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Role of Iranian-American Organizations

By Sina Alavi

Nothing makes me happy more than seeing Americans with Iranian background successful in any walk of life- be it in medicine, engineering, sports, or any other field. It is not easy to be an immigrant and make it in the newly adopted land. Things get easier for the subsequent generations as they get assimilated into the society- given the parents take the right steps for preparing the next generation. on the other hand, nothing makes me more sad than seeing Iranian-American fail or do something that would make Iranian-American look bad.

Living and working in a few Midwestern states where only a few thousands of Iranian-Americans spread out with not much contact with each other, you experience the American way of life. A goal for an immigrant is always to be accepted and contribute to the community and be known as a good citizen and a good American, not a hyphenated American. Process of assimilation is not an overnight event, it takes a very long time and it is not a process that you'd plan it out- just living your daily life and doing your best for your family and community are the main steps of this process.

Of course, people view us in a different light, even though I consider myself an American with Iranian background, people view me as an outsider unless they have a personal experience with me. It is definitely an improvement from the time when we were called camel jockey, sand niggers, and then promoted to ragheads and towelheads. Throughout the past many decades, never felt there is a need for an organization to defend me, I always found ways to defend my turf and hoped that things would get better in the future, and they have.

In the recent years, I have noticed that many Iranian-American organizations have been established to help out "Iranian Communities". In general, that is great news. What better than these organizations to bring Iranians together and help other Americans learn about our rich culture. These organizations should be non-partisan and not for profit, to make them welcoming to all Iranians and Americans.

Iranians are one of the proudest people in the world due to their history and culture. This makes it very easy for these organizations to maintain and promote the high integrity of Iranian-American in the community they live in. Not all ethnic groups had it easy like us, looking at African-Americans- it took them decades to reach a level where they could look back to their roots and attain the pride they needed to demand the respect they deserved.

There are also organizations with partisanship in mind which have a very specific agenda to promote the goals of a party. The disservice of these organizations are immense, all they accomplish is that they further delay the process of assimilation and separate us from the mainstream America and they compartmentalize our community. This is a dangerous proposition since it makes us susceptible to other organizations taking advantage of the smaller compartmentalized community.

One of the organizations with a great success is IAAB. They truly are focused on bringing Iranians together and provide the synergy for the next generation to be successful in their new homeland.

Another organization with a modest success is NIAC. NIAC with a charter of non-partisan, non-political, non-sectarian, and non-profit should build up on their success and try to live up to the goals they have set for themselves. Along with success comes responsibility and NIAC should be careful so their charter won't be disgraced like the constitution- which is treated like an old parchment as an antique piece of writing with no significance in today's world. They should focus on promoting Iranian-American participation in American civic life as they claim, they should not act like a conduit to guide Iranian-American way of thinking into a malaise main stream. And, they should not act like they are spokesperson for Iranian Community.

As with any organization, funding is the single most important issue to carry out the organization charter forward. It is even more difficult when it is a non-profit organization. The best way to raise money is to reach out to those who believe in their cause. It gets trickier when you reach out to other agencies or organizations for funding- since other entities may have different goals. It is important to know who is contributing to the organization to avoid any conflicts of interest that may jeopardize the charter of the organization. Any questionable contribution should not be accepted, the due diligence must be done on the source of the money. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine if the money is tainted and sometimes lack of experience in the organization may lead to accepting funds that are from questionable contributor.

As one of the NIAC missteps seems to be accepting grants from NED (National Endowment for Democracy) for past few years. It appears that NIAC is not aware of the nature of NED and its mission. As one of the founders of NED, Allen Weinstein puts it, The idea behind NED was to create an organization to do overtly what the CIA had long been doing clandestinely. He actually admits, what CIA used to do covertly; today, NED is doing it overtly. Some of the documented NED activities goes back to when NED supported Manuel Noriega to get elected back in 80's. This is the same Noriega that Papa Bush removed from the power a few years later. In another mission, NED interfered with the Sandinista government, where NED was there providing money to opposition groups while the CIA armed contra terrorists. In Clinton Administration NED was very active in Haiti. In Bush Administration NED was very instrumental in attempting to overthrow Hugo Chavez.

It is obvious that inexperience of NIAC has made them to make some wrong decision. After all, concept of Iranian-American organizations are relatively new. We just need to be more vigil on where the money comes from so we do not act like an agent provocateur without knowing. The interesting side of the story is that NIAC has been accused of being agent of Islamic Republic. It seems like a losing proposition all around. It makes sense to stay away from entities like NED, so they do not fall into this trap. They should be happy with meager contribution like mine and people like me. But, at least they keep away from questionable contribution so they can stay true to their charter.

