Iranian Americans

Iranian Americans
آمریکایی های ایرانی تبار
Total population
470,341 (ACS, 2011[1])
500,000–1,000,000 (other estimates)
1–2 million (some Iranian estimates, 2012)[2][3][4][5][6]
Regions with significant populations
California, New York, New Jersey,[7] Texas, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Illinois[8]
American English, Persian Azerbaijani, Armenian, Kurdish, and other languages of Iran.
Muslim: 31%, no religion: 19%, Baha’i: 7%, Jewish: 5%, Protestant: 5%, Roman Catholic: 2%, Zoroastrian: 2%, "Other": 15%, and "No response": 15%.[9]

Iranian Americans or Persian Americans are U.S. citizens who are of Iranian ancestry or who hold Iranian citizenship. Iranian Americans are among the most highly educated people in the United States.[10][11] They have historically excelled in business, academia, science, the arts, and entertainment, but have traditionally shied away from participating in U.S. politics and other civic activities.[12]

Based on a 2012 announcement by the National Organization for Civil Registration, an organization of the Ministry of Interior of Iran, the United States has the highest number of Iranians outside the country.[6]


Iranian-American is used interchangeably with Persian-American,[13][14][15][16] partly due to the fact[17] that, in the Western world, Iran was known as "Persia". On the Nowruz of 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi asked foreign delegates to use the term Iran, the endonym of the country used since the Sasanian Empire, in formal correspondence. Since then the use of the word "Iran" has become more common in the Western countries. This also changed the usage of the terms for Iranian nationality, and the common adjective for citizens of Iran changed from "Persian" to "Iranian". In 1959, the government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Reza Shah Pahlavi's son, announced that both "Persia" and "Iran" could officially be used interchangeably.[18] However the issue is still debated today.[19][20]

There is a tendency among Iranian-Americans to categorize themselves as "Persian" rather than "Iranian", mainly to dissociate themselves from the Islamic regime of Iran which is in charge since 1979 Revolution, and also to distinguish themselves as being of Persian ethnicity, which comprise about 65% of Iran's population.[13][21] While the majority of Iranian-Americans come from Persian backgrounds, there is a significant number of non-Persian Iranians such as Azeris[22][23][24] and Kurds within the Iranian-American community,[21][25] leading some scholars to believe that the label "Iranian" is more inclusive, since the label "Persian" excludes non-Persian minorities.[21] The Collins English Dictionary uses a variety of similar and overlapping definitions for the terms "Persian" and "Iranian".[26][27]


Early history[]

One of the first recorded Iranians to visit North America was Martin the Armenian, an Iranian-Armenian tobacco grower who settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1618.[28][29] Mirza Mohammad Ali, also known as Hajj Sayyah, was an Iranian who came to North America in the 1800s. He was inspired to travel around the world due to the contradiction between the democratic ideals he read about and how his fellow Iranians were treated by their leaders. He began his travels as a 23-year-old looking for knowledge, to experience the lives of others, and to use that knowledge to help with Iran's progress. His stay in the United States lasted 10 years, and he traveled across the country from New York to San Francisco. He met a variety of influential American figures including Ulysses S. Grant, who was a president during that time and who met with him on several occasions.[30] On May 26, 1875, Hajj Sayyah became the first Iranian to become an American Citizen. He was imprisoned upon his return to Iran for taking a stand against living conditions there. He looked to the United States to protect him but to no avail.[30] During the peak period of worldwide emigration to the United States (1842–1903), only 130 Iranian nationals were known to have immigrated.[31]

First phase of emigration[]

