A Glance at the Situation of Iranians in America
Sedaye Edalat; Persian Morning Daily
Tuesday, March 5, 2002, No. 149
By: Seyed Mehdi Mousavi
Page: 5

Summary: The average annual income of Iranians residing in America is estimated to be $55000, which is higher than that of the average income of Americans themselves. About 84% of educated Iranians are employed and have more directors and specialists than other immigrants have. This success is said to be indebted to opportunism, intelligence and perseverance of Iranians, and has been the cause of their progress in various fields such as sciences, technology, economics, designing of dress, production of perfume, construction work and internet technology in the host country. Furthermore more than 70000 Iranian Jews live in America, and due to their attachment to their homeland, their second and third generations know Persian, and their elders insist on performing marriage ceremony with their compatriots (Iranian) Jews. Among the scientific views and lines in which Iranians have made progress, one can make reference to phase logic, information technology and laser.

Text: This view has recently been expressed in the UN Population Commission (1) that due to increasing number of aged persons and lower birth rate in European countries, Japan, North and South America, these countries will need about 8 million workers by 2020. Through change of immigration rules, these countries try to absorb the above figure from the developing countries. Although, in principle, the question of reduction of employment creating population pertains to developed and industrialized countries, it stretches to the developing states as well.

Mr. Chimi, in charge of the Population Section of the UN, believes that immigrant recipient countries will meet their needs for manpower from the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. In view of the situation of these regions it is clear that the main contribution in this immigration will be from Iran. That is because the Persian Gulf littoral states are immigrant recipients themselves, and also compared with North Africa and other Asian countries, Iranian manpower, on account of their specialization and social conditions, are more exposed to immigration attraction. In view of the low population of Iran compared with those of India and Pakistan and the need for implementation of development plans, this state of affairs will be catastrophic for Iran if necessary measures are not taken to cope with it. Emigration of a large number of this kind of talented manpower will widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Emigration of efficient manpower will cause the rich to regard the environment to be unsuitable and emigrate with their capital.

This important event in which our country has great contribution, should be the focus of attention in the medium and long term policies. One of the policies adopted by the west to make up for their shortage of efficient manpower is to transfer their labor intensive enterprises to countries where manpower is available. For example air transportation companies have transferred their service intensive sections to India where information dissemination networks do the job. In this way the work itself is transferred instead of emigration of manpower.

There is no doubt that the consequences of this global problem will plague Iran too, and timely attention must be paid thereto. Another phenomenon that has recently occurred in Iran in this connection is individual, family and group emigration of religious minorities, which has provided means of propaganda for foreigners against Iran. Not enough attention has been paid to this important matter. This plot was hatched at the time of creation of Israel by means of intimidation and causing panic leading to departure of a large number of Iranian Jews. It seems that history is repeating itself.

In this brief report an attempt is made to throw light on the situation of Iranians before and after the 1979 Revolution, which coincides with developments of the US during the last four decades (1960 to 2000), from scientific and economic points of view. In this way the social and cultural situation of Iranians is demonstrated as well. Of course attention should be focused on the situation of all strata of Iranians. In view of extensive action and reaction of Iranian religious minorities abroad, it is of paramount importance to pay attention to this matter as well.

A glance at statistics pertaining to Iranian immigrants in America until 1965 (35 years ago) shows the number of Iranians residing in the US was 5000 and until 1980 (20 years ago) it was 120,000, including 50,000 students, which was the highest among students from other countries. So far 201000 consular files have been created in the IRI Interest Section which, considering 3.1 members in each family, it will add up to 620000 persons. According to an expert in the above Office it is estimated that about 40% of Iranians have not referred there yet. The second generation people, holding Iranian identity cards, should be added to the above figure. According to statistics of the Republicans (1999), about 84% of Iranians can speak English, 46% of them hold B.Sc and higher degrees, which is higher than the average among Americans themselves. About 84% of educated individuals are employed and there are more directors ands specialists from the Middle East countries. About 43% of Iranians have top professional and management positions, 35% of them are specialized, 10% are engaged in services and a number are engaged in agriculture or are workers. 48% of Iranians have two jobs and 22% of them are self-employed. The average annual income of Iranians is $55,000, which is higher than the annual average income of Americans. 92% of Iranians have private homes. (2)

The situation of Iranians residing in America is usually considered during two periods, namely before and after the 1979 revolution. Specifications of these two periods are different from social, cultural and political points of views. Each of these periods coincides with nearly two decades of scientific, economic, social and political developments of America. (3)

It is noteworthy that activities of these two groups complement each other in scientific and economic fields, and, from social, cultural and political points of view, denotes better recognition of the host country and more transparency (4) regarding developments of Iran as well as change of immigration objectives in the case of a large number of them. (5) The immigrants of the first period (before the revolution), apart from embarking on all scientific, economic and services fields, introduced some theoreticians and experts in applied fields, including medicine, engineering, etc. In this connection mention can be made of advocates of the theory of logic phase, laser etc. Some other shone brilliantly in the fields of mathematics, physics, and chemistry in the West.

