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Pezhvak of Persia Echoes Concerns of Iranian Americans

NCM Profile

NCM, Elena Shore Posted: Apr 16, 2003

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the backlash against Arab Americans in new U.S. immigration policies, Pezhvak of Persia has never been more active or more needed in the Iranian community.

Shahbaz Taheri, editor and publisher of Pezhvak

Tighter anti-terrorist security measures have led to the deportation of many Iranians arrested during Immigration and Naturalization Service roundups. In addition, Iranian Americans fear that Iran’s place in the “Axis of Evil” could make them even more vulnerable in the future.

Pezhvak, whose name is the Farsi word for “echo,” could not exist in Iran, where the government has shut down more than 100 newspapers and magazines. Editor and publisher Shahbaz Taheri founded the publication in 1991 to promote democracy, women’s rights and human rights in Iran. Now the San Jose-based magazine—with a circulation of 14,000 statewide—serves an equally important role as new immigration laws affect the Iranian community in the United States.

“ Our goal,” says Taheri, “is to create a network between different sectors in the community, and to inform the Iranian community, especially non-English speaking individuals, about their rights in [American] society; about new laws—especially immigration laws; and about the latest news and events happening in the world.”

But the publication serves as more than an information source for Iranian Americans. Pezhvak provides Iranian Americans with a vital link to their language and culture through Iranian literature, sports, movie reviews and news from Iran and around the world.

And in the wake of current threats to the civil liberties of Iranian Americans, Pezhvak provides a forum for the Iranian American community in places like Santa Clara—one of the largest in the country—to connect and organize.

This is especially true after the INS roundups in December, when Pezhvak played a role in publicizing the new registration requirements that ended in the arrests of hundreds of Iranians with expired visas.

“ We thought it was the right thing to do,” says Taheri. “We told them to register. We did not know that by going there they would be arrested.”

Since the detained men were flown to Arizona to obtain deportation documents, says Taheri, it appears that the U.S. government is now preparing for a mass deportation of Iranians. Ironically, many of these detainees came here to escape arrests by their own government.

Most Iranians now living in the United States, he says, immigrated after the revolution of 1979, including many young people who left Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Before that, Iranians came here to attend school and then returned to Iran. In the last three years, a third wave of Iranian immigrants has moved here to escape political arrests by the Iranian government.

“ The majority of Iranians living in the U.S. are here because of the lack of democracy and basic human rights in Iran,” writes Taheri in his article “Fighting Terrorism—INS Terrorizes the Iranian American Community.” “But they cannot even find refuge in the country that claims to be fighting for the ‘preservation of democracy and human rights.’”

For Pezhvak of Persia, it is now just as important to protect the rights of Iranian Americans in the United States as it is to promote democracy in Iran.

“ We always attempt to assist in organizing the community around important issues, like the latest immigration crackdown, in order to get help for people who are in need.”

Pezhvak of Persia is online at www.pezhvak.com. Pezhvak Corp., the official Iranian Information Center, also produces Toop International Sports Magazine and the Northern California Iranian American Yellow Pages.

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