Iranian Diaspora, an ungrateful and dishonest title


Cy of Persia
by Cy of Persia

A few weeks ago, I attended a Persian literary event in UC Irvine located in Orange County, California. It was one of the many great Persian cultural events that good Iranian residents of California have organized in the past several years. Among Iranian ex-pat speakers, there were several young Americans of Iranian decent who were sharing their intriguing experience of growing up in an Iranian house in America. While I listened with great interest, I heard the disappointing phrase of “Iranian Diaspora” repeated by almost every one of those speakers. It was as though, new generation Americans of Iranian origin had chosen it as a standard title for all of us.

Diaspora has a very desperate and negative connotation built into it. In ancient Greek the term Diaspora meant " scattered.” The current meaning started to develop from this original term when the translation of Hebrew Bible into Greek used the word "Diaspora" to refer to the population of Jews exiled from Judea in 586 BC by the Babylonians and from Jerusalem in AD 136 by the Romans.

Throughout history, the word has been used over and over to denote a group of people fleeing from persecution, oppression or genocide. Like Armenians who were uprooted from Anatolian Turkey in 1915 and once again Jews from various parts of Europe starting 1880’s all the way until World War II, and ironically Palestinians as result of establishment of Jewish state in Israel.

While I have not been blind to the difficulties that some Iranian people endured after 1979 revolution and the conditions under which they had to escape from Iran, I tend to disagree that all Iranians who chose to migrate to America and other parts of the world qualify for the word Diaspora. The use of that word by the Iranian-Americans sounds dishonest and melodramatic, but when American born Iranians use it, it is downright ungrateful to the United States and the American people in general.

It is important to mention that except for Baha’i’s and the well known top echelon figures of the former government, there were no immediate threats to the life of any other individual who chose to leave and live in countries where they could enjoy freedom of speech, better education and career opportunities for their children and away from the strict Islamic laws. Many Iranians, who were unable to leave or elected to stay in Iran, endured numerous social difficulties, lived through 8 years of war but eventually adapted to the life style offered by the Islamic regime.

When I think of Diaspora, I picture a large UN camp with hundreds of tents occupied beyond recommended capacities. A place where people are in dire need of nourishment and medical care. I don’t recall any of that about Iranian immigrants. Upon arrival, a good number of Iranians bought mansions in Beverly Hills, Malibu and South Hampton. Others in more modest middle class neighborhoods throughout California and other states. In worst cases, a family would have had to occupy a one bedroom apartment. But nobody had to be placed in internment camp, have a number tattooed on their body and there was no widespread harassment of any Iranians in America.

Iranians like many other new immigrant groups, experienced periods of uncertainty, yearning for their homeland, difficulty learning the language and the culture of the host country and in some cases living beneath the standards that they were accustomed to. For example, some former high power military officers had to drive taxi cabs for a while. While there was a mild and short lived resentment for Iranian immigrants in the US which was created by the hostage crisis and the severed relationship between US and the Islamic regime, there was never an evidence of obvious discriminations towards Iranians by the US government, any private organization or any employer.

The new generation of Iranians who were either born and/or raised in the USA had a tremendous opportunity for an excellent life and career in America. And many of them successfully took advantage of that. In today’s Iranian-American communities, we have self made billionaires of high tech industry, Mayors of major cities, world renowned physicians and surgeons, NASA scientist, top university professors, major network anchors and titans of many industries. If anything we have come of age and it is unbecoming for us to carry that silly chip of Diaspora on our shoulders. I wish those Iranians who find comfort in their never ending commiseration about Iran would get over it and count their blessings while enjoying their free, prosperous and comfortable lives in America.


