entrance exams, having consistently outperformed their male counterparts across a variety of subjects.
The regime this week showered Iran’s female students with an extraordinary reward for their incredible hard work and commendable intelligence: leading universities from all over the country announced the ban of women from some of the most popular academic subjects in the state, ranging from English literature to electrical engineering and business management.
Perhaps one could make the argument that proficiency in electrical engineering would enable an Iranian woman to create dangerously feminist digital hardware (perhaps the only chip the government wants Iranian women to tackle is the kind that is baked and/or fried). Or maybe there is a concern that a background in business management would result in the Iranian female equivalent of a Steve Jobs (somehow, “Seeb” sounds a lot less promising than its English counterpart). But it seems to be about much more than that. Writing from exile in the UK, Nobel laureate and extraordinary poet Shirin Ebadi noted that the action “is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena. The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.”
Iran’s senior clerics believe that such a ban would counter the state’s declining birth and marriage rates.
“Some fields are not very suitable for women’s nature,” said Abolfazl Hasani, a senior Iranian education official, according to the Rooz Online report.
But Ebadi believes that the policy is geared towards reducing Iran’s proportion of female students to 50% (it currently stands at 65%).
To us in the U.S. and elsewhere, this move seems counter-productive to the ideal role of government as encouraging, not discouraging, an educated citizenry. How can we understand a system in which the state actually wants to REDUCE the percentage of citizens that seeks higher education? Yet with regards to Iran today, I can imagine something almost akin to Superman’s “Bizarro World,” wherein powerful male government officials congregate in a room and an education minister woefully declares, “We are facing a national emergency. This blasted 65% ratio cannot continue to rise. Therefore, it is truly in the state’s best interest to ensure that the female student rate is reduced to a healthy 50%.” It might be simplistic and even unfair, but that’s how the scenario would play out in my mind. Maybe I’ve read one too many comic strips. Or maybe the fact that in a country with 23% inflation rate, crippling economic sanctions, and tangible instability as a result of internal political backstabbing and external military threats—a sudden urgency to target women and ban them from studying accounting seems almost cartoonish and comical in and of itself.
Iran today is by no means a model for promoting human rights. Yet for me, attacking women on the educational front truly hits below the belt. And it is for one simple reason: I know the potential of Iranian women, of the magic of their minds and the necessary essence of their imaginative knowledge.
I have lived in the U.S. for many years and have been exposed to brilliant Iranian-American women, particularly young professionals whom I count as colleagues through 30 YEARS AFTER—young women such as Channah B., who will begin her Ph.D. in September at UCLA with a full scholarship or Parisa R., who arrived in Cambridge this week to pursue her Master’s at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Yet this is precisely what kills me when I read that dozens of Iranian universities are enforcing “single-gender” courses and programs, i.e. those that will be the exclusive domain of men. For there are millions of Channahs and Parisas living in Iran today. The only disparity is that their opportunities will be very different.
I would like to ask my Iranian-American female friends to imagine for one moment a world in which they could not freely declare their major or submit their graduate thesis…solely on the basis of their gender. To be told to find something other than archaeology or computer science to study, to explore, to devour—two subject areas that will now be off-limits to women at many Iranian universities. Women in Iran that were gearing up for school have received such letters in the past few weeks, notifying them of the various bans.
I suddenly feel silly for having complained about a letter I received from USC in 2010 notifying me of the bookstore’s reduced summer hours.
There’s another point to consider: As Iranian-American Jews, we are irrefutably blessed with regards to the opportunities at our disposal. Yet we must not perceive the situation of Iran’s women today through a simplified lens of pity. I am suddenly reminded of Azar Nafisi’s words in January 2012, ironically delivered at a lecture at the University of Southern California. The Johns Hopkins professor and famed author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” made an observation that mesmerized me.
“Iranian women,” she declared, “do not need to look at the West to learn how to be free. They simply need to look at their own history, their own ancient texts, and above all, to remember the power of the Iranian woman throughout time, to know exactly what they are capable of, and what can never truly be taken away from them.”
Nafisi was right. She had captured the rock-like inner strength and irrefutable passion that is part and parcel of the genetic makeup of every Iranian woman—regardless of religion or social class.
