CONFERENCE ON THE IRANIAN DIASPORA AT UCLA
By MASA ZOKAEI
The Iranian Across Borders (IAAB) will be organizing the Conference on the Iranian Diaspora in Los Angeles for the first time this October. The two-day conference , co-sponsored by the UCLA Anthropology Department and the Dean of Social Sciences, is the first and largest conference focused on the Iranian diaspora featuring over 50 speakers from the Middle East, Europe, Australia, Asia and North America and will serve also as an innovative forum for academics, graduate students, journalists, artists, and community leaders to discuss the development, challenges, and needs of the Iranian diaspora.
Founded in 2003 in Boston by Narges Bajoghli and Nikoo Paydar for the purpose of opening up discussion on what it was like for Iranians that were born outside of Iran, the organization has since
developed summer camps called Ayandeh round the U.S where over 150 attend each year and organize conferences in different cities in the United States.
Panels, workshops, round tables and film series are included in the October conference at UCLA.
“One of the things that we really try to do at our conferences is to talk about issues that are rarely talked about in our community. For instance, this year, we focus a great deal of the conference on issues of social services and immigrant/refugee rights.
“We try to highlight the social services that exist in our community for individuals and families in need, as well as provide a space for specialists and activists to talk about issues of undocumented immigration and refugee rights, especially among the youngest generation who are currently leaving Iran,” Narges explains.
Another topic that will be discussed this year is “transnational activism” where activism crosses borders through avenues like Facebook and Twitter. Narges says that new media has brought benefits and issues with it as well.
“I think that there are still some difficult challenges. For example, with the recent earthquake in Iranian Azarbaijan last month, many people wanted to help, and Facebook and Twitter were great tools for organizing communities, but without connections on the ground in Iran, it’s hard to actually get the funds there and to follow up to see if organizations on the ground are able to execute what they raise money for.”
“These challenges will be discussed at the Conference.”
Panel discussions include speakers Homa Sarshar (writer, journalist), Hamid Naficy (Professor of Iranian Cinema), Noosheen Hashemi (Philanthropist and founder of PARSA Community Foundation), Golnoush Niknejad (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tehran Bureau, PBS Frontline), and Hoori Sadler (Persian American Cancer Institute).
The IAAB decided to do a conference in Los Angeles this year because they have started moving leadership programs to west coast and it is something they have always wanted to do.
“We have known that we needed to move to Los Angeles, but we were a little intimidated. We did not know a lot about it.”
And what is the importance of young Iranian attending the conference?
“Part of it is talking about issues that don’t get talked about in this community, sexuality and other social issues,” Narges explains, “And part of it would be being around community of people for a few days to understand not just successes of community but also challenged and creating new ideas of coming forward.”
Iranian Alliances Across Borders’ Conference on the Iranian Diaspora at UCLA October 13-14, for more information visit www.iranianalliances.org