Most immigrant students of the first period are now professors or distinguished researchers in educational and research centers of America and those who abandoned their studies either voluntarily or by force (6) and, holding BSc or MSc degrees, entered industries and services sectors, have mostly achieved a great deal of success.

Although most of these persons were empty handed during their student days, due to their perseverance and endeavors they have reached high levels in the fields of sciences, industries and services (meaning high levels of services such as insurance companies, auditing, attorneyship, etc.) of America, and have gained valuable experiences in their own fields and are among top advisors and directors in the host country. Most members of this group are ready to transfer science and technology as soon as the ground is paved in the homeland. Pioneers of this group chose the life style of homeland, some of them struggled on and stabilized their life there, while some others could not continue their work in Iran for various reasons and returned. Those who returned to the homeland are faced with the question mark in the face of those who had packed their belongings and still live in the West, despite their will. Most of them seem to say: "We are afraid it may get too late."

The immigrants after the Islamic Revolution, while elevating the position of Iranians in medical and engineering fields which were vogue at that time, entered other scientific fields specially human sciences (business and strategic management, public administration, educational, production and hospital management, accountancy, finance, sociology, psychology, law, etc.) that is the fields which were booming in the US at that time. Maintaining and promoting the levels of their predecessors, they reached high levels in the fields of satellites, telecommunications, software, hardware, design and manufacture of small electronic pieces, opened their places in universities and research centers, and shone in services sectors such as auditing, insurance, financial services, attorney at law (7), and were more effective than immigrants from other countries. For example despite the fact that getting law degree is difficult in the US There are 500 lawyers, either as individuals or organizations in Los Angeles alone. It is expected that they will enter more extensive political arena in not too distant future and will reach a determining stage in the host country. This group of lawyers have attained high academic status and are busy teaching or doing research in universities and research centers. Brilliant success of Iranians in the fields of science, technology, services and economy is due to hard work, perseverance as well as their intelligence. During the last few years, Iranians have made fast progress in communication network, software, hardware, and website, which is the most phenomenon combining science, technology and economy. (8)

Economic Situation of Iranian Immigrants

Apart from their successes in the fields of science and technology, Iranians have achieved suitable positions in economic domain too. In this connection, Iranians of the first group have had impact in two branches of carpet and dried fruits, which are the main domestic products.

The second group of immigrants too, notwithstanding prohibition of imports of Iranian carpets into the US, say the first words and have left an impression, due to their dynamism, perseverance, activities and attachment to home carpet (9). During this period Iranian immigrant Jews have filled the extensive market place vacated by others. Relying on the vast network of about 10000 carpet selling units 805 of which belonged to Iranian Muslims, Jews and Armenians, Iranian carpet dealers retained the position of their predecessors by lifting the economic embargo imposed on carpet and are preparing themselves for more activities. (10) But the market of dried fruits has suffered as a result of bad state of exports of the country, imposition of economic sanctions by America and penetration of products from other countries into the American market and rise of quality and quantity of such products due to research and development. (11) The Chinese are threatening the Iranian carpet. They are trying to obtain a higher share of the market through technical know-how and do more extensive marketing, in which Iranians are weak. If proper measures are not taken in coming years they will drive Iran out of the market.

At the same time the second group of immigrants found their place competently in the host society in other fields too such as designing dress, tailoring, producing perfumes to suit Americans, buying and selling jewels at wholesale and retail levels, real estate as well as advanced internet technology. If the success of Iranian immigrants in America during pre revolution days was the result of their activities in carpet and dried fruits, their new lines of activities have gone beyond the usual fields and have reached a stage that they can impress on the American economy. The new areas are not connected with domestic products but encompass such fields as fashion, jewels and real estates where manufacture and supply are different from those in Iran, and have penetrated into application of internet, which is a new field without background in Iran. This point is due to their intelligence, opportunism and ability to find one's way, which are not shared by citizens of other countries.

