Category Archives: youth voices

international dance

Last week, on Sunday morning while the streets of New York City showed small signs of spring but cold winter winds could still freeze my bones early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to Manhattan for a special event.  The Iranian community in New York (and many other parts of the world) had organized a parade in the city for celebrating the Persian New Year, Norooz of 1387.  I was a part of one of the dance groups representing a nomadic tribe in Iran, the Qashgai’s.  We got ready on the bus and by the time we got to our destination, the sun began to shine to some how help us through.  The wind in Manhattan gets blinding sometimes, especially when you are used to the California weather.  When our bus approached the location of the Parade, we saw little kids with the Iranian flag painted on their cheeks, young people holding the Iranian and American flags together, yelling “Norooz Mobarak” meaning Happy New Year.  When they saw us, the color of our costumes made their smiles wider and voices louder, they waved at us showing their excitement and support.  A huge crowd of Iranians and non-Iranians were gathered on the two sides of the street, holding multi-national flags, cheering us on.  When we started dancing, I was cold in the beginning and my eyes were watery due to the wind.  After a few seconds, I forgot all about myself and immediately melted with the energy of the crowd and what was going on around me.  It was like a slow motion experience, when I was watching the crowd from above.  I looked around me to see my friends dancing with me or the people yelling “dametoon garm, thank you, beautiful” and saw many different faces.  In our group of Qashqai dancers, there was only one Iranian and one half-Iranian, the rest were from all over the world.  There I was among a group of dancers from the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Tajikistan, and Iran, dressed in traditional Qashgai costumes, dancing like the nomadic women of the mountains in Iran.  I bet the Qashgai women have no idea that such an international group was trying to be like them in the streets of Manhattan on the other side of the planet.  Next time I go to Iran, if I go to the mountains and stay with the Qashgai’s for a few days, would they believe me when I tell them about my experience in America? How would they feel about it?






We are living in a magical age, experiencing so much unity and having access to much information is bringing us closer to each other.  Despite the current direction of the governments that try to advocate separation while demonizing others, we are moving toward unity at a fast pace, in my opinion.  I felt this when I was in the middle of the Parade dancing and I feel it today as I see people with many nationalities here in the streets of Berkeley, protesting against the Chinese invasion of Tibet.  I felt it when an Indian taxi driver in New York asked me what this event was about and when I told him it’s for the Persian New Year, he said: “oh yes, Happy Norooz to you and to all Iranians.”  Becoming global does not mean to forget about our backgrounds, cultures, costumes, histories, and traditions.  In my opinion, unity and globalization is about being aware of what a girl my age is going through in Baghdad, what a mother needs to do to survive in Darfur, how a young boy struggles to earn money for his family and study at the same time in southern Tehran, what games children play and what they learn in school in Kabul, how many people spend their youth in prisons in China, and how Qashgai women dance in the mountains of Iran.  We don’t need to travel to all these places to know how; we only need to care and once we sit behind the magical screen and type the name, hundreds of links show up to take us to the places we like.  We only need to care and it is my responsibility to get to know you on a deeper level and go beyond our surficial differences, so that we can together prevent hatred and war in the future and among our children and grand children.  


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Filed under Africa, America, Communication, culture, India, Iran, lessons, life, traditions, War, youth, youth voices

iran and brain drain

The International Monetary Fund recently surveyed 61 countries and concluded that every year more than 150,000 educated young Iranians leave their home country to find a better life abroad.  According to IMF, Iran has the highest rate of “brain drain” in the world.  In our recent trip to Iran, I heard from one of the professors at Sharif Institute of Technology that about 60-70% of their graduates leave the country every year (Sharif being the best technical school in the country, and in some programs one of the best in the world).  As these young talents leave their home, there is less hope for a brighter future for those who remain…

brain-drain.jpg  photo courtesy of BBC

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Filed under Iran, unemployment dilemma, youth, youth voices

youth and communications technology

In our recent trip to Iran I noticed the interesting relationship between the youth and communications technology as means for expressing their ideas and creativity or as a sign of protest against some old beliefs they passionately disagree with.  In a country of 68 million people, the youth in Iran form about 70 percent of the population.  The existing networks of communications among young Iranians now seem to constitute the strongest form of networking that create their own rules and regulations by expressing themselves through visual media, audio, etc.  New means of communication networks which did not exist until a few years ago appear to have changed the way young Iranians think and for the most part have created new opportunities to work with Iranian youth in different fields.   


Image borrowed from

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Filed under Communication, Iran, Technology, War, youth, youth voices

portal for development information

I found the website of the nonprofit organization, the Development Gateway Foundation, an extremely useful resource for learning about international best practices in poverty reduction and development. Especially striking is the Youth for Development initiative being led by UN-HABITAT posted on the website. In the previous post, I questioned how young people’s voices can be incorporated into the development process. UN-HABITAT addresses similar concerns and recognizes youth as active participants by initiating and fostering partnerships with youth organizations worldwide.

Read about the Youth for Development initiative here:

Picture courtesy of IRIN

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Filed under development, policy, youth voices

the youth question in iran


Like many countries in the Middle East, Iran is currently facing a youth crisis wherein half of the population is between the ages of 15-24 and more than 30 percent are unemployed. Hidden within this figure are those young people who comprise the one in seven Iranians living under 1 USD/day. We find that there’s a widespread belief within the country that one of the main reasons for these young people’s low standing on the socio-economic ladder is that their skills and education are not meeting the demands of jobs in the Iranian economy (skills mismatch). Therefore, development projects often focus on improving technical skills (for example, computer training) in the hopes that these initiatives will provide greater access to the labor market and thus, greater economic security.

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Filed under skills mismatch, unemployment dilemma, youth voices