The first wave of Iranian migration to the United States occurred from the late 1940s to 1977,[31] or 1979.[32] The United States was an attractive destination for students, as American universities offered some of the best programs in engineering and other fields, and were eager to attract students from foreign countries.[32] Iranian students, most of whom had learned English as a second language in Iran, were highly desirable as new students at colleges and universities in the United States.[32] By the mid-1970s, nearly half of all Iranian students who studied abroad did so in the United States.[32] By 1975, the Institute of International Education's annual foreign student census figures listed Iranian students as the largest group of foreign students in the United States, amounting to a total of 9% of all foreign students in the country.[32] As the Iranian economy continued to rise steadily in the 70s, it enabled many more Iranians to travel abroad freely.[32] Consequently, the number of Iranian visitors to the United States also increased considerably, from 35,088, in 1975, to 98,018, in 1977.[32][33] During the 1977–78 academic year, of about 100,000 Iranian students abroad, 36,220 were enrolled in American institutions of higher learning. During the 1978–79 academic year, on the eve of the revolution, the number of Iranian students enrolled in American institutions rose to 45,340, and in 1979–80, that number reached a peak of 51,310. At that time, according to the Institute of International Education, more students from Iran were enrolled in American universities than from any other foreign country.[31] The pattern of Iranian migration during this phase usually only involved individuals, not whole families.[31] Due to Iran's increasing demand for educated workers in the years before the revolution, the majority of the Iranian students in America intended to return home after graduation to work, especially those who had received financial aid from the Iranian government or from industry on condition of returning to take jobs upon graduation. Due to the drastic events of the 1979 Revolution, the students ended up staying in the United States as refugees.[31] These several thousand visitors and students unintentionally became the basis of the cultural, economic, and social networks that would enable large-scale immigration in the years that followed.[32]

Second phase[]

The second phase of Iranian migration began immediately before and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,[31] and became significant in the early 1980s.[31] As Ronald H. Bayor writes, "The 1979 Revolution and the 1980–88 war with Iraq transformed Iran's class structure, politically, socially, and economically."[34] The revolution drastically changed the pattern and nature of Iranian emigration to the United States, while the Iran-Iraq War that ensued afterwards was also another factor that forced many of the best-educated and most wealthy families into exile in the United States and other countries. Once basically an issue of Brain drain during the Pahlavi period, it was now predominantly an involuntary emigration of a relatively large number of middle- and upper-class families, including the movement of a considerable amount of wealth.[34] During and after the revolution, most students did not return to Iran, and those who did were gradually purged from the newly established Islamic Republic. Many students who graduated abroad after the revolution also did not return, due to ruling clergy's repression. As a result, the educated elite who left Iran after the revolution, and the new graduates in the United States who chose not to return home, created a large pool of highly educated and skilled Iranian professionals in the United States. By 2002, an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 million Iranians lived abroad, mainly in North America and Europe, due to the Islamic government's authoritarian practices.[35]

A further notable aspect of the migration in this phase is that members of religious and ethnic minorities were starting to become disproportionally represented among the Iranian American community, most notably Bahai'is, Jews, Armenians, and Assyrians.[36] According to the 1980 US Census, there were 123,000 Americans of Iranian ancestry at that time.[37] Between 1980 and 1990, the number of foreign-born people from Iran in the United States increased by 74 percent.[10]

Contemporary period[]

Max Amini, Persian American stand-up comedian

The third phase of Iranian immigration started in 1995 and continues to the present.[38] According to the 2000 US Census, there were 283,225 Iranian-born people in the US.[39] According to the same 2000 US Census, there were 385,488 Americans of Iranian ancestry at that time.[40] The 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) estimate found 470,341 Americans with full or partial Iranian ancestry.[1] However, most experts believe that this is a problem of underrepresenting due to the fact that "many community members have been reluctant in identifying themselves as such because of the problems between Iran and the United States in the past two decades." and also because many were ethnic minorities (Jewish, Armenian, and Assyrian Iranians) who instead identify as the ethnic group they are part of rather than as Iranians.[41] Estimates of 1,000,000 and above are given by many Iranian and non-Iranian organizations, media, and scholars. Kenneth Katzman, specialist in Middle Eastern affairs and part of the Congressional Research Service, in December 2015 estimated the number at over 1,000,000.[42] Paul Harvey and Edward Blum of the University of Colorado and the University of San Diego in 2012 estimated their number at 1,000,000,[43] as well as Al-Jazeera.[44] According to the PAAIA (Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans), estimates range from 500,000 to 1,000,000,[45][46] numbers backed up by Ronald H. Bayor of the Georgia Institute of Technology as well.[47] The Atlantic stated that there were an estimated 1,500,000 Iranians in the United States in 2012.[48] The Iranian interest section in Washington, D.C., in 2003 claimed to hold passport information for approximately 900,000 Iranians in the US.[41][49]

