On Monday (February 11), Iranians commemorated the 40th anniversary of the revolution that replaced the United States-backed Shah’s monarchy with an Islamic republic. The uprising ultimately prompted many Iranians to flee to the U.S., as the two nations’ relationship deteriorated. The Associated Press explores this community’s political and cultural fortunes, four decades later, in an article yesterday (February 12).
The AP reports that Iranian Americans, like other communities escaping the fallout of U.S. intervention, are experiencing a generational shift in perspective and identity. Sociologist Neda Maghbouleh explains that while many first-generation immigrants tie their identity to the trauma of exile, their children instead see themselves through the lens of contemporary Islamophobia and constant fear-mongering about Iran’s relationship with the U.S. “The second generation has, in many ways, seen itself as a racial minority,” she says.
As they experience their own versions of isolation, they now seek to preserve their various religious, ethnic and linguistic traditions for the next generation. The article details various cultural initiatives, including the Farsi language immersion school where U.S-born Aliah Najmabadi enrolled her children:
While she grew up speaking English, Najmabadi said she was surrounded by the Persian culture and language when her father’s family came over from Iran in the years after the revolution, and she wanted to learn more.
She went on to study Farsi, but said she still struggles to understand everything her Iranian grandmother says. Now, her 8-year-old son helps translate, she said, and her father—who sometimes questioned her desire to learn the language—has been moved emotionally.
“Once my son started speaking fluently, he was floored. His heart melted,” Najmabadi said of her father. “As people get older in the community, I think it is really important for my kids to know the language.”
Read more about the nearly 500,000 people of Iranian descent living in America here.