Cyrus Mehri Proposes the “Haft Seen Of Goodness” to Dispel Misconceptions about Iranians
Haftseen literally means 'Seven S's' in Farsi and denotes the traditional set up of the Iranian New Year table, on which seven items whose names begin with the letter S are displayed.
Mehri detailed a Haftseen of Goodness as an active response to another contemporary phrase with repercussions on the Iranian-American community: "Axis of Evil." Mehri utilized the phrase from President George W. Bush's State of the Union address as it had negative implications for the perception of Iranians in the United States.
Mehri preempted the seven-step methodology with his own assessment about the unique demographic of the Iranian-American community. "2002 is a watershed year – Iranian-Americans are an important immigrant group. We are highly educated and have had a large impact on a number of fields in a relatively short period of time."
The Iranian-American top-lawyer went on by stating that paradoxically, Iranians have no civic voice, making the community particularly vulnerable to others' definitions and perceptions. "We have had almost no impact on American civic life – in general, we are not registered to vote and we do not have influence on our country's decision-makers at any level, so we are easily ignored."
Mehri's seven principles in no particular order are 1) Religious tolerance, 2) Opposition to discrimination in all forms and alliance building with other communities, 3) Adherence to democratic principles, 4) Active citizenship, 5) Enhancement of America's awareness of Iranian-Americans, 6) Continued professional contribution to America, and 7) a mystery 'seen' of the Haftseen left open for the community to develop and produce.
During the Q&A session, some Iranians brainstormed this final point, discussing the significance of being awarded minority status as well as the necessity of engaging in such dialogue with non-Iranians.
Mehri praised NIAC's efforts toward weaving all Iranians into the American fabric of civic life and his talk was very well received by the audience, including an unintended listener. Mimi's Café waiter Steven Shane commented, "I think it's really great what you guys are doing in your community. The initiative you're taking seems to be really effective."
Other guests of the event also had positive reactions. Kambiz Montaz said, "This was my first time at a NIAC event. I thought it was beneficial, and in the future, we should also go into more depth about educating Iranians to know when they have been discriminated against as well as how to make the most of the system."
Mary Bazargan, the first Iranian to be elected to the Montgomery County Council, said, "I have been working on Iranian-American Seniors issues in Montgomery County for some time, so this event is a continuation of work I have been engaged in since last year. I want to see young and old getting involved."
Trita Parsi, acting president of NIAC, said, "Our aim was to raise awareness about the challenges that our community is facing. There is a knowledge gap about how we can get involved in American civic life and acquire a voice for our community. This knowledge gap needs be bridged, and our next event will be a workshop with former congressman Jim Moody regarding how to communicate with our elected officials and representatives in government."
Cyrus Mehri was born and raised in the United States to Iranian immigrants. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 1988 and currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and their two children.