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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEIranian Refugees in America: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
AUTHOR 1Frank Lewis
AUTHOR 2Puran Stevens
PUB_THISBahá'í Refugee Office of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of the United States
ABSTRACTIntroduction to Persian culture, history, and customs, designed as an aid in cultural understanding for Americans interacting with Iranian emigrants.
TAGSCultural differences; Iran (documents); Persian culture; Persian diaspora; Taaruf (Tarof); United States (documents)
             Table of Contents

Introduction                                          1

Who are the Iranians?                                 3

      The Persian Language                            3
      Cultural Heritage                               4
      A Brief History of Iran                         4
      Modern Iran                                     6
      Map                                             6
      Persian Names                                   8
             First Names                              8
             Last Names                               8
      Examples of Persian Alphabet and Handwriting   10

Cultural Differences                                 11

      Time                                           11
      Rules and Regulations                          12
      Ritual Courtesy and Hospitality (Tarot)        13
      Telephone Manners                              14
      Visiting Friends                               14
      Relatives and Family Members                   15
      Relations between the Sexes                    16
      Education                                      17
      Work                                           17
      Saving Face                                    18
      Social Prejudice                               19
      Food and Hospitality                           19
      Dress                                          20
      Cleanliness                                    20
      Sports                                         21
      Traveling                                      21
      The Persian Calendar and Naw Ruz (No Rooz)     21

Suggested Further Readings                           23

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This booklet was developed in response to the need of various organizations, institutions, local communities and individuals who deal with Iranian refugees in the United States.

In the second half of the 1970s a growing number of Iranian students came to this country to attend American universities. Many of these students chose to remain here when revolution broke out in Iran, and many have now become permanent residents. Since the beginning of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, refugees from Iran have also been coming to this country, and although their number does not compare to that of Southeast Asian refugees, they constitute a significant and growing refugee population in the United States. In some highly-impacted areas such as Los Angeles, large ethnic Iranian communities have developed.

This booklet will help to give those working with Iranians a better idea of their history and culture and hopefully eliminate, or at least illuminate, some of the misunderstandings that usually occur when different cultural values and systems are first brought into daily interaction. Of course, an entire culture can not be explained in a handbook, and what is written here should be understood as general guidelines and salient points. It should furthermore be remembered that we are speaking here in generalizations, and there is a considerable amount of variation from one individual Iranian to another.

It has been the experience of the Bahá'í Community, whose 100,000 members in this country include about 7,000 Iranians, that integration takes place more rapidly and more easily when the newly-arrived refugees are not settled in

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areas where there is already a large ethnic Iranian community (such as Los Angeles, New York City, etc.). The more contact the new refugees have with Americans, the more quickly they will become functioning members of the society around them.

A companion volume is also available in Persian, which attempts to highlight certain salient features of American culture and society for the Iranian refugees.

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Who are the Iranians?

The Iranian peoples are cousins to Americans of European descent; extremely distant cousins, but nevertheless one in origin. More than six thousand years ago the peoples now living in Europe, Iran and India spoke one common language. There are no historical examples of that language extant (writing had not yet been invented), but we do know from linguistic evidence that these people all came from one original stock and spoke one common language, Indo-European.

The Persian Language

Today, the official language of Iran is Persian, or as it is called in Persian, "Farsi" (Persia is the old name for the country of Iran, and the words "Iranian" and "Persian" are used here interchangeably). Persian is an Indo-European language, and is distantly related to English. However, it has been heavily influenced by the spread of Islam, which brought with it the script of the Arabs and a sizeable Arabic vocabulary. Persian is one of the richest literary languages in the world, especially where poetry is concerned. Many European poets like Goethe, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold and Edward Fitzgerald (who translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam) were greatly influenced by Persian poets.

Some traces of the common heritage of the Indo-European peoples can still be found in English and Persian, including both cognate words and loan words that can be historically traced. For example, the English word "mother" is cognate to the Persian word "madar." So are the words "brother" and "baradar" and the words "daughter" and "dokhtar."

