A New Paradigm

Two Iranian-Americans in San Francisco election race


A New Paradigm
by bahmani

To the rest of the country and possibly the world, San Francisco has come to embody the very latest in progressivism, living, and thinking. But to those of us who are privileged to call this place home, it is fast becoming the proving ground for political activism on a scale far above the usual line for Iranian-Americans. Many Iranian-Americans are actively involved in San Francisco, whether it is the likes of Elahe Enssani, appointed as a City Human Rights commissioner, or the humbling immigrant rights efforts of Banafsheh Akhlaghi, to the many Iranian-American university students who work as interns in City Hall, and the city's general embrace of Iranian-Americans at the highest levels.

In upcoming US elections, two Iranian-Americans are vying for two San Francisco supervisor seats. And it's not for the same seat! The incumbent from District 5 is Ross Mirkarimi, a Green party progressive who is fast becoming a political force in the city, and the country. Ahsha Safai is the Democratic party newbie, running his first campaign in what appears to be a solid bid for supervisor of the District 11 spot. Ahsha is no newcomer to politics however, I have been keeping tabs on this young turk's (metaphorically speaking) career, when he first burst onto the scene as one of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's key campaign field directors, before that a stint in the 2nd term of the Clinton White House, before that, priceless internships in the government of Massachusetts, all while attending MIT.

Those of us who know him, feel that it wasn't a matter of if, for Ahsha, but more a matter of, what's taking him so long? So now we can put that stress to rest, and watch our young Gryphon finally soar to the heights we all expect him to hit.

So to recap, just so you can truly enjoy this feast properly, we have Ross as an incumbent supervisor, running almost un-opposed, and whether he'll admit it or not, with the mayor's office squarely in his sights, as Newsom moves on after his second term expires in 2011. And now, we will also have Ahsha, qualified, savvy and more than well positioned to win his own seat in the most progressive city in the country.

So, you'd think that things are going so great that we would be looking into fashion eyewear. You'd think that, and you'd be only slightly correct.

For, although as great as this political accomplishment might be. I will wager you, that I can take you one notch better!

The incumbent, Ross Mirkarimi, is not actually supporting his fellow Iranian-American candidate like you would expect him to! The knot of this race, not so neatly tied.

"But..." you might ask, "...what could be better than having 2 Iranian-Americans in these elected positions of honor, power, and well represented influence in San Francisco?"

Hang on.

So last Wednesday afternoon, Ross Mirkarimi called his friend Ahsha Safai, and with less than 3 weeks left before the election, told Ahsha that he would be endorsing Ahsha's more left-ish progressive opponent, and that he hoped that Ahsha would understand. Ahsha politely thanked Ross for taking the time and having the courtesy to call him, and said that he understood Ross' dilemma completely.

This is what I mean when I say we who live here, are privileged to live in such a civilized and politically established place! 2 Iranian-Americans here at least, can disagree, without ghaari, and the entire world falling apart!

Imagine that!

According to the most recent polls, Ahsha who is closer philosophically to the more moderate and often pragmatic bridge-building politics of popular Mayor, Gavin Newsom, and less of a harder forward pressing progressive like Ross tends to lean, is nevertheless in a solid lead and the likely one to beat. Ross may or may not have knowingly helped Ahsha, precisely by waiting this long to endorse the other guy, his own party's guy. I don't think we'll ever really know if Ross secretly delayed his party pleasing announcement on purpose, to help Ahsha, but honestly who cares. The fact that 2 Iranian-Americans can each play the political game this skillfully and better, this maturely, while both winning, is awe inspiring, to watch up close.

I am almost sure that this November, we will very really acquire the unthinkable, namely 2 Iranian-Americans wielding real representative power in San Francisco's City Hall. But to me who has been godlessly praying for this day, the more important thing will be how we got here. Not as some old timers in the community naively suggest that we must blindly support any Iranian with our dirtiest asset, our money. But, that we may finally be past that, and can now focus on the Iranian-American candidate's greater broadly appealing message, ideas, and positions, and all the while within us agree to disagree, but remain united within the process.

That is an awesome thing to have lived long enough, to finally see the glimmer of.

Sure it would have been good and expected that Ross would endorse Ahsha and thereby usher in not only a guarantee of 2 Iranian-Americans at the city's helm, but also as a bridge between 2 differing political ideologies. But in some ways though, this is even better. Sweeter.