A response to those who commented on my original post on June 9th

Dear Folks: It seems that most of you misunderstood my points and intention about posting the blog.   First of all, I have no political ulterior motive about writing this.   I have lived in America for 35 years.  Like many other high school graduates of early 1970's,  I left Iran with an Ezam e daneshjo permit, my black student passport and my poosteen on my back.  I was planning to return and serve my country.  But right about the time of my graduation, the Islamic revolution happened.  I accepted that revolution despite its obvious flaws as the will of majority of Iranian people.  So I chose to stay here.   Because, I have had no unrealistic notion for reappearance of a secular state in Iran,  I have been happily moving towards mainstream of American society and enjoying the benefits of success without any regrets.   Of course like many other Iranians,  I had financial and emotional losses because of that revolution.   But I got over them. It bothers me to watch the never ending self pity Iranians seem to have about everything in their life.   They use the Diaspora card as a crutch for not trying hard enough and use the discrimination due to the hostage crisis and now the 9/11 as an excuse for laziness.   Most of all,  the sense of entitlement that Iranians seem to have is amazing.  After nearly 30 years, many Iranian people still have shown no effort to learn English well.  They consort with other Iranians only.  They hardly make an effort to entertain their American neighbors or associates.   Worst of all, they sit and bad mouth America while enjoying the benefits of this great country.   I was at a party last year, when a staunch royalist man started cursing America and CIA for the infamous 1953 incident.  I could not stand the hypocrisy so I asserted; " I know it was couple of years before I was born but didn't CIA help restore the man you just revered as his Majesty Aryamehr? Because, if US had not gotten involved, Mossadegh and possibly Tudeh party would have been in power and his majesty would have had to get a job driving a cab in Italy." After back paddling for a while, he started to agree that at least from his point of view, it was a necessary interference.  Finally,  I would like to respond to the nice lady who wrote twice stating that Iranians do not need to be grateful because they have worked hard and earned all  that they have achieved.   That statement is exactly at the heart of this issue. Let me ask you this;   suppose your husband was a drunk and came home and beat you up every night. Until one night your neighbors take you in.   After many months of living there, your neighbors wonder why you have not even once thanked them for taking you in.  Would you reply: " I don't need to thank you!   I have been helping you around the house and baby sat for your kids.  Isn't that enough?"  

A good friend of mine who had read my original post responded with this quotation from Nazim Hikmet which I would like to share with you.

". . . Don't live in the world as if you were renting or here only for the summer, but act as if it was your father's house. . .Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea, but people above all. Love clouds, machines, and books, but people above all." Nazim Hikmet, 20th century Turkish poet

 [Reply to your comments]


Recently by Cy of PersiaCommentsDate
Aug 18, 2010
Don't fall for the factional fighting
Jun 18, 2009
The Shoe Insult
Dec 15, 2008
more from Cy of Persia
Cy of Persia

Dear Ms. Javaneh

by Cy of Persia on

It seems that by the time we are done discussing the issue you will no longer be just a javaneh but rather a full grown branch or a tall tree. If you wish to remain sore and peeved forever with IR instead of enjoying your life, your good job and your life in England with your three children, it is entirely up to you.   I am sure those ragheads could not care less what ex-pats outside of their jurisdiction think or say about them. Likewise, if you believe those opportunities that you were able to use would have materialized out of the blue sky, even if you did not have England to go to, feel free not to even mention UK anywhere in the list of your achievements.  However, I still think that you don't fully appreciate what group of Iranians I am talking about.   When you make a trip to Tehrangeles, California someday, you may understand.  Until then, I wish you good luck and ample success.  



in response to your update

by javaneh29 on

I think i can safely assume you are referring to me as 'the nice lady' and i wish to respond to your hyperthetical scenario and update. If I am mistaken in my assumption then excuse me.

Firstly if such a thing had happened to me, I am not so weak or uneducated that I could not support myself and I am not without manners that I would not appreciate some kindness afforded to me by a friend or neighbour. And I know when it is appropriate to be grateful and the things I have to grateful for.

I am grateful that I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. I am grateful that I do not live in fear of IRI and have to watch my every move. I am grateful to be alive and healthy and to have many people/ organisations  to turn to  to go if  I need support. But I really dont think I have to be so grateful to the UK for what I have acheived myself. I was the one who brought up 3 children alone, worked to provide for my family and attended university to be where I am today. They only provided the opportunity and I paid for that.

What is this you are thinking? Do you think they care whether you are grateful to them or not?