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The English word "paradise" was handed down from ancient Greek (the Greeks were also an Indo-European people), which had in turn taken the word from ancient Persian, in which "ferdose" was used to mean an enclosed garden.

Cultural Heritage

Iranians are proud of their heritage. In addition to some of the world's greatest poets, Iran has produced some of the most important figures in the history of medieval philosophy, astronomy and medicine, like Avicenna. Algebra, for example, was developed by Iranian mathematicians. Many fruits and flowers found their way from Persia to Greece and Rome during antiquity (peaches, lemons, limes). The game of Chess came to Europe through Spain and the Arabs, who had gotten it from the Iranians. The word "Checkmate" is from the Persian phrase "Shah Mat," meaning "the King is confounded." It came into Old French as "eschec mat" along with the game of chess and eventually worked its way into English. Backgammon is another game that came from Iran.

The numerals we use today are called Arabic numerals, and they were passed on to us during medieval times from India to Iran and then to the Arab Muslims in the south of Spain. A long tradition of mathematics still flourishes today, and many Iranians are among the top students in universities throughout the world in math-related fields like engineering, medicine and computers.

A Brief History of Iran

Man's earliest known civilizations flourished in the areas just east of present day Iran, or Persia, as it was formerly known. In the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., the great empires of Cyrus and Darius stretched from nearly one end of the known world to the other. The Greek historian Herodotus

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wrote his famous Persian Wars as a chronicle of the long wars fought between the Greeks and Persians, who were the two superpowers of the day. Finally, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. Gradually, however, the Persians re-emerged as a great dynasty during the early Christian era and fought many battles with the Byzantines over the territories of the Middle East.

In the 7th Century, Iran was conquered by the Arabs. The Arabs brought with them their new religion, Islam, to the previously Zoroastrian land of Iran. After two or three centuries, the great majority of Iranians had converted to Islam. Soon, many local Muslim Persian dynasties began to gain power, replacing the Arab rulers. During the Middle Ages, a long line of invaders from the east began to sweep through Iran and the rest of the Middle East. First came the Turkish nomads, and then the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, then Tamerlane. Despite these many invasions and the damage that was done to cities and the population, Iran was one of the most important centers of culture in the medieval Islamic World, and the culture of that world was, until the European Renaissance, probably the most advanced that man had ever known.

In the 16th century Iran was ruled by the Safavids, another Turkish dynasty, which made Shi'ism the state religion of Iran, and converted the Iranians, who at the time were mostly Sunni Muslims, to Shi'ism. Today well over 90% of Iranians are Shi'ite Muslims.

Although it was never colonized, Iran has been dominated by foreign powers for much of the 19th and 20th century. From 1905 to 1911 a Constitutional Revolution took place, which forced the Iranian monarchy to rule the country in conjunction with a Parliament. In 1979 the monarchy was abolished, and the Islamic Revolutionary government took power.

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Modern Iran

Iran is a country of 630,000 square miles, about the same size as the southwestern United States--California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona combined. The population of Iran is approximately 43 million people, which is about the same as England. Iran is bordered on the east by Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the north by the Caspian Sea and the Soviet Union, in the west by Turkey and Iraq, and to the south by the Persian Gulf.

Although we have been conditioned to think of Iran and Iranians as a monolithic entity, in reality Iran is a very diverse country. For example, in addition to the Shi'ite majority, there are many Sunnis (especially among the Kurds and Turkmen), about 350,000 Bahá'ís, 200,000 Christians, 70,000 Jews, and 25,000 Zoroastrians.

Despite the fact that Persian (Farsi) is the official language of Iran and the primary vehicle of Iranian culture and history, nearly half the country's population speaks a mother tongue

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other than Persian. Additional languages include Azari, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic and several other Iranian dialects. All Iranian school children, however, are taught in Persian.

There are many regional dialects, and regional differences of culture. To the northwest, between the borders of Turkey and the Soviet Union, lies the province of Azarbayjan and its capital city, Tabriz. This area is largely populated by Azari Turks, whose mother tongue is a blend of Turkish and Persian.