It is interesting to note that the first and second groups of immigrants have a common point, namely ability to make use of the opportunity, so that each group, despite different backgrounds, could find a distinguished position. During the 60s and 70s (before the revolution), America stressed on rearing elites in scientific and economic fields. Hence a small number made good progress in both scientific and economic fields.

During that period no billionaires appeared, but theoreticians did. During the 80s and 90s organizations stressed on social life, dynamism and flexibility rather than on eliticism and inflexibility as a result of which they got bankrupt or made progress or were dissolved. Today, however, small companies easily merge with each other or with big ones, or big companies get smaller following their objectives. The Iranian immigrants of second generation have got so familiar with the new situation and play with it so skillfully, that they, in spite of being empty-handed, they managed to reach high levels due to their perseverance and cleverness. (13)

Cultural Efforts of Iranian Immigrants

In order to preserve and propagate national culture among themselves and new generation and introduce them to the host country, the Iranians living abroad have made extensive efforts to establish cultural and religious institutes, produce cultural materials, and establish one-day per week school for teaching the Persian language. Among their work one can mention establishment of 90 radio networks, 29 Persian radio programs, 90 publications, 14 political organizations, 19 scientific and industrial associations and three sports institutes. Currently five social organizations, 38 cultural organizations, and six Islamic centers are operational in California. Some of these social organizations and cultural foundations have recently come to the conclusion to form a union with participation of their representatives in order to coordinate their activities. Some of these individuals gathered together in New York in the presence of the Iranian President and discussed formation of a union. (As officials of such associations and institutes had assembled in the seminar so they took the opportunity to discuss the matter.) Coinciding with the presence of the Iranian president in the millennium sessions of the UN General Assembly and the session of `Dialogue Among Civilizations,' 13 cultural, social and political societies of Iranians issued a communique, which marks a good beginning for formation of the union. The communique reads: "The first week of September are historical days for about one million Iranians living in the US. They attended the gathering in the presence of their popular president and proponent of the `dialogue among civilizations'. In addition to that, Iranian religious minorities also established cultural centers, including five Assyrian institutes, 11 Jewish, two Armenians and 13 Christian religious and cultural societies.

The actions taken to establish social and cultural organizations as well as scientific and guild societies reveal the decision of most of the immigrants to stay in the host country and their lack of concern to return home. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the new decade, directors of most Iranian organizations and societies working in the US are making new efforts to form new federations of their representatives in order to bring about coordination and raise the level of their activities particularly in defense of their national rights.

Apart from these collective efforts, the homes of most Iranians even those who have foreign spouses, are teemed with Iranian cultural and artistic symbols. They are happy with these symbols be it carpets, photos of monuments, paintings, etc, and some of them even go beyond that and exhibit their attachment to their native land by giving Iranian names to their streets, shops etc. By using these names in family and friendly circles they try to create an Iranian atmosphere in their minds.

`Jam-e Jam' TV network has met these needs to a large extent.

In this report brief reference is made to religious minorities too. The Jews and Zoroastrians living abroad try more to keep their Iranian identity, whereas Assyrians tend to be assimilated in the culture of the host country. Most immigrant Jewish Iranians insist on speaking Persian at home or in their places of work, when they are with their compatriots. They are even more eager than Muslims in maintaining the Persian language among themselves or second generation, so much so that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews are more or less familiar with the Persian language. The religious minorities and the type of their relations are important strategically for the IRI because during their contacts with the people of the same faiths, they are instrumental in removing a lot of misconceptions. But their gradual, family, individual and group departure from Iran serves as a means of propaganda for the opponents. Recently the US agreed to immigration of a group of Armenian Iranians residing in Turkey. The occasional contact between some Iranian Muslim and Jewish professors cleared up misunderstandings in the minds of the latter. (14)

I find it imperative to thank officials of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York, the Iranian Interest Section as well as the Secretariat of the Iranian Scientific Society who helped with preparation of this report and who put valuable figures and statistics at my disposal.

