As the 1979 Revolution broke out, thousands of Iranians fled to the United States. Mostly students and professionals, these refugees decided to settle here and built a thriving community.
As a reaction to the Iranian regime’s repression of artistic freedom, Iranian-American groups in the US became active in various cultural activities. Today, members of the Persian community and other ethnicities are represented in film, television, and visual arts. Get to know some of them below.
Born on July 21, 1978, Ala Ebtekar is a visual artist, educator, and researcher based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his BFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002 and his MFA from Stanford University in 2006. His works include paintings, drawings, and installations that explore the convergence of history and myth.
A son of Iranian activist parents, Ebtekar explores the spaces between cultures, both shared and separated, in his creations. In addition to his solo shows, he has displayed his works at various group exhibitions in California, Texas, Hawaii, Germany, and Dubai.
Born Aahoo Jahansouz in Texas, Sarah Shahi is an Iranian-American television actress. Her father’s family fled Iran two years before the 1979 Revolution.
Shahi got her start as an extra on the set of Dr. T and the Women, where she was encouraged by director Robert Altman to move to Hollywood. Since then, she has successfully landed roles in several series, including Alias, Dawson’s Creek, and Supernatural. She also appeared in HBO’s The Sopranos. Most recently, she had a recurring role in ABC’s The Rookie.
Maz is an Iranian-American comedian, actor, and author. Born in Tehran in 1972, he was six years old when he moved to the US with his family.
After taking up political science and Italian at the University of California in Berkeley,Mazenrolled in a Ph.D. program at UCLA.He then switched career paths and pursued acting and performing comedy.
Maz has appeared on various talk shows, series, and films. He had two Showtime specials, called Brown and Friendly and I Come in Peace. He has also given two TED talks on the topic of breaking stereotypes through comedy. As an author, he recently published the book, I’m Not a Terrorist But I’ve Played One on TV.
Born Shohreh Vaziri-Tabar in 1952 in Tehran, the veteran actress caught Hollywood’s attention in The House of Sand and Fog. For that film, she became the first Iranian nominated for an Academy Award.
Aghdashloo started acting in Iran at the age of 18. During the 1979 Revolution, she left her home country for Windermere, Cumbria, England, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in international relations. She still pursued her acting career, which eventually led her to Los Angeles.
These are just some personalities that inspire thousands of Iranians living in the US. If there’s one thing the success of these notable artists can show, it’s that Iranian-American culture and identity has gone a long way since the 1979 uprising.