This is not about feeling sorry for Iranian women. This is about finding ways to empower them.
The story of these recent university bans in Iran has barely made the news. That is why I implore us to understand that the new bans on Iranian women in higher education are OUR problem as well. Therefore, I can only off this simple suggestion: Channah, please take an extra class and write an extra paper while at UCLA. Never take one day as a Bruin for granted, and remember that the topic of your dissertation (Iranian Jewry’s historical relationship with Israel) would not even be an option of study in Iran. Parisa, please find a way to use that public policy degree you will earn in 2014 to promote BETTER policies at home and abroad. For both of you, your hard work and natural intelligence earned you a seat among the best of the best. In this, you are no different than women in Iran today. But to have this seat actually be ACCESSIBLE to you once you’ve earned it is something entirely different.
As for these recent academic bans against women in Iran, they constitute a part of a much bigger picture—a thread in the larger fabric of restrictive state control that spans everything from denying Iranians their pop
music to future access to global internet (just Google “Iran halal internet” to learn more). The regime has added another straw to the burdened back of the Iranian citizen—or as some would note, another nail in its own coffin—by creating yet another grievance for the people of Iran to hold against their leaders.
It is true that a few subjects banned at a few universities may not seem like much in the bigger scheme of things (77 fields across 36 universities, to be exact). But there is only so much people can stand to be withheld from them. I can already see the signs during the next round of mass Iranian protests that died off in 2009, which are now all but inevitable:
“Where’s my vote?”
“Death to the dictator.”
“Long live a free Iran.”
“I want my Computer Science back.”
August 3, 2012 | 11:53 am
Posted by Tabby Davoodi
30 YEARS AFTER, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization, applauds the bipartisan sponsorship in Congress of legislation that would offer due recognition of the undeniable plight and suffering of Jews who were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries over the past 60 years. An estimated 850,000 Jews were displaced from their homes throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf since 1948, many of them having fled under increased threats of violence that often brutally targeted them simply because they were Jews.
If passed, the bill, which is currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, would be particularly significant as it would ensure that the stories and struggles of these long-forgotten Jewish refugees would take their rightful place among the international dialogue of all relevant organizations and entities that seek to address a lasting solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the United Nations, which has consistently slammed the Jewish state with anti-Israel resolutions for the past 64 years, most of which have focused solely on the issue of Palestinian refugees and have completely ignored the reality of almost 1 million displaced Jews.
As the children of Iranian Jews, members of 30 YEARS AFTER, now young professionals living in the United States, feel particularly connected to the objectives of this bill and are deeply and personally invested in its passage.
For those of us in 30 YEARS AFTER who were born in Iran and were a part of its once-vibrant and ancient Jewish community (totaling roughly over 100,000 before 1979), we recall all too well the sting of childhoods endured in the Islamic Republic and the turmoil and confusion of escape from the land that we had known for thousands of years, and from the homes, friends, and especially beloved family members that many of us were to never, ever see again.
Our plight—the thousands of stories of Iranian Jews that in the last thirty years were forced to escape the country by hiding in the backs of mule carts, of sleeping children that were gently pulled from their beds in the middle of the night by their mothers and fathers, only to wake up the next morning and find themselves already hundreds of miles away from Iran’s borders, of rabbis and elders that would discreetly enter our synagogues in the darkness of the night to take Sefer Torahs and prayer books out of these spaces, so that they would not be destroyed upon their escape (many of these precious Sefer Torahs can now be found in the homes and synagogues of Iranian Jews from Los Angeles to New York); from desperate families that were informed at airports that they would not be allowed to leave the country together, so that children would bid goodbye to fathers and wives would be separated from husbands for years to come. These are the stories that have been all but ignored by almost every single international entity that seems to focus entirely and at times even obsessively on the plight of Palestinian refugees. While their stories and painful hardships cannot be denied, it seems that ours were never even acknowledged to begin with.
30 YEARS AFTER applauds the efforts of Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Bob Turner (R-NY) and encourages our community to contact their respective offices and thank them for their initiative. We strongly and sincerely urge the United States Congress to pass this legislation on behalf of millions of Americans, thousands of whom are themselves the children of displaced Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries and have since taken their rightful part in the rich fabric of American life, while remembering to keep alive the inspiring stories of how and why they came to arrive to this incredible country in the first place.
