2014 was a pivotal year for PAAIA. In May, after much soul-searching and careful deliberation, PAAIA’s Board of Directors - taking into account PAAIA’s more seasoned stage of development, the evolving needs of the community, and the nature of U.S.-Iran relations - decided to refocus its efforts from community, image, and influence building to bridge-building, influence-building, and leadership-building. We are confident that with the evolving nature of both U.S.-Iran relations and our community, these new pillars will enable PAAIA to more effectively serve our community. Over the ensuing months, we worked on further defining the programs that would support developing the needed infrastructure and resources to support these pillars.
In addition, we continued to represent our community in front of policy and lawmakers, administration staff, and the public. We continued to support the needs of our youth, advocated on issues of importance on behalf of our community, and promoted the election of candidates for office who understand and represent our community’s views. Below, please find a synopsis of our accomplishments during this past year.
The report was officially released at a panel discussion at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council. Over one hundred people attended the discussion with numerous individuals representing various embassies and think tanks as well as representatives from the State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense. The panelists included author Ramin Asgard, Ambassador John Limbert, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former U.S. hostage in Tehran.
In addition, we were at the forefront of advocating on issues of importance for our community. Highlights of some of these activities include the following:
The work of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, is also worth special mention. In 2014, IAPAC contributed $82,000 to a bipartisan group of members of Congress, congressional party committees, and Iranian American candidates running for public office during the 2014 election cycle. IAPAC contributions are a means of access to discuss policy positions and/or educate our elected officials, assuring that our message is heard on Capitol Hill, and a way to encourage increased community participation.
In addition, IAPAC helped raise an additional $313,000 for our endorsed candidates.
IAPAC also played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, including State Rep. Cyrus Habib who was elected to the Washington State Senate, Darius Shahinfar who was elected as the City Treasurer for Albany, and Richard Taleverdarian who was elected to the Santa Monica Board of Education.
PAAIA FUND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
PAAIA PUBLIC POLICY CENTER
- In April, PAAIA FUND released its fifth Annual National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans and has since used this unique survey in meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and their staff, at the White House, at the Department of State, and with other U.S. agencies.
- PAAIA FUND actively educated members of Congress and administration staff regarding the importance of a direct banking link with Iran to ease the transfer of humanitarian assistance, family remittances, and student tuition/living expenses. We were pleased that the interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran included language that supported the establishment of such a link.
- To assist Iranian students in dire financial need, through a matching grant from the International Institute of Education, PAAIA FUND raised over $100,000 and provided grants to over 63 students, many of whom were able to pay for, complete, and obtain their degrees.
- As it has done in previous years, PAAIA FUND, in conjunction with Congressman Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), hosted Nowruz on Capitol Hill, our annual Nowruz reception for members of Congress and congressional staff on Capitol Hill. In attendance were eleven members of Congress, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as more than a hundred congressional staff and special guests.
- To ensure that the Iranian American community is well-informed on the application of sanctions law, in October, PAAIA FUND released its first video in an educational video series. The series provided information on the sanctions against Iran and what Iranian Americans need to know about how these sanctions may impact their lives.
FACILITATING THE PATH OF SUCCESS FOR OUR YOUTH
Our younger generation continued to amaze and inspire us throughout 2013.
- On August 2-4, PAAIA NexGen held its inaugural NexGen Leadership Conference (NLC) at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bringing together over sixty Iranian American young professionals and students from across the United States with the goal of creating a strong network of future leaders in our community.
- Through the 2012-2013 Mentorship Program, more than 30 members of the next generation worked with accomplished Iranian American mentors for a 9-month dialogue around how to identify and pursue their desired career and professional goals.
- The new Opportunities for Growth, High Achievement and Betterment (OGHAB) Internship Program placed four young Iranian Americans in internships all over the country, giving them an opportunity to learn about and gauge their interest in their field of study through hands-on experience in a structured work environment.
- The Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) placed five qualified young Iranian Americans in Congressional, federal or local administration offices, where they learned more about the legislative process firsthand.
PROMOTING OUR CUTLURE AND HERITAGE
- PAAIA FUND is the proud sponsor of an exhibition celebrating Persian literature and language at the Library of Congress. This first-ever exhibition, A Thousand Years of the Persian Book, opening in March 2014, will provide a glimpse into the Library's unique Persian collections and the important role that the Persian language has played in world history.
