Persian POWER  (continued)

The cream of the crop

This trait may explain the success of Iranian-Americans in the professions: They see education
as an asset that can last throughout their lifetimes. In general, they want stability and are not
after the quick buck.

The Moshayedi brothers ­ Manouch, Mike and Mark ­ are examples of this class of educated
Iranian-Americans. SimpleTech, the computer memory company they founded in 1990, is one of
Orange County’s leading high-tech firms, employing 400 people. The company manufactures
and markets a comprehensive line of more than 2,500 memory and storage products through a
worldwide network of distributors. All 3 brothers are engineers, and Mark and Manouch hold
MBAs, as well.

Makarechian, 30, is president and CEO of Makar Properties. Besides owning the $350 million
St. Regis Resort and Spa, the UC Santa Barbara graduate is developing luxury hotels and
communities from La Jolla to Palm Beach, including Pacific City in Huntington Beach, a high-
end, oceanfront project that will include 516 condominiums; 191,000 square feet of retail,
restaurant and office space; and a 400-room resort hotel. Born in Tehran, he grew up in the
Untied States after his father, Hadi Makarechian, fled from post-revolutionary Iran.
Farzad Nazem
Yahoo! Inc. -Chief Technical Officer and Executive
Vice President, Engineering and Site Operations
“The mullah’s loss is America’s gain,” adds attorney Babak Sotoodeh of Tustin, founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian- Americans.
“Imagine what has happened ­ the cream of educated Iranian society has moved here, bringing all their skills with them.”

“The mullah’s loss is America’s gain,” adds attorney Babak Sotoodeh of Tustin, founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian- Americans.
“Imagine what has happened ­ the cream of educated Iranian society has moved here, bringing all their skills with them.”

Some attended Iranian universities and immigrated; more attended American graduate schools and stayed on after earning advanced
degrees, often working at menial jobs as they worked to become established. According to the old joke, “You could always tell which taxi
driver is Persian ­ he’s the one with Ph.D. on his license.”

In fact, the Persian community in the United States consisted mainly of students and former students until the “Islamic Revolution” of 1979
forced an entire educated class to emigrate. Many were loyal to a secular monarchy, others feared being sucked up by the meat grinder of
the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq war, still others saw their businesses dry up as wealthy clerics gained a stranglehold on the national economy.

Dr. Fardad Fateri of Newport Coast was typical of the student-immigrants: He came to this country in 1981, when he was 16. He received a
BA from UC Irvine, an MA in social sciences from Cal State Fullerton and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from U.S. International in San
Diego ­ now called Alliant International University. He later did post-doctoral work at Harvard.

Dr. Fateri maintains that Iranian-American’s high level of education has allowed them to slip into the American mainstream with
unprecedented speed. “The Iranian community has culturally assimilated faster than every other community that I have studied. Persians
have been here in large numbers only since the 1980s, but we live among the general population rather than in isolated neighborhoods,
and we intermarry.”
 
Building a community

Dr. Fateri suspects that an important reason why Iranian-Americans have chosen to assimilate is the collapse of religious interest in their
native country. “Only non-Muslim Iranians, such as Bahais, Jews and Zoroastrians, are tied to their religious communities; the rest of us don’
t think that way. We are just Iranians.

“In Iran, there is nothing left to believe in, which can make us cynics ­ disappointed idealists.”
Throughout American history, new immigrant communities organized around churches, synagogues and even Buddhist temples. They also
tended to move into distinct, ethnic neighborhoods.
While there is a local Shiah mosque, few Iranian immigrants are religious. And while there is a concentration of immigrants in Irvine, they
live everywhere, from Seal Beach to San Clemente. As a result, they don’t yet have a network of social service organizations. There is, for
example, no Iranian-American equivalent of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, a secular umbrella group whose constituent
organizations provide everything from day care to lunches for seniors.

But they are trying, by using the one tool a community of sophisticated professionals knows very well: networking.

“Our initial strategy is to connect the community through business and cultural networking,” says Hossein Hosseini, president of the
Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County.
NIPOC sponsors social mixers, an annual trade show and the famous “Mehregan Persian Harvest Festival,” which attracts 20,000 people to
the Orange County Fairgrounds every fall for a 2-day, 12-hour festival of food, live music, traditional costumes, games ­ and more food.
“Mehregan originated with the ancient Persian Zoroastrian religion followed by our ancestors,” says Hosseini. “The date is normally set by
the ancient Persian calendar, but in America, Mehregan isn’t a national holiday, so we have to schedule it on a weekend. This year it is on
Oct. 2 and 3.”
Hosseini hopes to see his organization become a seed for a more organized Iranian-American community. “Eventually, we hope to be able
to hire an executive director, and provide a broad array of educational and charitable services.”
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