To hear more about the remarkable stories of Iran’s Jews, please visit 30 YEARS AFTER’s video testimonial initiative, “Our Legacy Project,” at www.ourlegacyproject.org.
October 17, 2011 | 3:28 pm
Posted Michael Yadegaran
In the summer of 2006, rockets rained down on Israel from its northern and southern borders as its army engaged militants on both fronts in fierce battle. What made this period one of the most difficult in Israel’s recent collective memory was that for the first time in over a decade, an Israeli soldier was taken prisoner while still alive. If all goes according to plan, this harrowing saga will come to an end when, after five years of captivity, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit returns home.
Those unfamiliar with the plight of Shalit or the immensely popular movement advocating for his release from the hands of the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza have expressed shock and confusion that Israel’s government, one which is known to be tough on terror, has indeed negotiated with and given in to many of Hamas’ demands.
Following the abduction of Shalit, Hamas made it clear that the release of the 24-year-old Israeli would stir up difficult moral dilemmas for Israel’s government and the Israeli public in general. According to reports, 1,027 Palestinians will be released to Hamas in exchange for Shalit. Many of those being released by Israel have been tried and convicted in Israeli courts for the most despicable of crimes. Dozens have “blood on their hands” and directly took part in the murder and maiming of countless Israeli civilians.
The reasoning behind the release is not easily understandable to outsiders. The deal has struck many as irrational and presents threatening security and strategic liabilities to Israel; many dangerous individuals will once again be free to attack the Jewish state, and it provides an incentive for terror groups to kidnap additional Israelis.
To fully understand why Israel’s security-oriented government approved the deal, you have to start by walking to the Prime Minister’s residence in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. There, you will find a modest (but passionate) protest tent dedicated to the release of Shalit, where his parents have kept constant vigil for months. The campaign to release Shalit started, and now ends with his parents: Noam and Aviva. They have traveled the world, protested across the country, taken on the Israeli political elite, and put pressure on the most important figures in the Israeli and Jewish world to secure their son’s release. Their ordeal has resonated with the vast majority of Israelis, who each year send their teenage sons and daughters into compulsory military duty. They have carried out a sophisticated grassroots campaign with the help of Gilad’s friends, dubbed “Gilad’s Army.” The media-savvy movement for Shalit’s release has attained international coverage and sparked inspired social media endeavors.
Not to be discounted in bringing about Shalit’s release is the Israel Defense Force’s code of ethics, particularly the Jewish tenet of Pidyon Shvuyim. The principle of Pidyon Shvuyim grants the redemption of captives utmost importance and gives a whole new meaning to the age-old mantra of never leaving a man behind. To bring a single soldier home at such a steep price displays an undying commitment to Israel’s young men and women by their leaders, fulfilling Pidyon Shvuyim in its most honorable form.
Jews around the world have reacted with great happiness at the news of Shalit’s eventual release. Despite the painful price, there is a reason why untold millions stand by Noam and Aviva Shalit. Israel’s establishment in 1948 marked the founding of a modern safe haven for Jews which would serve as our collective home. Ever since, Israelis and Jews in the diaspora have felt a particularly staunch sense of mutual commitment and responsibility for one another. The release of Shalit has come to represent his return not only to the home of his parents in Mitzpe Hila, but to every home in Israel; it is as if the parents of Israel are embracing a son and the children of Israel are welcoming home their brother.
Last July, I had the privilege to meet with Noam Shalit at the protest tent in Jerusalem. I spoke with a man who was tired, heartbroken, and understandably frustrated. His answers were short and calculated, displaying the experience of an elder statesman. Although I was one of hundreds to speak with him that day, the perseverance and conviction Noam Shalit spoke with was remarkable. I was touched by his impassioned plea to bring his youngest son home. As I left Jerusalem, I tied a ribbon to my backpack, put on a shirt emblazoned with Shalit’s likeness, and proudly carried his story home.
Although we are thousands of miles apart and of different nationalities, regardless of the language barrier separating us, despite the lack of familial ties—I am eager to welcome my brother Gilad home.