NIAC has had great success in supporting Iranian-American on domestic issues and they should be commended for their effort on the Persepolis tablets or their effort on Norooz resolution. But, when it comes to politics, they need to be more independent and not get political. The only political effort on their part should be to fight back any other political action that would harm Iranian-Americans.

A good challenge for NIAC would be to fend off the propaganda spread by a newly formed organization called UANI (United Against a Nuclear Iran). This organization is trying to promote invasion to Iran- it is scaring the bejesus out of Americans by "educating" Americans on the dangers of Iran. NIAC can step in to educate Americans on Iran and How Iran is not a danger to anyone and is not looking for war. We have seen what war can do in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone wishing that for Iran is lacking moral integrity. UANI organization is as scary as the PNAC organization in Bush's regime. NIAC mission should be to undo what UANI is doing.

Power of lobby: take a look at Congressman Cohen in all black Memphis district. It is no magic. Organizations like NIAC need to study cases like this and learn how to be influential on member of congress when they try to harm the interest of Iranian-Americans. Their focus should be at community level and I do not mean Iranian-American Community. They should reach out to other minority communities which may have a great say in the Congress. Try to reach out African-American community and educate them about Iran and inform them on other minorities that are taking advantage of them.

NIAC should take a page from Jewish organizations, the mastery of Jewish organizations have been seen over and over again in turning Americans to have favorable views towards Israel- even when Israel commits the most horrific criminal acts. One of the best examples is the story of how Israeli soldiers would shoot young Palestinians and dispatch a helicopter to transport these victims to a hospital so they could harvest their organs and sell it to local rabbi for $10,000. And then the rabbi would sell the same organs to other rabbi's client in the United States for the amount of $200,000. One would think story like this turns Americans off and they would despise Israelis for this. But, in comes the Jewish organizations to make a horrific story like this to go nowhere and somehow disappear from the pages of the main stream media. And the same horrific crime continues as if nothing has happened. Just imagine if a few Mullahs were doing this.

Now, take the story of the Iran's election and the trials following that. I think everyone in the US knows the Iranian Government is a brutal regime and they do anything to stay in power but why do we need to have Iranian organizations take an anti-Iranian position. It is as if we are working against ourselves. it is sort of backsliding into the time when we were called camel jockeys or ragheads. It is amazing, Jewish organizations make up lies to support Israel. Iranian-American organizations make up lies to bash Iran.

Instead of focusing on America and Iranian-American's issues, many organizations have found a goose that lays golden eggs. So have many other Iranians who are impersonating experts on TV. Individuals are free to do or say anything as long as they qualify their statements as opinions. After all, majority of these "Experts" who came out of the woodwork after the election have never been in Iran or have left Iran when they were in their teens or cradle.

Not a news show went on TV without having an Expert on Iran. I often wonder who these people are and what makes them experts- they are barely in their mid twenties and they all have the same anti-Iranian view with no regard to historical events, but they are all Iranians. May be just because they speak Farsi, and they have studied International Affair that makes them experts. It always amuses me when I hear Iranian "Expert" like Roya Hakakian talking about Iran.

Any Iranian-American who has respect for themselves should not bash Iran for the money. Back in the 70's, there were Iranian organizations against Shah, not for profit, they were very political, and they played no major role in overthrow of Shah. Dismantling of Shah's apparatus happened from within. And if this new regime is to be changed it will not happen by noises made from the outside of Iran. But, then again, many organizations and individuals are for profit and non-political.

The main goal of any Iranian-American Organization in the US should be to create a favorable views towards Iranians throughout the country. We should not have to say we are Iranian-American and follow it with a "but", but I hate Iranian Government, but I am not a Moslem, but I am a Jew, but I am a Baha'i, but I don't practice Islam.

These organizations should focus on educating Americans about our culture and educate them on forces who are trying to make Iranians look bad. It is almost impossible to separate yourself from the country Iran and claim you are Iranian. I often wondered how Congress representatives from minority groups, African-Americans or Hispanics, vote against Iran. The only reason is their ignorance and the fact they are intensely lobbied by Israelis.

Iran Bashing is a booming industry and organizations such as AIPAC, AEI, and hundreds of other ones owe their existence to Iran. It is much more difficult and challenging to oppose the prevailing mind set in the US Government and supporting lobbies, but we should try just because we all share the same Iranian Heritage. After all these organizations who mislead Americans regarding Iran are behaving very Un-American and they have no interest in an independent Iran or USA, they have given their allegiance to their homeland Israel.

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