Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley
Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community
A Project Funded by Cal Humanities and the Community Stories Project
Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community is a pilot project funded by Cal Humanities through its Community Stories program which was completed in 2014. This project documents and shares the stories of the Iranian diaspora community in Silicon Valley to better understand the experiences of Iranian Americans in this region. The Iranian diaspora community in North America has, in the last thirty years, become more populous and visible in cities like Los Angeles and Toronto, Canada, but far less is known about the Iranian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area. San José and the greater Silicon Valley is home to the second largest community of Iranian Americans in California and one of the largest populations outside of Iran.
Through this digital storytelling project, San José State's Persian Studies Program has begun to capture and preserve the stories of Iranian exiles and immigrants who have come to the US over the past three decades; we also include stories of second-generation Iranian Americans. Over the last year, Dr. Persis Karim, director of the project, and Clint Gilbert of the Center for digital storytelling have spent hundreds of hours interviewing and editing these stories down to 5-8 minute digital stories about Iranian Americans who:
- Came here before the 1979 Iranian Revolution seeking an education and opportunity
- Those who fled Iran in the aftermath of the revolution and the subsequent eight-year long Iran-Iraq War
- Those who were born to Iranian immigrants and have grown up largely as Americans and Californians beneath the shadow of the U.S. hostage crisis and decades of hostility between Iran and the U.S.
This project seeks to engage the narratives of the early Iranian immigrants and their American-born children to understand how Iranian-Americans have been shaped by their immigration, assimilation, and by a more recent impulse to be identified as an American ethnic community. We also seek to understand how this community has increasingly adapted to and employed the democratic institutions of the United States to help shape its vision and visibility in the larger context of U.S. society, including the participation in building organizations that advocate for their rights and interests. As tensions have increased between the U.S. and Iran, and in response to the increasingly restrictive political climate in Iran, Silicon Valley has also witnessed the arrival of a new generation of Iranian immigrants in the past three years. These stories will help us see how Iranian-Americans have become rooted in California and altered their experience of community. This project will allow us to see and hear this community, which is largely invisible until a major news headline highlights them, and to share their individual and collective stories with the wider public. The project further enables Iranian Americans to narrate some of their inter-generational stories that reflect the challenges of immigrating under the duress of revolution, war, and social upheaval, and the ways that their American-born children have come to see themselves as both American and Iranian even in the post-9/11 era.
The ten digital stories here are part of a pilot of Iranian Americans in Northern California. We welcome your contributions to continuing this project and building an archive of stories about the journeys, successes, and experiences of Iranian Americans in Silicon Valley. To donate to this project and Persian Studies, contact Dr. Persis Karim (email@example.com) and Dr. Shahin Gerami (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Special thanks to Dr. Shahin Gerami, Nahal Iravani-Sani, and Lily Sarafan for additional support. Additional support to complete this project made possible with a grant from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.
We hope you enjoy listening and viewing the ten stories about the pioneering and important work and lives of these ten Iranian-Americans: Zohre Elahian, Nahal Iravani-Sani, Mo Gorjestani, Azin Izadifar, Shirindokht Nourmanesh, Hashem Kardevani, Lily Sarafan, and Sarah Aghazadeh, online and that you will share Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley with others. These stories and the people who share their narratives are part of the fabric and color of Silicon Valley and their contributions are part of the uniqueness of California and this region.
Niloufar L. Sarafan