*Michael Yadegaran holds a B.A. in Near East Studies from the University of California, San Diego and serves as the Vice President of 30 Years After.
October 13, 2011 | 12:45 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization, applauds the State of California’s vigorous enforcement of the Iran Contracting Act of 2010, authored by Assemblymembers Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield. Pursuant to the new law, California recently published a list of 63 corporations barred from bidding on lucrative state contracts due to their continued business with Iran. According to the Financial Times, “California has changed the game on Iran divestment.” Other states should follow suit immediately.
In recent years, various cities and states across the nation have enacted legislation that tightens existing economic sanctions on Iran. These laws complement federal sanctions imposed with overwhelming bipartisan support from Congress and the White House. The enactment and implementation of biting sanctions that force corporations to choose to do business either with Iran or with the United States and American municipalities has been a priority for 30 Years After and the Iranian-American Jewish community. In May 2010, members of 30 Years After testified in Sacramento and in Washington D.C. and met with local, state, and national officials in support of legislation that cuts off the Islamic Republic’s access to capital.
As new threats of terrorism from Iran come to light, we are steadfast in our belief that economic and diplomatic efforts are critical to punish Iran for its support of terrorism, end its brutal repression of its citizens, and prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We applaud our local, state, and national leaders, including Assemblymembers Feuer and Blumenfield, for their bold leadership.
Founded in 2007, 30 Years After is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with chapters in Los Angeles and New York, whose mission is to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian-American Jews in American civic, political, and Jewish life.
October 1, 2010 | 11:18 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
30 Years After applauds Governor Schwarzenegger for signing the Iran Contracting Act of 2010 (AB 1650) into law yesterday. The law would preclude all public entities in California from renewing or entering into contracts with companies that have substantial business in Iran’s energy sector. 30 Years After and the Iranian American Jewish community commend the sponsors of the bill, Assembly Members Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, for their leadership in sponsoring this critical piece of legislation, which will end taxpayers’ investment in companies supporting Iran’s dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons.
IRAN DIVESTMENT LEGISLATION SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
AB 1650 Prohibits Companies with Significant Business in Iran’s Energy Sector
from Contracting with the State of California and Local Governments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2010
Feuer Contact: Arianna Smith (916) 319-2042
Blumenfield Contact: Colleen Beamish (916) 319-2040
September 30, 2010 (Sacramento) – The Governor has signed Assembly Bill 1650 by Assembly members Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield, legislation prohibiting contracts of $1 million or more between the State of California (including its cities and counties) and companies with significant business in Iran’s energy sector. The measure bolsters sanctions that the U.S. and the United Nations imposed on Iran earlier this year.
On July 1, the President signed into law bipartisan legislation to limit Iran’s ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability. The law authorizes states and local governments to divest from companies with investments that support Iran’s energy sector and thus promote the efforts of Iran’s government to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. With the Governor’s approval of AB 1650, California will be the first state in the nation to enact legislation under this law.
“Just yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order imposing sanctions on officials complicit in egregious human rights abuses in Iran. Today the state of California joins this federal effort by sending a clear message to international companies: If you support the nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses of Iran’s terrorist regime, we won’t do business with you,” said Feuer. “As the first state to pass legislation under the federal law, California will lead the nation in encouraging companies to reject investments in Iran’s energy sector.”
“Any international company that participates in Iran’s economy is directly helping that country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and supporting Iran’s goal of annihilating its political enemies. With the enactment of this legislation, the state of California is taking a strong stand against Iran’s tyrannical ambitions, and the companies that are complicit in its evil acts,” Blumenfield said.
AB 1650 precludes all public entities in the State of California from renewing or entering into contracts of $1 million or more with companies that have substantial business in Iran’s energy sector. The bill ensures that California’s tax dollars do not go to companies whose investments support Iran’s nuclear program, exploitation of terror and brutal suppression of internal dissent. Companies with current interests in Iran’s energy sector which choose to cease these operations will be permitted to contract with the state and local governments in California.
July 6, 2010 | 7:22 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
REFLECTIONS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
July 5, 2010
By Sam Yebri
Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles. When I received word that I was invited to the White House to witness President Obama sign the new Iran sanctions legislation, I scrambled to find a last-minute flight. Fortunately, I found a red-eye and was off to the East Room.