- PAAIA FUND, through the generous sponsorship of Hamid and Christina Moghadam and Bita Daryabari and Dr. Reza Malek, was one of the proud sponsors of the San Francisco leg of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour at the Asian Art Museum. Hundreds of people joined PAAIA FUND for the exhibition's opening weekend activities, which included PAAIA's annual gala and award ceremony, annual trustee retreat and dinner reception, and the world premiere of "The King Cyrus Symphonic Suite: From Birth to the Proclamation of Human Rights" by Loris Tjeknovarian.
- PAAIA Inc. was instrumental in the introduction of the Cyrus Cylinder and Nowruz Resolution presented by members of Congress. The resolution acknowledged that the Cyrus Cylinder has, over the centuries, come to symbolize one of mankind's first documents on human rights and connected the Iranian New Year to the values of human rights.
PROGRAMS FOR OUR COMMUNITY
- In March, as part of its Nowruz Project, PAAIA FUND provided a new set of resources for elementary school Iranian American families and parents wishing to provide information about Nowruz to their child's school. To date, over 2,000 students and educators have benefited from the resources provided through the Nowruz Project.
- PAAIA NexGen and PAAIA FUND chapters throughout the United States celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year, by participating in a number of local events, including participating in the Sackler Gallery of Art Nowruz celebrations (Washington DC), joining with the Iranian Cultural Foundation of Houston to celebrate Nowruz with dancing, music, and other entertainment (Houston), and participating in the annual Nowruz Parade through the streets of New York City. In Los Angeles and other cities, members were at hand to celebrate Nowruz Resolutions that were introduced and passed through various city councils.
- In January, PAAIA FUND hosted a screening on Capitol Hill of the documentary "The Iran Job," the real-life story of an American basketball player in Iran. The event was organized by PAAIA FUND specifically for Congressional staff, as well as administration officials and individuals working for non-governmental agencies in Washington, D.C.
- PAAIA FUND teamed up with the Noor Iranian Film Festival (NIFF), the first Iranian film festival competition outside of Iran, to bring the "Best of Noor Iranian Film Festival" to sold-out crowds in San Francisco and San Diego.
- PAAIA and Noor Iranian Film Festival brought world-renowned filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "The Gardener" to Los Angeles for a week-long run from August 2 – August 8, 2013.
- In commemoration of the Cyrus Cylinder tour, PAAIA FUND hosted a screening of the documentary, Recreating Pasargadae, produced by historian Farzin Rezaeian. The documentary provides a glimpse into Cyrus the Great's palace and offers a graphical view of how the building and grounds had been developed and maintained.
- PAAIA FUND was the proud sponsor of the Iranian American Women's Foundation Leadership Conference held in New York City in October, where around 600 Iranian American women gathered to hear and learn from their peers, many of whom shared their professional and educational insights with the audience.
- PAAIA chapters joined forces to celebrate Thanksgiving, Persian style. As in years past, volunteers in Houston and San Diego "adopted" a local shelter, food kitchen, or other public entity and prepared and served food to shelter/food kitchen guests.
PAAIA INC ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- In April, PAAIA INC sent a letter to the Obama administration urging the president to implement recommendations to establish clear channels for humanitarian trade and family remittances to and from Iran. The ITR was updated in June and we were pleased that in September, OFAC issued two licenses that authorized humanitarian-related activities by nongovernmental organizations in Iran, as well as athletic exchanges between Iran and the United States.
- Through the year, we communicated our concerns for the well-being and continued education of these students to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We were pleased that the interim deal brokered between the P5+1 and Iran included language regarding assistance for Iranian students.
- Our relationships on Capitol Hill were of significant value during the latter part of November, when the consideration of new sanctions legislation in the Senate threatened to undermine the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. PAAIA INC was the author of a letter sent to leaders in the Senate, signed by numerous other Iranian American organizations, which strongly recommended the pursuit of a diplomatic option at this juncture in Iran – US history.
- Throughout 2013, PAAIA INC mobilized our community to support legislation acknowledging Nowruz and the Cyrus Cylinder as well as the establishment of a national museum of the American people, which would include immigrant populations such as Iranian Americans.
- In October, PAAIA FUND contacted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Representative Trent Franks, (R-AZ/8th) and numerous other members of Congress to express our concerns about the introduction of legislation that, among other things, would authorize the president of the United States to use military force against Iran.
THE IRANIAN AMERICAN POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In 2013, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, contributed $40,000 to a bipartisan group of members of Congress, congressional party committees, and Iranian American candidates for public office.
It also helped raise an additional $240,000 for our endorsed candidates.
IAPAC played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, such as Darius Shahinfar of New York, who on November 5th was elected as the City Treasurer for Albany. The election marked the second time an Iranian American has been voted to public office in the state of New York.