Iranian Religious Minorities in America

1- Zoroastrians: Iranian Zoroastrians are among immigrant Iranians who live mostly in South California. In fact out of 125000 Zoroastrians at the world level, 30000 live in Iran, 80000 in India and more than 3000 in America. They have their own temples in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

2- Iranian Immigrant Jews: It is estimated that about 70000 Iranian Jews live in the US, most of whom went there in post revolution years. An Iranian Jew says: Most Iranian Jews who wanted to immigrate to Israel did so before the revolution. Out of 50000 immigrants during the last two decades, 10000 went to Israel, 35000 went to America and 5000 to other countries. As the Jewish elders say they try to keep marriage ceremonies within Iranian Jews so that Iranian culture and identity could be kept. As divorce rarely occurs so the institution of family is very strong. They say that they do not have any problem at all with their country and like to maintain contact with Iran. (15)

Los Angeles is an important center for Iranian Jews. It is said that 35000 Jews that is about one third of Jews who emigrated before the revolution are residing there. Most immigrant Iranian Jews in Los Angeles are engaged in medicine, dentistry, law, engineering, financial affairs, jewelry, estate agents and similar professions. Iranian Jews have several synagogues, including Nessah educational and cultural centers in Santa Monica and Vali cultural center. Other synagogues and temples are El Moshe, Towraaaat chim, Sina and Sephardic Israel. Iranian Jews residing in America have tried to maintain close contacts with one another and thereby keep their identity. They are sensitive about their children losing their religious and Iranian identity as a result of long stay in the US. That is why they have tried to send their children to religious even non-Iranian schools. It is often seen that Jewish families, in order to maintain the Persian language, have enrolled their children in Muslim schools. The contact of Iranian Jews with authorities of their country has increased considerably during the last two months. Recently they have been attended (non religious) meetings and assemblies, the most important being the assemblies attended and presided by the IRI president. It was arranged that Maurice Motamed, deputy of the Jews in Islamic Consultative Assembly, appeared in four Jewish synagogues of Iranian Jews residing in America and talked to them amicably. Witnesses say that they could see tears of joy in the eyes of most Jews there. After this touching spectacle, a session was held by 30 influential Jews of New York in the presence of Dr. Hadi, Iranian vice Consul.

3- Armenians: In addition to the Jews there are a large number of Armenians living in the US. According to some studies till 1991, 10000 out of the total number of students of Glandil schools were Iranian Armenians. It is said that about 30000 Iranian Armenians live in Glandil of Los Angeles. They are mostly engaged in contract work, architecture, engineering, transaction and estate agent activities. Per capita income of Iranian Armenians in America is more than that of other Armenians in America. Most Iranian Armenians belong to apostolic church. It is interesting to note that Iranian Armenians have had societies for years.

4- Assyrians: Among other immigrant Iranian groups living in America are the Assyrians, who constitute half of the total Assyrians who live in south California. It is said that about 140000 Assyrians who are Christians by religion live throughout America. Assyrians living in America are worried about loss of their identity, and this anxiety can be discerned in statements made by Walter Yager, the Director of the Assyrian Society in North Hollywood. He says: We like to be only Assyrians and do not like our children to forget our Assyrian language. I was born in Iran but if I had the opportunity I would go to my original homeland, namely Iraq not Iran."

5- Bahais: Like other Iranian minorities the Bahais live in California, mainly Los Angeles. About 6000 Bahais, that is about half of the Bahais living in the US, reside in California particularly in Los Angeles and its suburbs. Most of them are Iranian Bahais. Some of the Bahais had gone to the US before the revolution but a larger number emigrated there after the revolution. Leaders of America Bahais not only help Iranian Bahais in connection with their entry into America, but also give them financial, cultural and administrative support, including in Immigration Office, after their arrival.

The return of Iranians from abroad, which seems to be impossible at present, has three natural aspects and sides, namely immigration, the government, and their families and relatives in Iran. The above trilateral concern still persists and immigration of efficient forces is a cause of concern.

The country is in need of experts and specialists. Fathers and mothers are anxiously waiting to see their children again. Most of them are immigrants not fugitives, and some of them fought against despotism and arrogance both at home and abroad. They are waiting for an opportunity to return home and use their endeavor and talents in the service of their homeland.


1- This problem has been discussed in a 140-page report of the Population Commission together with statistics and figures.
2- Taken from the report of IRI Interest Section, 2000;
3- The pre-revolution years coincide with 60s and 70s and the two post-revolution decades coincide with the 80s and 90s.
4- Getting positive or negative connotations more transparent is not based on hypothesis of immigrants but refers to clarification of matters and leaving behind tumultuous states.
5- Among the famous names of that period reference may be made to Prof. Reza, Prof Lotfizadeh, Dr. Jamshidian, Jamshidi and Prof Javan.
6- This group of students left studying to fight against despotism and imperialism or were expelled for the same reason or abandoned studies to earn a living.
7- At present large law firms operate in America in which hundreds of outstanding lawyers work and hundreds of other cooperate with them as consultants.
8- While a large number of them are deeply attached to the culture of their homeland, in this report reference is made to two personalities in each field.