The new law – the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act –provides the best hope that political and economic measures can peacefully persuade Iran to end its illicit nuclear program before it is too late. It builds upon the recently passed United States Security Council Resolution, grants the President new authority, and strengthens a multilateral strategy to hold Iran accountable for failing to meet its international obligations. The new law will strike at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear weapons program by forcing corporations around the world, including banks and energy companies, to choose between access to the American economy or business with the Iranian regime.
On Thursday, the President walked into the East Room, where 125 people were waiting to witness history, including Members of Congress, Administration and State Department officials, Jewish community leaders, and members of the press. And me. It was surreal to be in the same room, alongside leaders like Congressman Howard Berman (who was the leading force behind the bill), Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Brad Sherman and Eric Cantor, Ambassadors Dennis Ross and Susan Rice, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, and Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil.
Upon reflection, I was there wearing three hats, representing three different communities.
First, I was there on behalf of the Iranian-American community. Iranian Americans have a unique perspective on this issue. It is well known that the Iranian government is developing nuclear weapons, brutally suppressing its own people, and sponsoring terrorism from Iraq to Gaza. For our community, Iran was also the home of our parents and ancestors, a land rich in history and culture, whose people yearn to be free. Over the last three years, 30 Years After has inspired thousands of Iranian-American Jews to embrace our responsibilities as Americans – to become active in the civic life of Los Angeles, to vote, and to raise our voices on issues that matter to us. That 30 Years After was invited to the White House for this historic and timely legislative event is a reflection of the progress that the Iranian-American Jewish community is making politically.
Second, I was also a proud representative of the Los Angeles pro-Israel community. For the last decade, dating back to my days as a campus activist, leading organizations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), America’s pro-Israel lobby, have brought to the attention of Congress, the White House, and the American people the perilous threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would have not only to Israel but to the United States and our Arab and European allies. Los Angeles is a hotbed for pro-Israel fundraising with countless activists, political action committees (like the World Alliance for Israel), and political networks who use their political dollars to back congressional candidates who both support the U.S.-Israel relationship and understand the Iranian threat. A week does not go by that an out-of-state Member of Congress or candidate does not visit Los Angeles to meet with these tireless activists. I am proud to be a part of a growing network of young pro-Israel activists who understand that the U.S.-Israel relationship is worth fighting for and cannot be taken for granted. If it were appropriate in the East Room, I would have given a “shout-out” to my friends and colleagues that our activism helped make this important law a reality.
Finally, I was there as a Democrat, with both strong progressive and pro-Israel values. Through my involvement with the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Bet Tzedek Legal Services, I have helped support and champion social justice issues that reflect our Jewish values of protecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. I have financially supported Democratic candidates who are leading the charge on health care, immigration, and climate change reform. However, there is a growing perception in the Los Angeles Jewish community that muscular support for the State of Israel is inconsistent with Democratic and progressive politics. The issue of Iran disproves that notion.
Regardless of where you stand on Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the blockade of Gaza, Iran can and should be a priority for all progressives. First, arguably the most cutting-edge human rights campaign and pro-democracy movement in generations has been taking place in the streets and “Tweets” of Tehran. The Iranian people are courageously fighting against brutal suppression for the rights of women, gays, religious minorities, and a free press. Second, for all of us who wish both to avoid a military confrontation over Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Islamic extremists, we must advocate for every financial and diplomatic measure to pressure Iran to change its behavior. The legislation imposes sanctions on individuals who commit serious human rights abuses and specifically exempts from our trade embargo technologies that allow the Iranian people to access information and communicate freely. In the spirit of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against apartheid South Africa and the human rights campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry decades ago, the campaign for a free, democratic, and nuclear-free Iran must become our generation’s cause célèbre, a sustained, broad-based campaign for justice and dignity for the Iranian people and peace for the region.