Today, the United States contains the highest number of Iranians outside of Iran. The Iranian-American community has produced individuals notable in many fields, including medicine, engineering, and business.


Although Iranians have lived in the United States in relatively small numbers since the 1930s, a large number of Iranian-Americans immigrated to the United States after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Data on this group is well documented by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to the 2000 US Census, there were 385,488 Americans of Iranian ancestry at that time.[40] In the 2011 ACS, the number of Americans of full or partial Iranian ancestry amounted c. 470,341.[1]


Federal data on Iranian Americans in the Decennial Census is not according to race, but rather ancestry, which is collected by the annual American Community Survey (ACS). Data on Iranian ancestry from the annual ACS is available on the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder website.[50][51]

Most experts believe that the underrepresented number of Iranian Americans in the ACS is a problem due to the fact that "many community members have been reluctant in identifying themselves as such because of the problems between Iran and the United States in the past two decades."[41] Estimations of 1,000,000 and above are given by many Iranian and non-Iranian organisations, media, and scholars. Kenneth Katzman, specialist in Middle Eastern affairs and part of the Congressional Research Service, estimates their number at over 1,000,000 (published December 2015).[42] Historians Paul Harvey and Edward Blum estimate their number at 1,000,000 (published 2012),[43] as well as Al-Jazeera.[44] According to the PAAIA (Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans), estimates range from 500,000 to 1,000,000,[45] numbers backed by Ronald H. Bayor of the Georgia Institute of Technology.[47] The Atlantic, in 2012, stated that there are an estimated 1,500,000 Iranians in the United States.[48] The Iranian interest section in Washington D.C., in 2003, claimed to hold passport information for approximately 900,000 Iranians in the US.[41][49]

According to research done by the Iranian Studies Group, an independent academic organization at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),[52] Iranian Americans are most likely far more numerous in the United States than census data indicate. The group estimates that the number of Iranian Americans may have topped 691,000 in 2004—more than twice the figure of 338,000 cited in the 2000 U.S. census.[10][53]

According to extrapolated U.S. Census data and other independent surveys done by Iranian-Americans themselves in 2009, there were an estimated one million Iranian-Americans living in the U.S.,[12] with the largest concentration—about 72,000 people—living in the Los Angeles area.[12][54] For this reason, the L.A. area, with its Iranian American residents, is sometimes referred to as "Tehrangeles" or "Irangeles" among Iranian-Americans.[55] Regarding Iranian-Americans of Armenian origin, the 1980 US Census put the number of Armenians living in Los Angeles at 52,400, of whom 71.9% were foreign born: 14.7% in Iran, 14.3% in the USSR, 11.5% in Lebanon, 9.7% in Turkey, 11.7% in other Middle Eastern countries (Egypt, Iraq, Israel, etc.), and the rest in other parts of the world.[56] Beverly Hills, Irvine, and Glendale all have large communities of Iranian Americans; 26% of the total population of Beverly Hills is Iranian Jewish, making it the city's largest religious community.[8][57][58]

Half of the nation's Iranians reside in the state of California alone.[59] Other large communities include New York/New Jersey, which have 9.1% of the U.S.'s Iranian population, followed by Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia (8.3%) and Texas (6.7%).[8][60] Kings Point, New York, a village in Great Neck, New York, is said to have the largest concentration of Iranians in the United States (approximately 40%). However, unlike the population in Los Angeles, the Great Neck population is almost exclusively Jewish.[citation needed]