Secondly, I have never heard any Iranian blame anything but the revolution, Khomeni and the IRI  for the losses they have in their lives. They have learnt english and have adapted to their lives. I do not hear excuses as you seem to  ... we clearly mix in very different circles. The Iranians I know are not so willing as yourself  to forget who they are and where they come from. Nor can they rejoice in their freedom and put behind them the fact that  so many lives have been sacrificed albeit unwittingly in some cases, or forget the suffering of many with no choices but to live under the dictatorship of the misguided who have control in Iran. It will be a sad day if they did.

Perhaps there is more 'back peddling' going on here than just the guy you met at a party. I dont think we misunderstood you at all. The evidence of your thoughts are in your words above. Please tell us exactly what it is we have misunderstood?

I look forward with sincere interest to your response




by Another member of diaspora! (not verified) on

It is quite amusing that in this day and age someone actually thinks the Islamic Republic has achieved something great for our nation.

- Paying Russians billions of dollars to build them nuclear reactors using obsolete technology (the whole world is aware of Russia's concern for safety and the environment) is nuclear advancement in someone's book

- Spending yet more billions on a nuclear weapon programme which could safeguard the mullahs existence by buying second hand equipment from the black market and trying to mimic the design is called advancement in technology. I am not saying Iranians are not capable of doing these things but this is the dishonest path the mullahs have chosen.

- If it were up to this regime, all the educated women you talk about would spend all their days in some kitchen cooking or being a "good wife". NO, what these women have achieved is only because they did not give in to pressure by this regime and all the credit goes to them and to their families who regard education of women as essential.

- It is true that almost the whole world helped Iraq during the war and that is one of the reasons the armies of the two countries were bugged down for years and hundreds of thousands, mostly, young men or boys were killed due to the madness and stupidity of their criminal leaders (namely Khomeini and Saddam, may both rot in hell). You mention the whole world helping Iraq in the war as if it is a source of pride, how unpopular should you be that the whole world is willing to support your enemy? Doesn't that say a whole lot about your values, goals and existence?

- Do not be mistaken this regime would love to be on the right side of the US, it is the US that has conditions attached to this. The victims of this "resilience" as you call it has been the people of Iran.

- You talk about the number of universities. Most of these so called universities are business establishments that are owned by the well known akhunds who run this regime and are solely to serve two purposes:
1: Pour yet more money into their owners pockets which as we all know is a bottomless pit
2: to keep the millions of young people occupied for a few years

You fault those who frequent this site (apparently you are one of them too) and accuse them of receiving seed money (whatever that is). Assuming that being true, I personally believe you are the greater evil since you try to exonerate the regime from all the crimes it has committed against Iran and Iranians.

I think you should change your name to JAHELO since after reading your post this is the only conclusion one can draw from it, that you simply do not know what you are talking about or you have some kind of an interest (it is usually financial with people like you) in this regime staying in power,

Shame on you!


I call them fringe whiners

by Jaleho on

After 30 years where Iranians have endured numerous troubles, sanctions by the biggest economic bully which broke many countries, but made Iran just stronger; 8 years of bloody war which was the first war where not only US and Europe provided intelligence, financial and military help including chemical weapons to Iraq, but China and Russia also helped the western block. Top that with all of the money that rich Arab countries like Saudi and Kuwait gave to Iraq, still Saddam became bankrupt with the war and had to attack Kuwait to get rid of $60 billion which he had to borrow for war with Iran.

And Iran after revolution? Became more resilient, came out of the ashes of sanctions, imposed war, and continuous efforts of the nuclear club to deprive it from nuclear advancement and constant threats of annihilation. Iran joined one of the small elite group of the countries in the world which has its own space program, a decent security and defense establishment, and nuclear research facility. You could count the number of universities with one hand before the revolution, and now you have to use a full page if you wanted to list them all. And women who formed a small minority of educated class before, now contribute heavily in all areas of science, arts, cinema and literature.

Yet, the type of Iranians who frequent this site, many of whom clearly the recipients of the seed money that US gives to anti-Iran groups, constantly whines afar!

They remind me of the Russian DIASPORA headquartered in Paris who would drink every Christmas to the overthrow of the 1917 Russian revolution... they drank to the return of czar, all the way to the fall of Soviet Union!! Delusional people abound everywhere.