Fortunately, the legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, with a vote of 99-0 in the Senate and 408-8-1 in the House. Upon signing the bill into law, the President pledged to enforce the sanctions vigorously. It is time to give credit to President Obama for enacting this law and support the Administration in enforcing it. The Jewish community is broad and diverse, and, while nuanced debate is healthy and important, there are certain issues and certain moments in history that require unity. In 2010, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran fits that bill. And regardless of how you identify yourself – progressive or conservative, pro-Israel or pro-peace, we are one community, on the same team, fighting for the same peaceful future.
Sam Yebri is an attorney and President of 30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish civic organization. He is also an active AIPAC activist and Regional Councilmember of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.
March 3, 2010 | 4:54 am
Posted by Sam Yebri
By: Michael Yadegaran
Growing up, I listened in utter disbelief as different members of my family recalled the hardships they endured as political refugees leaving Iran. Their accounts revisit the arduous and heartbreaking process of fleeing a country so deeply entwined with our history as Iranian Jews. It seemed to me that nothing I ever did could match the sacrifices my family, and thousands of others made, in order to plant the roots for myself and my fellow first-generation Iranian Jews in America. Our families instilled in us values that emanated from a traditionalist society, some of which serve as a collective annoyance to us youngsters, but in hindsight provided us with a head start on our competition. Arguably the most important advantage we have been given is our community’s emphasis on leadership and success.
The countless hours studying, the expectations of a degree from no less than UCLA, and the necessity to maintain a positive name for our families levy a burden on us college-aged members of the community. With the outburst of creativity and leadership from my generation in recent years, these societal pressures have fostered a thirst and ambition among young Iranian Jews that many of my American contemporaries lack.
One such bright spot has been the establishment and sustained impact of an organization that I am proud to be a part of: 30 Years After. Over the years, Iranian Jews have established themselves as philanthropists in America. However, our political activism rarely reached beyond the occasional campaign contribution. The establishment of 30 Years After brought to our community a highly organized and determined grassroots Iranian Jewish activist organization, unprecedented in our thirty years in America. A major factor that has lead to 30 Years After’s ability to galvanize the community and stir up interest in civic action has been the infusion of young blood into our community organizing work.
Well-established and longstanding Iranian Jewish organizations are, and continue to be, highly motivated and effective in the fields of immigrant support, philanthropy, and social services. The one sector that they have never successfully tackled is politics. Much of the previous generation, disenchanted with the state of political affairs and fearful of being politically active in Iran, did not have the desire or motivation to enter the political arena. Rather, they focused on professional success, leaving a lasting mark in real estate, business, law, and medicine.
With the entrance of an Iranian Jewish organization in the United States whose narrow focus is political participation and civic action on a community-wide level, we are in the midst of a movement that has the potential to extend its influence over local and national politics in the near future. Members of 30 Years After’s Board of Directors, all under the age of thirty (myself included), have testified at local and state hearings in favor of state legislation that would divest California and Los Angeles pension funds from companies doing business in Iran’s energy sector. 30 Years After has built relationships with leading local, state, and national elected officials in an effort to give voice to the Iranian American Jewish community. Leading Jewish organizations consistently partner with us on events and programs. We have registered hundreds of new voters and educated our community on issues such as health care reform, energy independence, and Iran’s nuclear program.
Starting from mixers and transitioning to substantive, activism-based events, 30 Years After is striving to be the necessary vehicle to give Iranian American Jews the political clout we deserve. It is now up to our community to stand behind us and give meaning to the work we do.
Michael Yadegaran is a Junior at the University of California, San Diego pursuing a B.A. in History with an emphasis on Near East Studies. He serves on 30 Years After’s Board of Directors and is currently studying at Tel Aviv University in Ramat Aviv, Israel. To learn more about 30 Years After and the 2nd biennial Civic Action Conference on October 10th, 2010 please visit www.30YearsAfter.org.
February 11, 2010 | 9:44 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
February 11th is a date of reflection for all Iranians. Today, thirty-one years ago, Iran underwent a revolution that would bring to power a radical regime and compel hundreds of thousands of Iranians to flee their homeland.
Iranian Jews who immigrated to the United States were the lucky ones. Over the last three decades, Iranian-American Jews have embodied the modern-day American Dream. We have rebuilt our lives and communities, graduated from elite American universities, founded successful businesses, and contributed philanthropically and culturally to American society. February 11th reminds us how fortunate our community is to have left Iran when we did and how much of a blessing America is.