I am speechless at this news, and I wanted to share it with everyone to show there is hope where there is perseverance. That it has now finally been proven that Iranian-Americans can agree to disagree on fundamental issues, and still remain civil and even cordial. That open dialogue, debate, and standing up for a principle or virtue is the real king maker, and despot breaker.

Welcome to the Club!


more from bahmani
Darius Kadivar

Sima Jan Explanation for My Irony ...

by Darius Kadivar on

First of all I want to say that I am on the contrary VERY HAPPY to see Iranians get involved in politics in the US regardless of which party they are running for. I also love what Ross and his team accomplished by celebrating such events like NowRooz and Mehregan with Fellow San Franciscans.

That Said and politics aside, I would like the Iranians in the US to drop a certain level of hypocrisy when it comes to acknowledging their own Royal history as a heritage they can and should be proud of. Particularly when it comes to Iranians in the Diaspora most of whom left Iran because of the Revolution and to put it straight belonged to the most well off and educated class of the Society during the Shah's reign. They were (and in that I include my own family) lucky to leave Iran and integrate the American community or that of their host countries much more easily and faster than any other minority driven away from their country thanks to their cultural and educational background they benefited from during the Pahlavi Era.   

And yet why is it I get the feeling that the Iranian Democrats in general wish to overlook this reality. Why for instance have they never tried to invite the Royal Family be it the Empress to their cultural events as a sign of recognition ?. This has nothing to do with Politics, the Russians in San Francisco are Proud of their Tzars and Royal history and are yet totally American by birth or citizenship.

We Iranian Americans unlike Iranians in Europe keep pretending the contrary by Political correctness that does not need to be.


And to be honest that angers me.

Now unless Ross Mirkarimi or other Iranian Americans now getting involved in Politics have a personal history that justifies a certain lukewarm or cold attitude towards our Royals like for instance if his father or close family was arrested, or tortured by the SAVAK or was executed, I would understand their resentment. But when you are running for Office and aim to represent your community at large, I find such reserves as plainy unjustified even if it has to be for the eternal debate between Mossadeghi's and Monarchists on the so called Coup of 53. We need to stop this hypocrisy of wanting to give a history lesson to fellow Iranian Americans. I don't think that is their Job.

Those at Beyond Persia will certainly recognize themselves in my comment since they started promoting Stephen Kinzer's book All the Shah's Men along with NIAC. I don't aim anyone in particular and certainly not Bruce Bahmani who is a friend or Laleh Welsh who does an excellent job in promoting Iranian arts but I would like to see less moralistic distinctions made between Iranians in America based on their Iranian historical loyalties.  

Look at Jimmy Delshad for instance who doesn't hesitate to invite the Empress and even Reza Pahlavi ( although not inviting him because of his open political role is more understandable) to Beverly Hills and get photographed with them. And Yet I don't say this because Delshad is Republican. I myself am Voting Democrat.  

Now I don't know if the Mayor of San Francisco ever extended such an invitation to the former Shahbanou of Iran (for those cultural events related to Iranians)  who in the hearts of many Iranian Americans and certainly many Iranians in Europe remains OUR Shahbanou. If he hasn't he should.

Thats All, it is nothing personal against Ross Mirkarimi or any other Iranian involved in American Politics. Its just an observation of a pattern that I would like to see evolve be it in a constructive attempt to bring the Iranian American community together rather than dividing them.

My humble Opinion,




To Mr. Kadivar

by sima on

Dariush khan, I am a fan of your quirky humor but what do your links have to do with Ross Mirkarimi? Is there some insider reference to his namak-nashnasi? If so, I'm certainly not getting it!


Good for Ross...

by sima on

I'm glad he did not endorse any Gavin Newsom "bridge-builder" (what a nice tactful guy that Bruce is!). As an Iranian San Franciscan I would never vote for someone because he's Iranian. Politics is not the place for identity-politics. Go Green Party! And Cynthia McKinney for President! (Seriously folks, check out Cynthia McKinney -- she's the best thing that has heppened to the Greens for a long time, with due respect to Ross!)

Darius Kadivar

I will vote for the Least Namak Nashnas ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Mohammad Ala


by Mohammad Ala on

Thanks for taking time to write.

Ghaari should be ghahri meaning not talking to or with each other.

It is important (1) to perform civil duties, (2) do not forget your roots. 



what is Ghaari?

by IranianAmerican (not verified) on

What does Ghaari mean?