PAAIA accomplished all that it had set out to do in 2012 and more. Through our activities and programs, we were able to continuously provide an accurate image of our community, strengthen our voice, and facilitate the path of success for our youth. In addition, our newly launched Public Policy Center quickly became the credible and go-to organization for unbiased, illuminating information about the Iranian American community.
A summary of some of our activities in support of our pillars and goals are provided below.
We started the year by holding PAAIA’s sixth Passing the Torch of Success to high acclaim and a sold-out crowd of 700 in San Diego, California.
Spring saw us celebrate Nowruz in style. Over 700 elementary school students, teachers, and parents benefited from the Nowruz Project and the resources developed by PAAIA on Nowruz and Iran. We also celebrated Nowruz on Capitol Hill. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) and Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) cosponsored a reception where numerous members of Congress, over 100 staff members, and other guests joined us to celebrate this ancient tradition. The reception provided an opportunity to demonstrate how intricately our community is woven into the economic and social fabric of the United States.
In mid-summer, following the tragic earthquake in Iran, PAAIA used our strong relationships on Capitol Hill and with the Administration to help encourage the issuance of a general license to provide humanitarian relief to the victims of the earthquake. We were also pleased to actively collaborate with and provide information to the Iranian American community on organizations providing relief to the victims.
In addition to providing and raising funds for the movie The Iran Job and the PBS documentary The Iranian Americans, we celebrated the accomplishments of individual members of our community. These included, but were not limited to, five amazing Iranian Americans who were among many others honored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their success as immigrants, those highlighted by American Banker magazine for their accomplishment in the field of finance, and three young men who made significant contributions in the fields of engineering, physics, and medicine.
We also actively reached out to other Iranian American organizations to identify opportunities for collaboration and have made strides in forming new and effective partnerships, such as those in support of the upcoming Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US. Cost and process efficiencies coupled with an active and capable staff and the place we hold in the Iranian American community as a viable and impactful organization has allowed us to make significant strides in promoting the needs of our rich and diverse community.
In April 2012, PAAIA launched the PAAIA Public Policy Center, a much needed venue for providing accurate, objective, and balanced information about the Iranian American community and the issues that are important to us. Under the center’s activities, we held three educational and timely panel presentations on issues related to U.S.-Iran relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, University of California Washington Center, and the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. We also participated in a meeting at the White House on engaging the Iranian American community and followed up with additional meetings with the White House, State Department, and other administration staff.
We conducted our fourth Annual Survey of Iranian Americans, this time with focus on possible military action against Iran, and held briefings on the survey results with State Department officials and members of Congress and their staffs. Additionally, two reports published by PAAIA, the 2012 Iran Sanctions Report and the 2011 – 2012 Congressional Scorecard, offered balanced and detailed information on issues that are important to our community. We are proud that all of our reports are routinely used by policymakers, the general public, and the media to better understand our community, our views, and the issues that impact us.
To encourage civic participation during this important election year, PAAIA, through our 2012 Election Guide, provided information on how to register to vote as well as comprehensive information on the two primary presidential candidates and their positions on issues important to our community.
The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, also played an instrumental role in ensuring that our voice was heard in Washington DC as well as in districts, counties, and states throughout the country. In 2012, IAPAC contributed $90,000 to a bipartisan group of 16 members of Congress, all four congressional party committees, and 9 Iranian American candidates for public office. It also helped raise an additional $621,000 for our endorsed candidates by encouraging Iranian Americans and others to directly contribute to their campaigns. IAPAC played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, such as Cyrus Habib of Washington, who on November 6th became the first Iranian American to be elected to the state legislature.
The future could not be brighter for the younger generation in our community, and PAAIA’s NexGen is pleased to continuously play its part in facilitating this ongoing success. This year, members of NexGen provided hundreds of hours of community service. They actively participated in the electoral process by volunteering in presidential campaigns, signing up voters, fundraising, and holding educational events.
Our third annual Mentorship Program commenced in September 2012 with over 30 mentors and mentees who will be working collaboratively during a nine month period. Our 2012 – 2013 class of mentees has been highly engaged, participatory, and already empowered by this experience.
The PAAIA Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) began placing interns on Capitol Hill beginning in June 2012. The summer and fall CHIP programs were managed flawlessly. In 2013, we will augment CHIP by working with the White House to identify possible additional opportunities through their internship program.
PAAIA NexGen also established the NexGen Leadership Circle, bringing together accomplished young Iranian Americans for networking, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities.