You misunderstand

by Zion on

The term Diaspora is used, as you mentioned, initially for Jewish life outside the land of Israel. What you conveniently left out is that it is NOT used solely for the cases of persecution, and it is NOT used for Jews being displaced from one European country to the other. It is ONLY used for all communities living outside their homeland, whether they are living in peace or not. The Jews living in America today are in Diaspora. Only Jews living in Israel are not in diaspora. That is what it means, but nice try anyway.

Since the term is adopted by others as well, the same applies. Iranians, no matter in which generation, who identify their original homeland as Iran and do not live there constitute a diaspora. It seems however that all this acrobatics is used to deny the pain and forced immigration of thousands and perhaps millions of Iranians from their land because of what your glorious revolution has made out of Iran. Who do you think you fool by this?


Dear author

by Kurdish Warrior (not verified) on

I was going to elloborate on your statement regards Iranians, Dispora and IRI...However I can see that Javaneh 29 and A member of diaspora have already mentioned what I intend to say.


And another thing ....

by javaneh29 on

Cyrus here is something else I want to say to you and anonymous 21. and in fact any one else who agrees with your blog and it is this:

As Iranians how can we get over what began 30 years ago and still continues today and move on? To do that is to fail to acknowledge the phlight of many still in Iran with no options but to endure the IRI dictates, to ignore those languishing in prison waiting their fate, including many children, to forget those who have been tortured , mutilated and executed including many children or those who have been stoned to death. Many brave and proud men, women and children died over the past 30 years and continue to die for some action or belief that was unacceptable, or in the war, and some for no apparant or justifiable reason at all.

In all conscience how can any Iranian trully enjoy prosperity and freedom in the way that you seem to suggest, at such a cost. We do indeed live comfortably in the safety of the countries that gave us refuge but we should never forget that a great many have have paid the ultimate price and suffered intolerable injustices and will continue to do so.

Again I say to you I dont know where you are today but it is sadly clear that you are out of touch with where you come from.



Great Writing Cy, but ...

by ./. (not verified) on

I think you put your fingre on the reason these second generation American-Iranians (or Iranian -Americans) call themselves "diaspora". Most of these organizations (certainly not all, but most) are in fact "formed" by the former high level officials of the Shah's regime. FYI, US government does not give seed money or other facilities to "normal Iranians" to form such organizations. They know who the "trusted" ones amongst Iranians are! If you don't believe it try one yourself!



Dear Cyrus, This is part of

by Another member of diaspora! (not verified) on

Dear Cyrus,

This is part of your text:

"In today’s Iranian-American communities, we have self made billionaires of high tech industry, Mayors of major cities, world renowned physicians and surgeons, NASA scientist, top university professors, major network anchors and titans of many industries."

You seem to have a fetish for money or university education. Apparently only those with money, title or influence pass your criteria for success. I, myself, have university education and am a successful engineer and a part time professor at a technical university but my criteria for success and worthiness has never been money or the level of one's education.

I proudly announce to people that I came here (not the US) as a refugee with less than 100 dollars in my pocket. Most people who come in contact with me or likes of me will never treat a refugee badly just because he/she is a refugee. Most of them see potential and helping another human being. Are my children to be ashamed because their father came to this country as a refugee? Do they need to call themselves refugees? Certainly not, but they should be aware of it. When you know your history and past, you know who you are and where you come from.

I have known many idiots with doctorates in this or that or with a lot of money who are simply a source of shame and embarrassment to us all Iranians.

You do not seem to know much about Iran and what people are going/have gone through for the past 30 years. For your information, thousands of Iranians have been killed, tortured, or imprisoned for political reasons. Tens of thousands were needlessly sent to their deaths in the senseless Iran-Iraq war simply because Khomeini knew war is the only way he could survive. Millions left the country because their lives were in danger or they could not achieve their potentials under the oppression of IRI.

As Javaneh so eloquently put it, we should not be grateful to anybody for enjoying the fruit of our hard work. I am however grateful to the people, culture and the social and the political system that was willing to offer shelter to me, a person in need and I try to repay by being a useful member of this society.

Shad bashid!