The western part of Iran is populated by a large number of Kurds, who have a strong sense of ethnic identity and have been agitating, along with the Kurds of Iraq, for political autonomy. To the south, in the area where most of the fighting with Iraq has been taking place, many Iranians of Arab heritage live. There are also nomadic tribes of Turkish ancestry like the Qashqa'i, who live in the central areas of the country.

Tehran, on the other hand, is a sprawling urban metropolis, in many ways like any large modem city of the west. It is the capital of the country, and with a population of about 6 million, has about as many inhabitants as Chicago and Los Angeles combined. Most Iranians probably spent at least some time in Tehran before coming to the United States.

Urban refugees from the major cities in Iran like Tehran, Shiraz, Abadan, Tabriz and Isfahan will not have as much difficulty adjusting to life in the United States. They will be well-accustomed to western goods and some western customs. Refugees coming directly from small towns and villages, however, may need some kind of orientation to western products and appliances, etc. However, the literacy rate for Iran is high for the Third World, so the overwhelming majority of the

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refugees will be literate in Persian, and may have at least some familiarity with English (in the case of younger Iranians) or French (usually in the case of older Iranians), both of which were taught in the schools as a second language.

Persian Names


During the nineteenth century in Iran, male children were often named after the revered heroes of Shi'i Islam; Muhammad (after the Prophet), 'Ali (after the son-in-law of the Prophet and the first Imam of the Shi'ites), Husayn (after 'Ali's martyred son), Reza (after the eighth Imam) were common names. Girls were often named after Shi'ite heroines like Fatimeh (the daughter of Muhammad). Many of these names are still popular, and are often used in combination, as in the boy's names Muhammad-Ali and Muhammad-Reza. Frequently the attributes of God are used as first names, as in Rahmatollah (the Mercy of God) or Qodratollah (the Might of God).

Nowadays Persian names tend to be chosen from ancient Iranian history and mythology. Some of the favorite men s names are Manuchehr, Farhad or Bahram, legendary historical figures from pre-Islamic Iran. Some popular women's names include Roya (dream or vision), Naheed (Venus), Mozhdeh (glad-tidings), Forough (splendor) and Ferdows (paradise).


Until about sixty years ago when Reza Shah (the father of the late Shah) passed laws requiring all Iranians to adopt a first and last name along western lines, Persian last names were often derived from the name of the city where the

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individual was born or the city where he lived. Let's take, for example, the famous poet Omar Khayyam Nayshaburi. His given name is Omar; Khayyam, which means "tent-maker," refers to the profession of his father (as in the English family names Baker, Smith, Shoemaker, etc.); finally, he was from the city of Nayshabur in eastern Iran, and hence, Nayshaburi (of Nayshabur) is added to his name (as in some medieval European names, like Julian of Norwich, St. Francis of Assisi, etc.).

Many modern Persian last names were derived from this principle, after the city where someone was born. For example, the following names are common: Kirmani, Tehrani, Shirazi, Sanandaji, Isfahani, Tabrizi, Yazdi, etc.

Other modern Persian family names were derived from the father's first name, along the same pattern as the English surnames Johnson, Jackson, Peterson, etc. The Persian suffixes "Zadeh" and "Pur" mean "born of' or "son of' and are used in connection with a male ancestor's name, as in the last names Alizadeh, Hassanzadeh, Radpur, Behzadpur, etc.

Iranians will generally expect those who don't know them personally to address them by their last names (e.g., Mr. Jamalzadeh, Mrs. Deilamian, etc.).

Because Persian is written in a different script, the English spelling of Persian names may vary. For example, Isfahani/Esfahani, Mohammed/Muhammad, Roohani/Rouhani/Ruhani etc. are simply different ways of transliterating the same Persian names.

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Example of Persian Alphabet

The transliteration table which follows has been approved by the American Library Association and the Library of Congress.