February 11th also magnifies the suffering and aspirations of the people of Iran today. We see those Iranians standing up bravely in pursuit of a political voice and social change as the brothers and sisters we left behind. Their fight must be ours; their redemption, our cause to be championed. As the Iranian regime continues to suppress its citizens, 30 Years After challenges all Americans, especially Iranian Americans and Jewish Americans, to utilize the tools of freedom absent in Iran – democracy, free press, and free speech – to ensure the events broadcast on CNN today - February 11th - are not just another news story.
January 31, 2010 | 12:25 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
Our Legacy Project
Written by Eman Esmailzadeh and Sam Yebri.
This past December, 30 Years After launched “Our Legacy Project,” an unprecedented community-wide endeavor to commemorate and preserve Iranian Jewish history by connecting the future of the Jewish people with the legacy of their past.
Each of our families has compelling stories about the Jewish experience in Iran. We have heard them at our Shabbat tables. Some saw loved ones arrested and imprisoned as political prisoners. Others fled across borders like nomads on the backs of donkeys or camels. More escaped the Islamic Republic as political refugees in search of safety and opportunity. Yet, these stories of sacrifice and courage that sustained our community have never been fully told in a public fashion.
30 Years After strives to document these stories and memories before they disappear from our community’s collective memory. Our Legacy Project is a unique venture to tell an entire Jewish community’s history through videotaped stories and interviews conducted, collected and organized by the community’s youth and young leaders.
In just two months, the project has collected over 100 videos in categories ranging from the Exodus from Iran, Life During the Revolution, Relations with Non-Jews and Traditional Jewish Life in Iran.
The stories have been captured in both English and Farsi in order to cross generational boundaries. Videos are available for all to view at www.OurLegacyProject.org. This YouTube-like website enables the community to easily upload brief (five minutes or less) videotaped stories directly on the website. Our first videotaping day at Nessah Synagogue in December 2009, at which dozens of individuals shared their stories, will be repeated at synagogues and senior centers throughout Los Angeles. In the upcoming year, we also plan to expand the project to other major Iranian Jewish population centers, including New York and Israel. This will help the Project develop a comprehensive picture of Jewish Life in Iran.
One end goal of Our Legacy Project is to share our community’s most vivid and interesting stories as part of a video documentary that can be seen in homes across the globe. In the process, we hope all Iranian Jews – young and old – will develop a better understanding of the Jewish experience in Iran and an appreciation for how our Jewish values and identity sustained our community.
If you are interested in helping 30 Years After with this new and exciting endeavor, please send an email to email@example.com. Please visit www.OurLegacyProject.org for more information.
December 8, 2009 | 3:08 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
LOS ANGELES, CA (December 8, 2009) – Americans awoke Monday morning with news that tens of thousands of students marched courageously throughout the streets of Iran. Their gasps for freedom were met with tear gas. Their civil disobedience met electric stun guns and batons. Fortunately, American leaders have pledged not to stand idly by and allow the Iranian regime to suppress its own people and develop nuclear weapons. Leaders in the House of Representatives have said that they intend to bring major Iran sanctions legislation, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) (H.R. 2194), to the floor for a vote before the end of the year. IRPSA reinforces American diplomacy by authorizing sanctions on companies that provide Iran with refined petroleum products. Because Iran imports approximately 40% of its refined petroleum, implementation of the sanctions contained in IRPSA would significantly impact the Iranian economy and force the Iranian regime to make a choice: either continue its illicit nuclear program and risk economic isolation or suspend the program and open the door to relief from sanctions. The bill has the broad bipartisan support of 76 Senators and 342 House members.
