Tourists or Terrorists?


Tourists or Terrorists?
by Nazy Kaviani

I went to the second and final day of the Fourth International Conference on the Iranian Diaspora, organized by Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) in Berkeley yesterday.  Sunday’s panels were “Understanding Global Perspectives: Unique Outlooks from Abroad,” “Breaking News: Media as a Form of Expression,” and “Going ‘Back Home’: Narratives of Exploration and Engagement.”

Aside from Taghi Amirani’s documentary on Iraq’s use of chemical warfare on residents of an Iranian village which left no dry eye in the house; or conversely his witty and intelligent sense of humor which had everyone in stitches with his jokes and anecdotes, I found the presentations by young second generation Iranians who had returned to experience life in Iran the most interesting panel presentation of yesterday.  Something about the way these young people talked about their journey back to Iran to discover and understand their roots, and their parents in the process, was very appealing and encouraging to me.  After all, if and when it is possible for diasporic Iranians to return to Iran to live and engage in multi-faceted lifestyles which would include working and social identification and assimilation (deja vous!), it would be this generation of Iranians who would have to do it!  To hear their emotional and yet rational approaches to living in a land which they have had to learn about after having learned and experienced another country of citizenship and belonging was mesmerizing to me.  I was imagining each and every one of them as individuals who looked Iranian and had Iranian names, yet were foreigners who had to orient themselves to the culture, geography, and social settings of the new Iran.  One of them, Hanif Yazdi, said jokingly that the precarious balance he has had to maintain during his life has been to be suspected of being a “terrorist” in the US and ridiculed for being just a “tourist” back in Tehran!  He said he had to learn to be a responsible human being in the middle of the two equally incorrect perceptions of himself.  My heart both wept and smiled at the pain and courage it took this young man to make this astute observation through his life’s journey.

Yesterday’s panelists and workshop leaders were Amin Moghadam of Universite Paris Diderot with “The role of Iranian Migration in the ‘Metropolization’ of the Gulf;” Vahideddin Namazi of Universite de Montreal with “Prospect of Educational Success for Iranians in Canada;” Afsaneh Kalantary of University of California, Santa Cruz with “Politics Back ‘Home’ Matters: Transnational Circulation of Politics;” Rudi Bakhtiar of PAAIA with “From CNN to PAAIA: A Personal Perspective;” Mahdis Keshavarz of The Make Agency; Nahid Siamdoust of St. Antony’s College of the University of Oxford with “Iranian Journalists in the West: Forced Migration or a Migrated Force?”; Taghi Amirani, Director, of Amirani Films with “Double Vision: A Documentary Filmmaker in Two Minds About Everything,” Banafsheh Akhlaghi, of Amnesty International USA with “Engaging the Community through Civic Participation;” Morad Ghorban of PAAIA, with “Empowerment Through Political Engagement;” Arash Majdi of IAAB with “Camp Ayandeh 2009: A Look at the Camp Through the Eyes of Former Campers;” Michelle Moghtader of NIAC with “The Beginning of the End of Iranian-American Political Apathy;" Azadeh Shahshahani of American Civil Liberties Union with “How to Make Use of the Human Rights Framework: A primer for Social Justice Advocates;” Abdi Soltani of PARSA Community Foundation; Leili Sreberny-Mohammadi, independent researcher with “Return Journey? A Snapshot of the Iranian Diaspora Inside Iran;” Fared Shafinury, Musician;  and Hanif Yazdi of the College of William and Mary with “Guilt, Ownership and Longing in a Diasporic Life.”

IAAB’s Conference in the Bay Area was a wonderful place to meet the new generation of Iranians in diaspora and the event was a smashing success by all accounts, thanks to the organization’s tireless and selfless young members and leaders who made it happen.  I hope they return to the Bay Area again!

Day 1's report here.


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I have read your article for

by slave2 on

I have read your article for a several times and I was impressed by it! It was very interesting so I shared it with my friends. Hope they will like it too.
The Expendables download

Azadeh Azad

Dear Nazy

by Azadeh Azad on

Would you be able to invite this conference participants to publish their presentations / articles on Thank you.



I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

Thanks Nazy - remember your old comment?

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

The one about "the number of comments does not mean the subject is important or that the content is good." ??? this is very true of course. quality>quantity. The topics you're reporting here are some of the most important issues facing Iranians. They need to be "figured out", or even if they aren't, we have to start or try. So much of what this conference is about seems like it reveals the ugly, confusing, tense, dramatic, grinding comments elsewhere :) if that makes sense.... ? I hope so. The Guilt and Ownership is particularly cool. THANKS & PEACE


Nazy jan

by Monda on

Thanks again for your report. 

anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

how very fortunate you are to have been able to attend these panels!  what an awesome gathering.  do you have written presentation of the various discussions?  i would love to read a synopsis of some of the issues.  it's for sure i'll follow their itinerary for next years conference.  thank you for sharing and i hope we'll hear more about this.

peace out!

Maryam Hojjat

Just act as a DOG!

by Maryam Hojjat on

If you can eat it, eat it.

If you can play with it, play with it.  Otherwise pee on it and walk away.


Interesting Title

by Damon Jaan (not verified) on

even though the article had nothing to do with it.. sounds cool ( wish i could go :() but yea my best way of dealing with that subject (masking my fears, or so my therapist would say ) is through humour, rather than cry about why do these assholes treat me like im different, just laugh about the stuff.