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June 23, 2008

Led by Youth, Future of Iranian-American Participation Grows Brighter

Iranian American participation in civic life is growing, and it is the younger generations that are leading this effort. As some of the other NIAC interns observed last week, Iranian Americans have often distanced themselves from politics in socially vibrant but politically dormant communities. From expert Iranian scholars to average Iranian American citizens, many label this lack of political engagement “understandable” and “unsurprising” given Iranians political past. And the trend is both those things.
What it is not, however, is here to stay.
Increasingly, younger Iranian Americans are helping to reverse this trend by getting involved in politics through volunteer opportunities with various politicians, letter writing campaigns, and online political discussions in blogs and Facebook groups. Having grown up in American culture, many younger Iranian-Americans embrace the political opportunities presented to them and seem to have a more welcoming attitude to political involvement than some of their parents.
In 2004, University of California at Irvine (UCI) graduate Nikan Khatibi was just 22 when he ran for Laguna Niguel City Council.
In February 2008, NPR quoted NIAC in a report on the growing political participation of Iranian American youth in the Presidential election process.
More recently, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) posted an opportunity for Iranian American students to volunteer and intern in the political campaign of Congressional candidate Darius Shahinfar, whose father immigrated from Iran 50 years ago. “I am humbled by how our campaign has been so warmly received nationally and I invite Iranian American students to participate as volunteers and interns in our campaign,” Shahinfar said to IAPAC.
In online forums, Iranian American youth speak out about political issues. There are currently over 20 Facebook groups dedicated solely to speaking out against war with Iran. Many other groups campaign for various politicians running for office.
The rise in the political participation of Iranian American youth, and indeed, all American youth (the remarkable influx of young volunteers in Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign being an example), seems to indicate a keenness for change. The younger generations want to get some done, and they want it done now.
Tomorrow, the streets will not suddenly be swarming with youthful, optimistic activists, but Iranian American youth are becoming more and more engaged, and that that may make all the difference in the future. After all, even progress within limits is progress.

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