The timing of the vote is critical. Just last week, the Iranian government announced the provocative expansion of its nuclear program in its sprint towards acquiring nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, the Iranian American community urges its leaders to pass IRPSA and take other peaceful economic and diplomatic measures. Yet, as thousands of brave Iranian citizens raise their voices for freedom and democracy, other voices clamor for delay. Yesterday, Americans for Peace Now (APN) issued a letter to each House member in opposition to IRPSA. APN claims that “the most likely and immediate result [of IRPSA’s passage] will be a backlash by the people of Iran against the United States, not against the Iranian regime.” Last week, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an organization that purports to “represent Iranian Americans on Capitol Hill,” issued a press release asserting that IRPSA’s passage “is a move in the direction of punishing the Iranian people instead of the Iranian government.” Such a tenuous claim—that the very people who are risking their lives to shout “Death to Dictator” would return to shouting “Death to America” because of an increase in the price of gasoline domestically due to sanctions aimed at weakening the very regime they are protesting—is belied by the reality of what’s happening in the streets of Tehran.
The Iranian people desperately seek for the United States and the international community to stand on their side. The video clips of the demonstrations tell the story. While APN and NIAC ask the American government to do nothing, the people of Iran march and chant “Obama, Obama, Ya Ba Mah, Ya Bah Unah;” “Obama, Obama, Either you are with us or you are with them.” Even more striking, the people refuse to heed the mullahs’ calls for chants of “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.” Instead, they respond with “Down with Russia”—a pointed reminder that Russia refuses to back tough economic sanctions at the United Nations.
Now is the time to stand with the Iranian people. The days of moral equivalence and half measures must end. Don’t we owe it to the besieged Iranian people? The Iranian American community does. We have demonstrated publicly on a daily basis in Los Angeles. Today, we urge our leaders to take action before it is too late. We urge all Americans to contact their Member of Congress now and urge him or her to help pass IRPSA this month.
30 Years After (www.30yearsafter.org) is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, whose mission is to promote the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life.
October 27, 2009 | 9:12 pm
Posted by Sam Yebri
By: Ramin Rabieian
Last week, I attended a press conference at Beverly Hills City Hall, organized by Assemblymembers Mike Feuer and Bob Blumenfield. They announced that they will introduce legislation prohibiting contracts between the State of California and companies with significant business in Iran’s energy sector. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is extremely alarming to me and to most in my community, if not all. To feel and realize the danger of a nuclear Iran, one should view Iran’s nuclear ambitions not as a desire to build nuclear plants but as a possible plot to reconstruct Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Even though the importance and urgency of the situation outweighs anything else, a sense of pride and muted joy overtook me. I was proud because among the three people who addressed the crowd about the legislation was my colleague, Sam Yebri, President of 30 Years After. Seeing Sam speak signaled a point that our activist efforts to bring attention to Iran’s dangerous ambitions during the past months were beginning to bear fruit. A feeling of muted joy was unavoidable because, after all, despite the promise of this legislation to help keep the world safe, we are forced to tackle an evil originating from the land where I was born, where my ancestors lived for centuries, and from where our community derives so much of our culture and heritage.
The buzz surrounding the press conference surpassed the dozens in attendance as people asked me how it went or forwarded emails about it. The most important thing is that my generation, the generation of 30 Years After, feels the urgency of the situation and is showing an interest and willingness to fight this fight. After all, our confidence in the dangers of the situation do not derive solely from news reports, but also from the firsthand knowledge of our parents’ interactions with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which ultimately led to their exodus to America and abandonment of two thousand years of Jewish life in Iran.
The Middle East is very volatile— wars in Israel, the sporadic yet very real flirtation with revolution in Iran and bombings in Iraq. It is the uncertainty in this region that can make things go from bad to worse in an instant and endanger thousands of lives. But in the case of a nuclear Iran, it is no longer thousands but possibly millions of lives. This is why both our Jewish values and basic human decency mandate that we challenge Iran’s nuclear ambitions with the same boldness and resolve that previous generations fought for civil rights in America.
In the coming months, 30 Years After will strive to lead and channel the community’s aspirations for involvement, by hosting events such as the one featuring former CIA Director James Woolsey at the Museum of Tolerance with United Against Nuclear Iran, by engaging community organizations and leaders regarding Iran, and heightening community awareness and activism at a diverse group of synagogues. The future success of our efforts is in the hands of our community, whose support we desperately need.
RAMIN RABIEIAN IS A RECENT GRADUATE FROM CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE WITH A DEGREE IN FINANCE. HE CURRENTLY MANAGES REAL ESTATE PROPERTIES AND INTENDS TO COMMENCE LAW SCHOOL NEXT FALL.