Plain truth is painful

by Fred on

You state:” While I have not been blind to the difficulties that some Iranian people endured after 1979 revolution and the conditions under which they had to escape from Iran, I tend to disagree that all Iranians who chose to migrate to America and other parts of the world qualify for the word Diaspora. One is left no reasonable option but to agree with the assertion that you make. But the big disregarded pink elephant in your assumption are the key qualifying words “difficulties”,"some"  and “chose”. I am afraid the violence not "some" all the defenseless Iranians have been faced with from the early hours of the Islamist Republic till this very moment surpasses the “difficult” context. Therefore the second assumption of your assertion that “Iranians who chose to migrate” becomes moot. Any way you dice or parse it, as the direct result of the Islamist regime’s daily dosages of barbarity, including floggings, mass executions via stringing up people at street corners and traffic signals, limb chippings, eye gouging, forced dress code,  gender and belief Apartheid and alike we have the biggest Iranian Diaspora surpassing the first mass Iranian flight to mostly Indian subcontinent after the Arab invasion.


Cyrus whilst I dont disagree

by javaneh29 on

Cyrus whilst I dont disagree with everything you wrote I feel that your reasoning is a little dismissive of the experiences of many Iranians. And whilst we can count our blessings and get over what happened in 1979 to some extent, because we had to and life has to move forward, many of us lost family members, became separated from our surviving loved ones, lost our homes, our belongings and our lives as we knew them through fear of execution, persecution and mostly through no choice of our own. I dont have too much more to say on this subject and I am sure many here can remember those days and what we went through and will agree that it is something we will never forget. It was for many of us a life changing experience, some of it good, some of it not so good.

There were something like 10 million Iranian diasporas, the majority of
whom were political refugees back in 1979, according to Wikapedia
// I dont know how reliable this figure is.

The impact of all this extends to our families and is the reason why there are so many 'americans (english, french, canadian................etc) of Iranian decent'. This terminology is divisive in itself. My children describe them selves as Iranian and yet they were born outside of Iran and have never been there.
Ok lets move on from 1979... what about today? Tell me then why do so many still flee Iran and seek asylum elsewhere? How is it that so many new arrivals from Iran are without money, good accommodation and some still leave through fear of execution... granted today in comparison with 1979 it is a minority thank god. Why is it that so many fear returning home? I hear/ read about these stories almost everyday. I dont know the world you seem to live in. For those who been succesful in the countries they now live in, they have not been given their sucess on a plate. They have earnt it through hard work and determination. They are entitled to the credit they have earnt and do not need to feel 'grateful'.

with best wishes


You're mistaken

by Hunter (not verified) on

You have mistaken definition for connotation. While it is true that Iranians are not living in UN tents, they do meet the definition "a group living outside their traditional region."Last year I had the honor of attending the Iranian Alliances Across Borders' Conference on the Iranian Diaspora, this conference did not try to evoke pity or sympathy, but to show all aspects of life away from the county many consider "home."


This is a definition I found

by A member of diaspora! (not verified) on

This is a definition I found on TFD site:

"3. diaspora
a. A dispersion of a people from their original homeland.
b. The community formed by such a people:"

I personally believe that "diaspora" describes the plight and present situation of Iranians outside of Iran very well.
If you expand your world beyond the US (where generally only non-political Iranians, usually with relatives in the US or money in the bank are allowed to enter the country) and think of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iranians seeking asylum in countries like Turkey or Pakistan under terrible conditions (where they would appreciate even "a large UN camp with hundreds of tents occupied beyond recommended capacities" as you put it). Living under constant threat of deportation or violence by regime's thugs.
And thousands more trying by any means to get to one of the few European countries such as Germany, Sweden, France and Britain where they have a chance of being accepted as refugees. The lives of most of these people were not in danger in Iran but the circumstances under the mullah's regime are so bad that these people are willing to endure a lot of hardship and indignities.

Iranians, thanks to their enemy No:1 (IRI) have been scattered widely throughout the world. It is unlikely to find a country without an Iranian community who mainly left the country to escape the horrors of the Mullahland.

So, YES, I think despite whatever negative ring to it, diaspora defines us best.



by Anonymous21 (not verified) on

Very true and very well written. Thanks.