Satellite Science and Technology

- After losing two space ships worth $300m in its Mercury research program, NASA suffered a great deal. This organization has recently appointed Firooz Naderi, an Iranian by origin, as in charge of Mercury program.

- Dr. Medanloo, an airspace doctor, established his satellites company 10 years ago and has, so far, designed and built 2 small satellites (new generation satellites) and has launched them into space from a launching platform in the Soviet Union. Dr. Medanloo has adorned this satellite with the name of God. He is now designing and manufacturing 24 small satellites to cover the whole planet earth.

Internet Communications

- Mr. Behrooz Yasini, the managing director of Yas Co. and father of cable modem, caused a great deal of transformation in development of internet network and separating it from telecommunications particularly in the third world where suitable telecommunications facilities are missing.

- Cable Com Co concentrates on transfer of information by internet and telephone. Its founder is Engineer Vafi.

Innovation in Fiction Films

- Mr. Niknejad is the director of Air Door serial. Its first distribution earned $5m.

- Mr. Habib Zargar has done amazing work in the field of animation with the help of computer.

Civil Engineering

- Mr. Jahan Jalili designed and built the famous boulevard of Santa Monica and is now its mayor.

- Eng. Morshed is managing director of Los Angeles Electric Train, with an annual budget of $23b.

Brilliance in Teaching and Research

-Last year, Dr. Hussein Firooznia and Dr. Benjamin (an Iranian Armenian) were recognized as outstanding professors of neuro-surgery in N.Y. University.

- This year, Dr. Najmeddin Meshkati, and in previous years Dr. Abbas Sedaghat and several others were introduced as distinguished professors of UCLA.

9- The writer has prepared a special report about the place of Iranian carpet abroad with stress on the US, which will be put at the disposal of interested parties.

10- When you pass from 28th to 35th streets between Park Avenue and Madison in New York, where Iranian carpet shops are concentrated, you will see a lot of activities such as change of decorations, separation of shop from stores, etc. When you go inside the shops you see a lot of movements, for example people ask from each other by telephone whether new consignments have arrived, on the situation of the carpet market, about treatments in the customs of Iran and America about the quality of carpets, and whether the problem of money transfer between Iranian and American banks has been solved.

11- After taxes were levied on importation of Iranian pistachios into America, which was lobbied and investigated by American cultivators, Iranian pistachio market suffered very much.

12- Including design and engineering of big buildings, contracting, architecture, selling and buying, etc.

13- Here some of those engaged in various economic fields are introduced:

Telecommunications and Internet

- Dr. Morteza Ejabat, the managing director and main share holder of a computer co whose shares were sold at $24 b in 1999, and he himself got 1.5 b. Last year Dr. Ejabat was active in the scientific society of Iranians residing in the US and made a speech there. He has founded another company called Zhone Technologies with an initial capital of $700 m.

- Mr. Omidyar founded a computer auction co called E Bay five years ago, which has 5 million customers now. The prices of shares of his company are now valued at $20 b, and he himself has amassed a fortune of $4 b. It is said that Omidyar was nominated for membership of Islamic Center of San Frncisco, which he could not accept due to various engagements but gave a considerable sum of money to the center.

- Mr. Farzad is regarded as the brain of Yahoo information dissemination center. He has accumulated a fortune of $700m in a short period of time.

- Mr. Kamran Elahian is another young man who has earned millions in net profit from his computer company. He intends to get engaged in educational work through satellites in the third world countries. Like many others he is interested in cooperating with his country to transfer his experiences in the matter of education through satellites.

Outstanding Persons in the Field of Fashion

- Mr. Bijan has been busy designing and sewing dresses and clothes for famous politicians and artists. In addition to skill in fashion design he has got fame in manufacturing perfume both in America and other countries.

- Ms Giti Edalat is a dress designer for young generation. Her customers who do not approve of Bijan's taste have brought her a lot of fortune.

14- The former head of Jewish Federation in California has remarked in the course of a meeting with an Iranian Muslim professor that out of 17 Jewish societies of the federation only one cooperates with the congressmen who are opposed to the IRI and who are inclined to impose more severe economic sanctions against Iran. Other societies are perhaps critical of Iran but have not adopted a hostile attitude toward it.

15- An Iranian Jew says: In America the word "country" is customarily used by other immigrants but we Iranians prefer to use homeland instead.

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