On March 14th, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) hosted a Day of Service in Sacramento, aiding newly resettled refugees in preparing for interviews and applying for scholarships. In the spirit of Norooz, this yearly Day of Service is meant to strengthen the Iranian American community as well as provide new opportunities to refugees so that they may begin anew in America. As a non-profit with a similar mission, Senses Cultural has a deep interest in supporting the work of NIAC in Sacramento and nationwide. To get a better understanding of the scope of NIAC’s work, we spoke with Azzie Rapadas, who spearheaded the event on March 14th in Sacramento.
Azzie Rapadas arrived in the United States as an unaccompanied refugee from Iran at the age of six. After graduating from Sacramento State, she developed an interest in working with refugees, and began volunteering with IRC (International Rescue Committee). This experience led her to the NIAC, where she has been a member and active contributor since 2011. She notes NIAC’s credibility within academia and among foreign policy makers as an invaluable combination, saying, “I am going back to school this year to pursue a graduate degree in the field, and because of my involvement with NIAC I will start with a wealth of foundational knowledge in the areas of international conflict management, geopolitics and the US political system.”
The NIAC is an intelligent and passionate group of Iranian Americans who are leading the way to create a clear, nonpartisan understanding of complex foreign policy issues. NIAC is a unique organization in that they give Iranian-Americans a voice in American and International politics, and are the largest grassroots organization of its kind. Ms. Rapadas notes, “I was blown away by the magnitude of their staff’s intelligence, professionalism and logical analysis of a complex issue”, and Senses Cultural couldn’t agree more.
Senses Cultural and NIAC are two American organizations dedicated to clear communication between the Iranian and American communities. Both organizations strive to counter the negative misconceptions of Middle Eastern and Iranian people, instead representing this community as the educated, talented and passionate people that they are. Senses Cultural applauds the work of Ms. Rapadas: events like the March 14th Day of Service in Sacramento are what make profound positive differences in refugee communities, allowing for personal progress despite many obstacles.
Ms. Rapadas’ story is, unfortunately, not unique – many Iranian women in America struggle with their role within American and Iranian culture, lacking a meaningful understanding of their heritage and an uncertainty about an often-unpredictable political climate. As Ms. Rapadas eloquently states, “they [NIAC] provide tools and resources to Iranian-Americans who want to become more civically engaged in political issues that affect them. Through NIAC I have learned as much about the US political system as I have about the specific issues important to our community. It is vital that our community utilize those tools because they allow us to have a voice alongside the many other minority organizations in DC advocating for their communities.”
We asked Ms. Rapadas her wish for Norooz, and her wishes are clear. She simply and passionately states, “Not only as a member of NIAC or an Iranian-American but as a citizen of the earth, my wish for Norooz is a negotiated nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. This is the first step to attaining our community’s shared goal of averting war with Iran. The international community is in concurrence that this deal is the surest path to ensuring Iran does not weaponize, that harmful sanctions stop hurting Iranian citizens and that human rights abuses inside Iran decrease. Through NIAC’s annual surveys, our community has voiced that these are the most important issues to them so I hope we can start seeing positive outcomes on all three issues.”
Senses Cultural believes strongly in the power of the NIAC and organizations who works for peace, and celebrates the countless hours that this group of Iranian-Americans has devoted to their causes. Our wish for 2015 is that, together, we can reach a more peaceful tomorrow.
By Silvana Gargione