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Cultural Differences

Of course, there are large variations of culture and custom among the different peoples and regions of Iran, and there is, in addition to this, always considerable variation from person to person, as there is among Americans or any other people. However, the following observations can be considered general tendencies and characteristics, which, although not necessarily true for every individual, should be remembered in interactions with Iranians.


Generally speaking, western industrialized cultures emphasize schedules and the planning of events around separate and distinct blocks of time. Such a system tends to place great value in task completion, accomplishment, productivity, individuality and order. Iranian culture, conversely, emphasizes people, human relationships, family ties, togetherness and attending to things based on priority of importance rather than according to schedule.

For example, a typical American will try very hard to meet an important deadline. If family or personal matters arise, he may not deal with them until after the work is completed. For a typical Iranian, on the other hand, if his uncle falls ill, he may very well ignore the deadline and spend time with his uncle until he recuperates. This is typical and expected behavior for most Iranians, and they do not feel as if they are shirking their duties in such circumstances.

Also, the Iranian attitude toward time is different from the Western one. These differences are due to the cultural

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relativity of time, not to laziness on the part of Persians, or excessive rigidity on the part of Americans. Persians typically practice a kind of flex-time when visiting friends or going places, and do not expect to be anywhere at a precise hour. For example, if an Iranian is invited to a friend's home for dinner, he will usually show up late, at least in part to avoid the impression that he is overly eager to eat.

This may sometimes create problems or misunderstandings in the work place, and it might be good to emphasize that in America for business purposes and formal social occasions, people are expected to arrive exactly on time.

Rules and Regulations

Americans tend to hold official rules and regulations as inviolable and in most cases try to observe them. Middle Eastern culture, however, does not. Among Iranians, in many cases, one's ability to circumvent the system by personal connections or cleverness is taken as an indication of his social skill or his influence and stature within society. As an illustration, in the Middle East commercial transactions are commonly based on bargaining. In the U.S., if an American sees a listed price in a grocery store, he will decide whether it is a good buy or not and act accordingly. In the Middle East, if a shopper sees something in a store and thinks the advertised price too high, he will typically attempt to negotiate with the vendor until he gets a suitable price. Consequently, Persians in this country will often get better deals when purchasing automobiles, cameras, stereo equipment etc., than the average American might.

However, Iranians may also try to circumvent some systems in a way that is offensive to Americans, and this can sometimes make them

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seem overly aggressive. It is important to realize, though, that such behavior is not intended disrespectfully. To the average Middle Easterner, it is simply the conventional means for getting results in society.

Ritual Courtesy and Hospitality (Tarof)

Persian culture involves an elaborate system of ceremonial politesse. This system is known in Persian as Tarof. Typically, it dictates, for example, that when Iranians meet friends and acquaintances, proper greetings must be exchanged, including enquiries after the health of not only the individuals speaking, but also their family members. In social gatherings Iranians typically greet and acknowledge everyone present individually, and even after many years of friendship, adult Persians often address one another formally to show respect (Dr. Farrokhi, Mrs. Edalati, etc.). Also, for community events and large gatherings everyone is expected to be present. At weddings, for instance, even those who may barely know the bride and groom may be expected to attend, and their absence can be taken as an affront.

Iranians are usually very hospitable and will offer guests tea, fruits and sweets. As part of the ritual politesse, the guest generally declines the first offer or two, and finally graciously accepts, amid expressions of the host's kindness. Friends who drop by for a visit are also often asked to stay for meals.

Therefore, Iranians may be somewhat surprised if an American host offers them food and takes their first polite refusal at face value. Of course, the degree to which Tarof is practiced varies from individual to individual, and young people may not stand on ceremony as much as their elders.

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On the other hand, it is not unusual for some Persians to ask personal questions of others, such as how much money do you make, how much is your rent, why don't you get married, etc. This can sometimes seem pushy to Americans, though it often indicates friendship on the part of some Iranians.