Nashville has the largest Kurdish population in the United States, with many of them emigrating from Iran.[citation needed]

Approximately 6,000-10,000 Iranian Americans reside in the city of Chicago, while up to 30,000 reside in the Chicago metropolitan area. Some of this population is Iranian Assyrian.[61]


Unlike the population of Iran, a majority of Iranian Americans are non-Muslim due to the religious composition of those fleeing the Iranian Revolution, which included a disproportionate share of Iran's religious minorities, as well as subsequent ex-Muslim asylum seekers and other conversions away from Islam. Many Iranian Americans identify as irreligious or Shiite Muslim, but a full one-fifth are Christians, Jews, Baha’is, or Zoroastrians.[62] Additionally, there are also some Iranian Mandaeans, but they are very small in number. According to Pew Research,[63] about 22% of the ex-Muslims in the United States are Iranian Americans, compared to 8% of current Muslims.

A 2012 national telephone survey of a sample of 400 Iranian-Americans, commissioned by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans and conducted by Zogby Research Services, asked the respondents what their religions were. The responses broke down as follows: Muslim 31%, atheist/realist/humanist 11%, agnostic 8%, Baha’i 7%, Jewish 5%, Protestant 5%, Roman Catholic 2%, Zoroastrian 2%, "Other" 15%, and "No response" 15%.[9] The survey had a cooperation rate of 31.2%.[9] The margin of error for the results was +/- 5 percentage points, with higher margins of error for sub-groups.[9] Notably, the number of Muslims decreased from 42% in 2008 to 31% in 2012.[9][64]

According to Harvard University's Robert D. Putnam, the average Iranian is slightly less religious than the average American.[65] In the book Social Movements in 20th Century Iran: Culture, Ideology, and Mobilizing Frameworks, author Stephen C. Poulson adds that Western ideas are making Iranians irreligious.[66]

There are religious and ethnolinguistic differences among the Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Zoroastrian, Christian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, and Assyrian groups.[67] Calculating the percentage of Christian Iranian-Americans is difficult because most Iranian Christians are of Armenian or Assyrian origin; and, apart from identifying as Iranian, a number amongst them also strongly self-identifies as Armenian or Assyrian, rather than as (or apart from) Iranian.[32][68]


The majority of Iranian-Americans are ethnic Persians, with sizeable ethnic minorities being Iranian Azerbaijanis, Iranian Armenians, Iranian Jews, Iranian Kurds, Iranian Assyrians, Iranian Turkmen, Iranian Baloch, Iranian Arabs, among others.[69]

According to Hakimzadeh and Dixon, members of religious and ethnic minorities such as Bahai'is, Jews, Armenians, and Assyrians were disproportionately represented amongst the early exiles of the 1978–79 revolution.[70]


According to DHS, in 2015, 13,114 people born in Iran were issued green cards, while 13,298 were issued one in 2016. In 2015, 10,344 Iranians became naturalized, with a further 9,507 in 2016.[71]

Nearly all Iranians who reside in the United States are either citizens (81%) or permanent residents (15%) of the United States (2008 survey).[72] Iranian-Americans regard their culture and heritage as an important component of their day-to-day life and their overall identity within the United States.[73]


Four benchmarks are traditionally used to measure assimilation: language proficiency, intermarriage, spatial concentration, and socio-economic status. Per these criteria, one can determine with a significant degree of confidence that the Iranian-American community has made significant strides in successfully assimilating to a new culture and way of living.[32] According to a survey commissioned by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) in 2008, only 21 percent of Iranian-Americans reported interacting mostly with other Iranian Americans outside of their workplace, demonstrating that most of them have successfully integrated into United States society.[32]

