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Iranian Americans Use Tech to Show Success Stories


Pirooz Parvarandeh, a longtime Silicon Valley executive helped create the Iranian Americans' Contribution Project, a nonprofit that uses technology to gather and analyze data about Iranian Americans. (M. Quinn/VOA)

Pirooz Parvarandeh has been an executive in the technology industry for many years. He is also an Iranian American. But Paravarandeh believes Iranian Americans are subject to many negative stereotypes.

A stereotype is a widely held but often wrong or oversimplified idea about a group of people.

One reason is that even Iranian Americans themselves do not know about the many success stories of their group, he said.

So Parvarandeh helped set up what he calls the “Iranian Americans’ Contribution Project.” It collected 200,000 Iranian last names and 70,000 first names. It uses the internet to search jobs held by people with these Iranian names.

So far, the project has found more than 9,000 doctors and 3,000 dentists.

It also found that Iranian Americans have received at least 40,000 patents. Patents are given to people who invent new products or processes.

Parvarandeh hopes the information will cause people to reject negative images of Iranian Americans.

“What images come up with “Iranian?” A terrorist? A hostage-taker? Or a contributing member of society,” he asked during a recent talk at the University of California, Berkeley.

“If we don’t know the contributions of Iranian Americans, how can we expect the American public to know? If the public is not with us, why would policymakers want to stick up for us?”

About one million Iranians now live in the United States, mostly in California.

The Iranian Americans’ Contributions Project started last year. But it grew more interest this year after Iran was listed among countries included in the first and second travel bans called for by the Trump administration. Both orders have been blocked temporarily by federal judges.

Parvarandeh hopes his new project will show Americans the many contributions being made by Iranian Americans.

Immigrant groups in America have long considered how best to both “assimilate,” or fit in,” and remain proud of their culture.

For Iranian Americans, this has been made more difficult by continuing tensions between the United States and Iran. Those tensions date back to the seizing and holding of 52 American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran from November 1979 to January 1981.

The internet effort to identify important jobs done by Iranian Americans is not always successful. The second generation of Iranian Americans and people marrying non-Iranian Americans means more have taken on American sounding names.

But Parvarandeh hopes that Iranian Americans will reach out to his project. It uses both information collected on the internet, and interviews with Iranian Americans.

Abe Kasbo is founder and chief executive officer of Verasoni Worldwide. It is a marketing and public relations company with offices in New Jersey and Texas. Kasbo decided too many Americans do not know about the contributions of Arab Americans.

That led him to produce the 2016 film, “A Thousand and One Journeys.” It includes interviews with successful Arab Americans. He hopes the movie will show people the important contributions made by Arab-Americans.

Among those interviewed for the movie were former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, actor Jamie Farr, political activist Ralph Nader and the late journalist, Helen Thomas.

Actor Jamie Farr.

Actor Jamie Farr.

Kasbo said people who watch the movie will learn about just some of the noteworthy contributions” by Arab Americans.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Michelle Quinn reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

negative - adj. thinking about the bad qualities of someone or something

contributing - adj. to help to cause something to happen

society - n. people living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values

interview - n. to ask someone questions

noteworthy - adj. significant or important

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