Telephone Manners

Tarof demands a certain kind of ritual courtesy on the phone, too. When calling others, even for business reasons, it is customary for Persians to inquire after the other party's health and to address them with ceremonial honorific titles and polite compliments. The Straight-to-the-Point and business-like telephone manners of some Americans may seem rude to some Iranians, and may be taken as a lack of care for them as individuals.

Visiting Friends

Persians may invite friends over for an evening to have dinner and chat in front of the television. Americans may be bored by such an evening because they often feel they should be "doing" something -- going out somewhere or some other type of activity. For the typical Persian, the fact that he is among friends is what is important, not so much what is done or what happens, or even at what time it happens. Most Persians do not like to spend too much time alone, and are very glad to have company. Socializing is a very important aspect of Persian culture, and pictures are often taken when friends or relatives are together.

It is important that sponsors of refugees or others should greet the new arrivals, visit them in their homes and invite them to tea or dinner. It is part of their cultural expectation that newcomers

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should be greeted and visited. This will help make them feel welcome and wanted. One arrangement that has worked well in the Bahá'í community is to form Friendship Teams, where American members of the community are paired with new refugees as a kind of buddy system.

The refugees usually become very homesick after a short time here, but with help and encouragement from their new friends, they are able to overcome this to a large degree and participate actively in American society.

Relatives and Family Members

Iranians generally feel attached to their extended family members, and will go to visit them whenever possible. If they live in the same city, they may exchange visits two or three times a week. They will also often relocate to be near close friends and relatives if the opportunity arises, and the friends or relatives will assist them in getting jobs and housing, etc.

Persian children are expected to be respectful to and mindful of their parents. Younger adults are also expected to show respect to their elders. Sometimes, for instance, even children who are married and have their own families will not smoke in front of their parents, as they do not wish to displease them or show them disrespect. Children and teenagers are usually included in gatherings of adults and will be expected to enjoy their company and behave politely. The older generation is considered to be wiser and is accorded a certain deferential respect, in contrast to American culture, where the emphasis is on younger people.

As a rule, Persian parents pay a great deal of attention to their children and act sacrificially in their interests. It is very

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common for full grown children to remain in their parents' home well past the age of 18, frequently until marriage. If they are financially able to do so, parents typically continue financial support throughout their children's life, including putting them through college, buying a house, etc. This is in no way taken to be a sign of the children's dependency on their parents, but as a measure of love that the family members have for one another.

When a relative or family member passes away, the survivors will often mourn for quite some time and wear black. They often hold annual memorial services in honor of the deceased and feed the poor or perform other acts of charity in their name.

In most cases, especially when they have first arrived in a strange place, all the members of an Iranian family will want to live together. If they have relatives who already live in this country, they will want to locate as close as possible to them.

Relations between the Sexes

Persian culture is generally conservative in dealings between the sexes, although many younger Iranians from major metropolitan areas like Tehran are more likely to have adopted some Western ideas about dating, marriage, etc. Most older Persians, however, may feel somewhat uncomfortable to be alone with members of the opposite sex other than their spouses or relatives. This is especially true for devout Moslems. If a young unmarried couple are seen going out together, older Iranians will normally assume that they have marriage plans, although this may not be true for many of the younger generation. Iranian weddings are usually very elaborate and expensive affairs.

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Affection is rarely if ever displayed in public between members of the opposite sex, even those who have been married for some time. Physical contact between people of the same sex is, on the other hand, more common than it is in the United States. For example, Iranian men may kiss each other on the cheek when greeting one another.

Men may help their wives at home when guests are over, but the woman is usually expected to do the traditional chores of cooking, cleaning and washing on her own, while management of finances is typically the husband's responsibility. Child rearing is also usually the primary responsibility of the mother, although most Iranian men like to spend lots of time with their children. Many couples feel uncomfortable leaving their children with babysitters. Many middle and upper-middle class Iranians also consider it undignified for women to work outside the home (especially in restaurant jobs or babysitting), although this is less true of the younger generation.