The intermarriage rate is very high among Iranian Americans.[32] It has been estimated that nearly 50 percent of Iranian-Americans who married between 1995 and 2007 married non-Iranian Americans.[32] Research has furthermore indicated that Iranian-Americans who are Muslim are more open to intermarry than those who are members of religious or ethnic minorities, such as Jews and Armenians.[32] Compared to men, Iranian women are less likely to mix or intermarry outside their group, which, according to the PAAIA, is likely because, as a group, they are more likely to adhere to traditional Iranian values, including making marriages that are approved by their families and are within Iranian cultural norms.[32] Regarding language proficiency in the United States among its immigrant groups, the first generation principally speaks their native language, the second generation speaks both English and their parents' language, and the third generation typically speaks only English, while maintaining a knowledge of some isolated words and phrases from their ancestral tongue.[32] The Iranian American community follows this pattern.[32]


According to Bayor, from the very beginning, Iranian immigrants differed from other arrivals in their high educational and professional achievements.[74] According to Census 2000, 50.9 percent of Iranian immigrants have attained a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to a 28.0 percent national average.[10] According to the latest census data available, more than one in four Iranian-Americans holds a master's or doctoral degree, the highest rate among 67 ethnic groups studied.[11]

A 1990 University of California, Los Angeles study showed that by virtue of education and occupation, native-born and Iranian-Americans of Armenian origin "tend to have the highest socioeconomic status... while those from Turkey have the lowest", although Turkish Armenians boast the highest rate of self-employment.[75] In 1988, a New York Times article claimed that Middle Eastern Armenians, which includes Armenians from Iran, preferred to settle in Glendale, California, while Armenian immigrants from the Soviet Union were attracted to Hollywood, Los Angeles.[76]

A study regarding Americans of Armenian descent showed that Armenians from Iran (Iranian-Armenians) are known for quick integration into American society:[77] for example, only 31% of Armenian Americans born in Iran claim not to speak English well,[78] while those Armenians from other nations were shown to have less success at integrating.

Occupations and income[]

The Small Business Administration (SBA) conducted a study that found Iranian immigrants among the top 20 immigrant groups with the highest rate of business ownership, contributing substantially to the U.S. economy. According to the report, there were 33,570 active and contributing Iranian American business owners in the U.S., with a 21.5% business ownership rate. The study also found that the total net business income generated by Iranian Americans was $2.56 billion.[79] Almost one in three Iranian-American households have annual incomes of more than $100,000 (compared to one in five for the overall U.S. population).[80] Ali Mostasahri, a founding member of the Iranian Studies Group, offers a reason for the relative success of Iranian-Americans compared to other immigrants. He believes that, unlike many other immigrants who left their home countries because of economic hardships, Iranians left due to social or religious reasons like the 1979 revolution.[53] About 50 percent of all working Iranian Americans are in professional and managerial occupations, a percentage greater than any other group in the United States (Bayor, 2011).[74]


The earliest Iranian professionals in the U.S. were physicians.[citation needed] They were mostly young trainees who worked as medical interns or residents. Some established themselves to continue practice beyond the residency stage. Their motives to extend their stay in the United States were more for professional than economic reasons. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in 1974 reported, in the Journal of American Medical Association, that, in 1971, the number of Iranian physicians in the U.S. was 1,625. The authors further studied the causes for immigration by sending questionnaire to all Iranian MDs in the United States. According to the 660 respondents, the main reasons for migration were mandatory two-years' military service, low salaries as compared to the United States, expensive housing, and socio-political reasons.[81]

In 2013, another report was published, in the Archive of Iranian Medicine (AIM), saying that, post-revolution, the number of Iranian medical school graduates in the United States had grown to 5,045. Those who migrated to the U.S. after the 1979 revolution were mostly experienced physicians who came with their families and an intent to stay permanently. As of 2013, there are 5,050 Iranian medical school graduates in the United States.[82]

Prior to the revolution, the 1,626 physicians migrated to the United States were 15% of all Iranian medical school graduates, while the 5,045 medical graduates who migrated post-Islamic Revolution represent only 5% of total Iranian medical graduates. This is not indicative of the entire United States, merely of the areas in which most of the Iranian-American population is concentrated.[83]


