Iranians feel at home in U.S.
But terrorist image persists
May 23, 1997
Web posted at: 12:28 p.m. EDT (1628 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Jim Hill
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Southern California has the largest
Iranian immigrant population in the United States -- about
300,000 people -- making it the biggest such concentration
outside of Iran itself. But in many cases, Iranian-Americans
don't fit the typical image of new arrivals.
A L S O
Iran Elections Page
Iranian-born Steve Zand is one of them. A prominent Los
Angeles attorney who has run for political office, Zand says
Iranian-Americans are the most highly-educated immigrant
group in the United States. (102K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The influx of educated, often wealthy Iranian immigrants to
the United States began in 1979 as they fled the Islamic
revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
In many respects it was a flight of Iran's best and the
brightest. As one immigrant joked, "We left for the U.S.
with business cards in one hand and first class plane tickets
in the other."
'U.S. is the best place, after home'
Dr. Sadegh Namazikhah is an Iranian immigrant who continued
his education in the United States and now teaches dentistry
at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles now feels "like home," says Namazikhah.
"(Iranians) started moving from other cities to L.A."
As a result, there are an estimated 600 Iranian-American
dentists and 1,000 physicians in Los Angeles.
So many Iranian-Americans are in business and the professions
in Southern California, the local Iranian information center
takes up to 1,500 calls a day and publishes a thick phone
book in Farsi, the language of Iran.
"The United States is the best place, after home," said Bijan
Khalili, who works at the center.
Terrorism is 'not what we are about'
Even the best place has problems, however. Iranian-American
immigrants have struggled with the belief they are linked to
terrorism. But that is "not what we are about," Zand said.
(145K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Namazikhah, too, has had unpleasant personal experience with
the terrorist image. "As soon as I go to the airport and they
see the Iranian passport," he said, "they take me aside and
they search the whole thing."
While becoming part of the American melting pot,
Iranian-Americans are also keeping their own identity. They
produce their own television programming and have their own
radio stations. Muslim religious services draw crowds on
The politics of Iran are not forgotten, either.
Some immigrants support the son of the deposed Shah and want
Iran to return to monarchy. Others support a parliament in
But Mahvash Attarzadeh, an Iranian-American activist, said
she and other immigrants agree on one goal: "The biggest
thing we want (is for) the people to have the democracy."
Some Iranian-Americans travel back and forth to their native
country, but others have settled into Los Angeles for good.
In particular, the city's trendy West side continues to show
the signs of Iranian-American influence: high in achievement,
rich in culture and pride.
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