Education is highly respected among Iranians, and the educational system in Iran up through the high school level was much more difficult and comprehensive than it is in this country. The fields of medicine and engineering were particularly popular in Iran, as they are in many developing countries. A larger percentage of women major in scientific fields in Iran than in this country, at least until very recently. The humanities are less commonly studied by Iranian university students.


Manual labor is not considered a dignified job by most middle and upper-middle class Iranians. It may be difficult

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for some to accept the fact that they have to work in manual labor jobs due to lack of English skills, or inability to pass the American board exams or acquire certification, or other factors. Persian culture puts great weight in degrees, and people who have Ph.D.'s are usually highly respected and looked to for advice, oftentimes regardless of their field of specialization. When they have come to America, however, they are no longer particularly respected by the society around them, due to their status as refugees and because they are often not able to practice in their field of expertise.

Consequently, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. who come from respected positions in Iran and experience downward mobility in this country are apt to feel a loss of self-esteem. This is compounded by the fact that parents often become dependent on their children (who learn English better and more quickly) as interpreters for their dealings outside of the home.

Saving Face

Iranian culture generally demands that individuals present a calm and dignified exterior. Persians will try not to let domestic troubles become apparent to those outside of their household. Usually they will not admit to friends or acquaintances when they have financial or marital difficulties. This is in part due to the fact that in Middle Eastern communities such news spreads quickly and often becomes the focus of gossip.

When pressed about family or financial difficulties, Persians will often make excuses that avoid revealing the real problem. This is done in order to save face and maintain appearances. They will not usually say such things as "I can not afford to do this."

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Social Prejudice

Iranian culture, like most Islamic cultures, is relatively free of racial prejudice. However, there is typically a strong sense of social prejudice among Iranians that separates people by social class and religious affiliation. Middle and Upper-Middle class Iranians in this country often feel a social prejudice against poor minorities such as blacks or Latinos. This prejudice usually stems from differences in culture and lifestyle rather than from race or nationality.

Iranians will go to great lengths, sacrificing their own interests, to help their friends and family members. However, outsiders, strangers and those who do not belong to their social class or group will not usually receive such consideration. This is part of the reason why Iranians often try to talk to the head of an office or organization, because they feel once they are personally known to the person in charge, they will be treated with "insider" status.

Food and Hospitality

As noted earlier, Persians are usually very hospitable to their guests. They will often invite people to their home for dinner and other occasions. They will generally go all out to make the guest feel as comfortable as possible, serving him first, giving him the most comfortable seat, and even giving the main bedroom to the guest (the host will sleep on the floor or sofa).

Rice is a staple ingredient of formal Persian dishes, some of which are very elaborate and time-consuming to prepare. Yogurt is also a common food, and is eaten with rice. Fresh vegetables and fruit are a must in any Iranian home. Hot tea is the most popular drink. Persians adore picnics and will often go to parks, etc., to enjoy the scenery and eat outdoors.

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Iranians are typically fashion conscious and will dress up very elegantly on social occasions and whenever going out. They are not likely to wear such things as sweat suits, etc. in public. When relaxing at home, however, a Persian family tends to dress very informally. In fact, the word "Pajamas" comes to us from Iran via British India; in Iran pajamas are worn for relaxing in as well as for sleeping.

In traditional and more rural areas in Iran, shoes are commonly removed before entering the house. However, most Iranians from the major cities no longer practice this custom.


Iranians typically like things to be visibly clean and will not feel comfortable in places which are noticeably dirty. They will also not feel comfortable to be served food or be touched by people who have handled pets or garbage, etc. and not yet washed their hands, Cats and birds maybe kept as pets, but typically Iranians do not like dogs, as they are considered to be dirty creatures in most Islamic cultures. Persians prefer taking showers to baths.


The sports popularly played in Iran include soccer and wrestling for boys and volleyball and table tennis for girls. Iranians do not usually have any familiarity with American football or baseball, although basketball is played.