Most important issues to the Iranian-American community

Though Iranian-Americans have historically excelled in business, academia, and the sciences, they have traditionally shied away from participating in American politics or other civic activities.[12]

Iranian-Americans don't seem to engage in American Politics, the fact that only 10 percent of them voted in the 2004 election, according to surveys in large American cities, is evidence of this. The group that published this information urged Iranian-Americans to come together and vote, in order to make a difference in how the United States foreign policy operates with regards to Iran.[84]

An August 2008 Zogby International poll, commissioned by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, found that approximately one-half of Iranian Americans identified themselves as registered Democrats, in contrast to one in eight as Republicans and one in four as independents (2008).[72]

The same poll indicates that more than half of Iranian Americans cite domestic U.S. issues, including issues that are not unique to Iranian Americans, as the most important to them. In contrast, one quarter of Iranian Americans cite foreign policy issues involving U.S.-Iran relations and less than one-in-ten cite the internal affairs of Iran as being of greatest importance to them.[72]

From 1980 to 2004, more than one out of every four Iranian immigrants was a refugee or asylee.[10] The PAAIA/Zogby poll cites that almost three-quarters of Iranian-Americans believe the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran is the most important issue relating to U.S.-Iran relations. About the same percentage, however, believe diplomacy is the foreign policy approach towards Iran that would be in the best interest of the United States. 84% support establishing a U.S. Interest Section in Iran.[72] Nearly all Iranian Americans surveyed oppose any U.S. military attack against Iran.[85]

Ties to Iran[]

According to a survey conducted in 2009, more than six in ten Iranian Americans have immediate family members in Iran, and almost three in ten communicate with their families or friends in Iran at least several times a week. An additional four in ten communicate with their families or friends in Iran at least several times a month. This study indicates an unusually close relationship between Iranian-Americans and Iranians.[85]

As of 2013, U.S. laws require U.S. persons to obtain a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to engage in transactions related to the sale of their personal property in Iran.[86] Similarly, US persons will need a license from OFAC to open a bank account or transfer money to Iran.[87]

Travel to Iran[]

The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran.[88] The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. The Iranian authorities make the determination of a dual national's Iranian citizenship without regard to personal wishes.[88] In 2016, the U.S. Department of State warned U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Iran. In some instances, foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and Western countries including the United States, have been detained or prevented from leaving Iran.[88]


According to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, nearly half of Iranian-Americans surveyed in 2008 by Zogby International have experienced or personally know Iranian Americans who have experienced discrimination due to their ethnicity, religion, or country of origin. The most common types of discrimination reported are airport security check, social discrimination, racial profiling, employment or business discrimination and discrimination at the hands of immigration officials.[72]

In 2009 Martin Kramer, a Harvard professor, warned about the dangers of allowing Iranian Americans to get too close to power during the 2009 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference:[89]

Notable people[]

Business/technology: Iranian-Americans are among the most educated and successful communities in the U.S., according to a report by the Iranian Studies group at MIT. Iranian-Americans have founded, or hold senior leadership positions at, many major US companies, including Fortune 500 companies such as GE, Intel, Citigroup, Verizon, Motorola, Google, and AT&T.[90] Pierre Omidyar, founder/CEO of eBay is of Iranian origin, as well as is the founder of Bratz, Isaac Larian. Hamid Biglari is Vice-Chairman of Citicorp.[91] Bob Miner was the co-founder of Oracle Corporation and the producer of Oracle's relational database management system.[92] In 2006, Anousheh Ansari, co-founder of the Ansari X Prize, became the first female tourist in space. Ansari is also the co-founder and former CEO of Prodea Systems, Inc., and Telecom Technologies, Inc. Other well known Iranian-American entrepreneurs include designer Bijan Pakzad, entrepreneur Sam Nazarian, business executive Hamid Akhavan, former CEO of Unify GmbH & Co. KG (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications),[93] Omid Kordestani of Twitter and former Senior Vice President of Google, CEO of YouTube Salar Kamangar, Sina Tamaddon of Apple Inc., and Shahram Dabiri Lead Producer for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft from 1999 to 2007.

