Iranian Americans hope for a greater voice in U.S.
Los Angeles Times / Alexandra Zavis

Iranian Americans are among the country's wealthiest and most educated immigrant populations. They are partners at major law firms, senior executives at Fortune 500 companies and professors at distinguished universities. Yet only a handful have been elected to public office, none of them on Capitol Hill. Activists and scholars say the community's aspirations have been hurt by fractiousness, inexperience with grass-roots politics and a serious image problem. Most Americans know more about Iran's radical clerics and nuclear ambitions than its cultural heritage. Frustrated by their lack of political clout, some of the community's most prominent members decided two years ago to form a lobbying and public relations group in Washington, D.C., called the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. "Our community has a tough time uniting on various issues," said alliance spokeswoman Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor. "While we've individually, all of us, been able to succeed in various fields, we have not managed to capitalize collectively on those accomplishments." She said it has taken time for Iranian Americans to understand the system and grasp the power of their vote. Iranian immigration largely began when Islamic revolutionaries overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in 1979. Subsequent waves included many who welcomed the ouster of a repressive monarch but became disillusioned with the fundamentalist clerics who followed. Some belonged to ethnic and re... >>>

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