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Persians like big cities and enjoy seeing the famous tourist sites, restaurants and points of interest. They also like to take pictures of themselves at these sites. They will furthermore buy souvenirs to take back to their friends and relatives who were not able to come with them.

The Persian Calendar and Naw Ruz (No Rooz)

Although the Islamic calendar, which is lunar, was observed to some extent for religious purposes, the official calendar in Iran was a solar agricultural calendar. The Iranian new year is called "Naw Ruz," which literally means "New Day." Naw Ruz is an ancient Persian celebration observed on the spring equinox (March 21), marking the end of winter and the coming of a new spring. This is a very festive occasion for Iranians of all religions, and is analogous to the Christmas holiday season in America. Iranians will get together, exchange gifts, hold picnics and celebrate.

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Suggested Further Readings

The following works should help those who are interested to know more about specific aspects of Iranian culture and history. It is not by any means a comprehensive list.


Elwell-Sutton, L.P. Colloquial Persian, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1941.

"Persian Transliteration," Bulletin 59, Cataloging Service, The Library of Congress, Washington D.C.


Aryanpur, Abbas and Manoochehr, The Combined New English- Persian/Persian English Dictionary, Mazda Publishers, Lexington, Kentucky, 1986. The cost is about $36.

Haim, One Volume Persian-English Dictionary, Farhang Moaser, Tehran, 1984. This is still the best available dictionary of modern Persian. The cost is about $50.

Haim, One Volume English-Persian Dictionary, Y. Beroukhim and Sons Booksellers, Tehran, 1974. The companion volume to the above.


Abrahanijan, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton University Press, 1982. This is the most detailed book on the history of twentieth century Iran and is written by an Iranian leftist.

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Avery, Peter, Modern Iran, Frederick Praeger, 1965. A thorough account of Persian history from the nineteenth century through the mid-1960s, told from a British perspective.

Bausani, Alessandro, The Persians, Ebek Books Ltd., 1971. A short descriptive history from earliest times to the twentieth century.

Cottham, Nationalism in Iran, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979. A history of twentieth century Iran, emphasizing the development of nationalistic sentiment.

Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, trans. Hamid Algar, Mizan Press, 1980.

Crimes Against Humanity, documentation of the human rights abuses in Iran under the Islamic Republic of Iran gathered by a Muslim oppositionist group, the Mojahedeen.

Halliday, Fred, Dictatorship and Development, Penguin Books, 1979. A sociopolitical history of modern Iran explaining the conditions in Iran just before the Revolution.

Iranian Refugees: The Many Faces of Persecution, U.S. Committee for Refugees, December 1984. A booklet explaining the political, social and religious dimensions of persecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet, Simon and Shuster, 1985. A novel of a young cleric in Iran, woven around a social and historical account of modern Iranian history and the events leading up to the revolution of 1979.

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Rubin, Barry, Paved with Good Intentions, Oxford University Press, 1980. Concerning the relations between the United States and Iran and the events that led to revolution.



Keddie, Niki, Religion and Politics in Iran, Yale University Press, 1983. A collection of scholarly articles on the Iranian Revolution and its relation to religion.

Rahman, Fazlur, Islam, University of Chicago Press. An excellent overview of the history and beliefs of Islam.


Momen, Moojan, Shi'ism: An Introduction, George Ronald, 1985. A theological and historical account of the development of Shi'ism from earliest times to today.


The Bahá'ís in Iran: A Report on the Persecution of a Religious Minority and Major Developments July 1982-July 1983, Bahá'í International Community, New York, 1983. A description with numerous documents and statistics of the persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran.

The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1985. A brief yet thorough description of the beliefs of the Bahá'ís and their approach to world peace.

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Esslemont, JE, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1970. An explanation of the tenets, beliefs and practices of the Bahá'í Faith as described by an early western convert.


Boyce, Mary, Zoroastrianism, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979. Explanation of the doctrines and practices of the Zoroastrians.

Zaehner, R.C., The Teachings of the Magi, Oxford University Press, 1976. The doctrines and theology of the Zoroastrian faith.
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