Philanthropy: Many Iranian-Americans are active philanthropists and leaders in improving their community. In 2006, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was the recipient of a $10 million donation from an Iranian-American couple based in Houston, Texas.[94][95] The University of Southern California was the recipient of a $17 million gift from an Iranian-American,[96] as was San Francisco State University which received a $10 million gift from an Iranian-American couple.[97] Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital received $4 million;[98] Portland State University, $8 million;[99] and UC Irvine, $30 million.[100][101]

Science/academia: Well known Iranian-Americans in science include Firouz Naderi, a director at NASA; Ali Javan, inventor of the first gas laser; Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female winner of the Fields Medal; Nima Arkani-Hamed, a leading theoretical physicist; cancer biologist Mina J. Bissell; Gholam A. Peyman, the inventor of LASIK; Lotfi Asker Zadeh; Vartan Gregorian; Cumrun Vafa; Babak Hassibi; Nouriel Roubini; Ali Hajimiri; Pardis Sabeti; Vahid Tarokh; George Bournoutian; and Rashid Massumi, M.D., a pioneer in the fields of electrophysiology and cardiology. Prominent Iranian-Americans in American higher education include Rahmat Shoureshi, researcher, professor, and provost of New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) and Nariman Farvardin, president of Stevens Institute of Technology.

Media/entertainment: Well-known American media personalities of Iranian descent include Christiane Amanpour of ABC News and CNN; Daron Malakian, member of the rock band System of a Down;[102] Susie Gharib, of Nightly Business Report; Asieh Namdar; Roya Hakakian; Yara Shahidi; and Rudi Bakhtiar. There are several Iranian American actors, comedians and filmmakers, including the Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Shohreh Aghdashloo, actresses Catherine Bell, Sarah Shahi, Nadia Bjorlin, Nasim Pedrad, Desiree Akhavan, Sheila Vand, Necar Zadegan, and Bahar Soomekh, actor Adrian Pasdar, comedians Max Amini and Maz Jobrani, filmmakers Bavand Karim and Kamshad Kooshan, producers Bob Yari and Farhad Safinia, author and performer Shahram Shiva, and artist and filmmaker Daryush Shokof. There are also notable American YouTube personalities of Iranian descent, including JonTron.

Sports: Professional tennis player Andre Agassi, NFL football players T. J. Houshmandzadeh, David Bakhtiari and Shar Pourdanesh, professional wrestlers Shawn Daivari and The Iron Sheik, professional mixed martial artist Amir Sadollah, professional soccer players Sobhan Tadjalli, Alecko Eskandarian and Steven Beitashour, and professional baseball player Yu Darvish.

Politics and Law: The son of the late Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, lives in the United States, as well as several high-ranking officials in the Shah's administration, such as Hushang Ansary and Jamshid Amouzegar. Goli Ameri is the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs from 2008 to 2009, during which she was the highest-ranking Iranian-American public official in the United States. Beverly Hills elected its first Iranian-born Mayor, Jimmy Delshad, in 2007.[103][104] Bob Yousefian served as the mayor of Glendale, California from 2004–2005. In November 2011, Anna M. Kaplan was elected Councilwoman in the Town of North Hempstead, New York, becoming the first Iranian-American to be elected to a major municipal office in New York State.[105] Cyrus Amir-Mokri, who was appointed as the Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions by President Obama, is the highest ranking Iranian-American official in government as of 2012.[106] In November 2012, Cyrus Habib of Washington state and Adrin Nazarian of California became the first Iranian-Americans elected to state legislatures. Habib is now the Lieutenant Governor of Washington and the first Iranian-American elected to any statewide office. Champaign County (Ohio) elected Fereidoun Shokouhi to the public office of Champaign County Engineer in 1995. He served until his retirement in 2012.

Azadeh Shahshahani is a human rights attorney based in Atlanta and is a former president of the National Lawyers Guild.[107][108]

See also[]


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