We could not have accomplished the above without your continued support. We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to serve as the credible voice of our community in the United States and to offer programs that further strengthen our community, our voice, and our youth. We hope you will join us in doing so.
To become a member of PAAIA, click here. To contribute to our programs, click here.
Programs for the Next Generation
PAAIA’s programs for the next generation are focused on assisting our youth increase their career capabilities, achieve personal and professional growth, better understand their Iranian American heritage, and become more involved in the community.
NexGen – The NexGen National Organizing Committee (NOC) has developed a number of programs, such as the National Day of Service, that brings together the younger generation as they work together towards one goal. In addition, they sponsor local and national events, including educational forums and an annual retreat that allows for networking, socializing, and professional and personal development opportunities. If you are interested in participating in NexGen events, click here.
Mentorship Program – PAAIA will offer its signature Mentorship Program for the third year. This program matches and connects young Mentees with experienced Mentors for a dialogue around how to identify and pursue their desired career and professional goals. The program, open to PAAIA members for free, gives the younger generation access to industry leaders across the nation. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, applying as a mentee, or learning more about the Mentorship Program, click here.
Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) – COMING SUMMER of 2012 – PAAIA’s CHIP is focused on serving young Iranian American college students/recent graduates who seek to increase their professional experiences in the legislative and political arena. Getting an internship on Capitol Hill is a great way to get started on a career in public service. Individuals who are selected for the program and matched with a Congressional Office will receive a monthly stipend from PAAIA. Stay tuned for the official announcement about this great new program.
Programs for the Community
In addition to becoming more involved in local chapters, PAAIA members can participate in or benefit from the many programs we offer for the communities in which we reside. Below are two such programs:
Passing the Torch of Success - An ongoing series of educational and inspirational events aimed primarily at youth and organized by members of the PAAIA Board and local Chapters, these events put the spotlight on highly accomplished Iranian Americans in different fields who share their career experiences and the secrets of their success with the audience from the stage. Previous Passing the Torch events have been presented to sold-out crowds in Los Angeles, Orange County, New York, Berkeley, and Washington DC. The next event will be held on January 29, 2012 in San Diego. For more information on and videos of the Passing the Torch of Success events, click here.
The Nowruz Project – The Nowruz Project began in 2011 and is being refined for the 2012 celebrations of this ancient Persian tradition. PAAIA has developed a set of resources aimed at elementary school children. Parents can download these resources from our website and use at their children’s schools to bring about awareness about Iran, Nowruz, and our culture. The program was used with over 700 children in the US during its debut year and we are certain that it will exceed that number this year. To use the Nowruz Project resources or learn more, click here.
If you are interested in participating in your local chapter, click here for a list of chapters and their contact information.
Programs that Help Build Our Influence
PAAIA works diligently to make sure that our voice is heard within the U.S. political environment. In 2012 we will be holding briefings regarding our 2011 Survey of Iranian Americans, which you can view here, to educate Congressional and Administration personnel on demographic and attitudinal information about the Iranian American community. We will continue our collaborations with policy makers, which resulted in the passing of the Nowruz Resolution in 2010 and the changing of the single-entry visa policy for Iranian students in 2011. In addition, we will continue to make contributions to candidates for public process who care about the domestic concerns of our community through PAAIA’s political action committee, IAPAC.
We strongly encourage you to become active in the U.S. democratic office by obtaining more information about IAPAC (click here) and learning about candidates who can be a voice for our community.
Highlighting our Accomplishments
As an organization of Iranian Americans, we are proud and will continue to highlight the accomplishments of our fellow Iranian Americans, such as
Shervin Lalezary, the young California deputy who caught the Hollywood arson suspect, whose story you can read here.
Cyrus Amir-Mokri, first Iranian American to be appointed as U.S. Treasury Assistant, whose story you can read here.
Gisou & Mojgan Hariri, sister architects who were recently featured in Architectural Digest’s New AD100, which you can view here.
Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, President of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, leads Mission: Restore to perform reconstructive plastic surgery in Iran, whose story you can read here.
Please know that we cannot accomplish our goals without your support and your involvement.
The financial support and active participation of our trustees, major donors, and members in ourlocal chapters helps us develop and implement programs that strengthen our community. Your assistance in building our membership and participation in the democratic process helps us have our voice heard and builds our influence. Your support and involvement in the programs we have developed for NexGen will help us pave the wave for the next generation of Iranian Americans and thus, our future, in this country.
