The Iranian Association at the University of Toronto (IAUT) is the home of over 800 members who have contributed, participated and learned from each other and from the events held at IAUT.
Alidad a good friend of mine and a great colleague (we worked together at the IAUT board last year) has refelcted on his experience with IAUT as an Iranian association.
Here is what he has to say:
On the eve IAUT's annual election (tomorrow, Saturday
3:00 pm at OISE 252 Bloor West Rm 4422), the
uniqueness of the organization and its history and
future are worth revisiting.
For about a decade now, I have been interested in the
composition of Iranian organizations in North America.
Unlike many nationalities who are well organized --
Armenian, Israeli, Chinese, etc.-- Iranians abroad,
especially those in the U.S., have not created
substantial organizations that can express their
collective interests and needs. This was on full
display to me in late April, as I attended the two-day
Iranian Diaspora conference at the University of
Maryland at College Park, located in the Washington
D.C. area. A meticulously designed event, it was
addressed by noted Iranian-American journalists such
as Afshin Molavi and Tara Bahrampour, artists, and
community organizers, as well as Jian Ghoemshi and
Heide Moghissi from Toronto. Yet of the close to
100,000 Iranians who live in the D.C. area only about
100 came to the event! Why is this so? What if the
same event had been hosted in Toronto? This is a topic
for research and reflection, especially for those in
academia working on "transnationalism," "diasporas,"
"immigration," or "globalization" studies.
The Iranian community in Toronto is vibrant and on the
verge of establishing organizations that express its
collective interests and will: the list of some
two-dozen orgnizations that made up the Bam-Iran
Earthquake Relief Committee, as well as the dozen or
more organizations that have recently created
"Kanoun-e-Sepas" show that Iranians in Toronto -- and
increasingly elsewhere in this country and, slowly,
this continent, are pooling together their resources,
engaging in team work and undertaking coordinated and
sustained social and cultural projects.
Among all these organizations, however, none that I
know of has the intellectual and creative energy of
IAUT. Given how much the organization has done since
1999, -- the year it was created around Ramin
Jahanbegloo's ideas and philosophy--it is truly
inspiring to take stock of the dozens of conferences,
seminars, movie showings, artistic displays and
musical performances that IAUT's board members and
their affiliates have organized, especially noticeable
in the last two years. In many ways IAUT has become a
key intellectual home for the Iranian-Canadian
community, over half of whom live in Toronto.
I would like to cordially thank the 9 members of the
board of directors for this year-- and the subcommittee members -- for their seminal contributions to the cultural life of Iranians on this continent. We have been invaluably enriched by their
presence and their work: an unprecedented week-long
lecture series with Professor Eslami-Nodushan --
especially the co-lecture on Mowlana by Professor
Shirin Bayani, an energy-filled session with Dariush
on addiction and responses, a choir that attracted
over 600 people to its opening night, the famous
Colours of Iran event at Hart House, and many other
events have given us a boost of spirit. IAUT has
become, in the words of a friend, "an andishgah" of
sorts. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that
without it my own mental life would have been set back