Since its public launch in April 2008 PAAIA has made significant strides towards accomplishing its mission. Some of the highlights are:
1. Nationwide Members, Chapters, and NexGen – In the 3 years since its public launch, PAAIA’s membership now exceeds 6,000 members, who are active through eight local PAAIA Chapters, and young volunteer groups called Nex/Gen, in cities with large concentrations of Iranian Americans, including LA, Orange County, San Diego, the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston, NY Tri-State, and DC Metropolitan.
2. National statistical surveys – In striving to become the leading source of accurate information about the Iranian American community, in 2008, PAAIA commissioned Zogby International, a nationally recognized pollster, to survey the community's attitudes on important issues, with a follow-up survey in 2009. These invaluable data were the first of their kind and have been presented to the United States Congress, the media, and the general public to wide acclaim.
3. Iranian American success stories – PAAIA has played a leading role in recognizing and celebrating the contributions of Iranian Americans. It has produced and disseminated high-quality video profiles, Profiles of Iranian Americans, and continues to feature them in a weekly newsletter online.
4. Passing the Torch of Success - PAAIA's board-driven signature event, Passing the Torch of Success, invites highly accomplished Iranian Americans to share their insights and experience with the audience from the stage. Following the inaugural event in Los Angeles in May 2009, Passing the Torch was hosted in Orange County, New York City, Berkeley, and Houston. The next events are being planned in Washington, D.C. in September of 2011 and San Diego, CA in January of 2012.
5. Mentoring the next generation – One of PAAIA’s core tenets is to serve as a bridge to the future. An example is the PAAIA Mentorship Program. Launched in spring 2010, this program matches students and early to mid-career professionals with PAAIA's board, trustees and other professional associates who volunteer to mentor the younger generation to help them shape and/or advance their academic and career goals.
6. Cultural events – PAAIA has supported and sponsored selective cultural events, including an unprecedented exhibition of contemporary Iranian and Iranian American artists at New York’s avant-garde Chelsea Museum titled, “Iran Inside-Out”, and “Iranian Sounds of Peace,” a groundbreaking, sold-out concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York that featured the legendary, innovative musicians, Shahram and Hafez Nazeri.
7. Collaboration – PAAIA welcomes collaboration to achieve greater impact. In March 2009, PAAIA entered into a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau at the Bureau's initiative and coordinated efforts with a small coalition of organizations to secure an accurate count of Iranian Americans. By March 2010, the Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition (ICCC) grew into an unprecedented 47-member partnership and produced a public awareness campaign that succeeded in reaching Iranian Americans across the U.S.
8. Political campaigns – Since the 2008 election cycle, IAPAC has contributed $141,000 to a bipartisan group of 30 members of Congress, all four congressional party committees, and 12 Iranian American candidates for public office. It has also helped raise an additional $2.5 million for its endorsed candidates and party committees by encouraging Iranian Americans to directly contribute to their campaign committees.
9. U.S. Congress & the Administration – PAAIA/IAPAC has proactively brought issues of interest to the Iranian American community before the U.S. Congress. Staff initiated discussions with, and met with over 30 members of Congress and/or their staff to help draft and build bipartisan support for the Nowruz Resolution, which passed both chambers of Congress in March 2010 with over 70 co-sponsors. Following an effort by several of its Board members and Trustees who had direct access to influential members of Congress and the Administration, PAAIA was proud to see the fruits of its direct appeal complement community efforts and helped bring change to the visa policy for Iranian students announced by the Obama Administration in May of 2011. PAAIA also organized a “Network of Iranian Americans in Public Service” and held four networking receptions in Washington, DC for Iranian Americans employed in Congress and the executive branch.
10. Promoting Iranian Culture & Giving Back to the Community – In 2011 PAAIA developed a set of resources aimed at elementary school children that were made available on our web site. PAAIA Chapters used the resources to spread Iranian culture and heritage to their communities by bringing Nowruz to their local elementary schools. In 2010 PAAIA chapters with the help of 18 sponsors from the community took food and clothing to eight shelters & crisis centers in California and received numerous positive feedbacks from the American community.
11. Defending Community Interests – In January of 2011, Stanford University’s president, Dr. John Hennessy, issued a statement to PAAIA assuring that controversial remarks about Iranians made by a retired faculty member does not reflect the university’s views or admission policies. In 2010, due to PAAIA’s efforts, the professional networking website LinkedIn placed Iran back on their education drop-down menu from where it had been removed and the American Values Network (AVN) dropped an anti-oil ad campaign that targeted Iran in favor of a new concept that promotes clean energy but shields innocent Iranians and Iranian Americans from a bad image.