The importance of studying Farsi and Iranian culture

Prominent members of the Iranian community came to York on May 8 to discuss opportunities for the study of the Farsi language and Iranian culture at York.

The event, hosted by the Faculty of Arts and held in the Executive Dining Room in the Seymour Schulich Building, offered an evening of networking and promise. York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden joined faculty, staff, media and members of the Iranian community as they mingled and discussed new programs of study.

Robert Drummond (left), dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, began the evening with welcoming remarks. He was followed by Sheila Embleton, vice-president, academic, who provided an overview of the University. Associate Vice-President International Adrian Shubert conveyed the international aspects of York to the audience.

The evening’s keynote speaker, Professor Saeed Rahnema, director of the Atkinson School of Public Policy & Adminstration, addressed the importance of Farsi and Iranian Studies at York, touching upon the rich history of the Persian culture and language and its importance throughout history.

"Farsi is the formal language and the language of the majority of people in the three countries of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, but is also spoken in parts of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, southern Russia, and much of the Persian Gulf region," said Rahnema. "The Iranian diaspora is also rapidly expanding in the West. At York we have several thousand Iranian-Canadian students. Because of Iran’s contributions to human civilization, its rich literature and poetry, and its geopolitical and economic importance, many students want to study its language and culture. There are lots of misunderstandings and misinformation about Iran and Iranians and there is a need to establish and promote scholarly research and teaching facilities in Iranian studies at York."

Right: Professor Saeed Rahnema spoke about the importance of studying Iran’s language and culture

Maryam Nikkhou, president of the Iranian Student Association, and 2007 graduate Bahar Karbakhsh-Ravari, spoke on behalf of York’s Iranian student population. In their joint address to those present, they stressed the need for study of the Farsi language and Iranian culture, not only for Iranian students wanting to purse courses, but for non-Iranians who want to learn more about Iran’s culture and language.

The evening concluded with remarks from writer Reza Baraheni, Winters College Fellow and professor at the University of Toronto. Formal thanks were presented to the University on behalf of the Iranian community by Afie Mardoukhi, assistant to Ontario’s minister of education.

"I believe we had a very good meeting with members of the Iranian community and laid out for them our ambition to develop our capacity in the study of Iran, including courses in Farsi. I am hopeful that community members will be able to help us achieve our goals in that regard," said Drummond.

Story and photos submitted by Jessica Lamoglie, communications coordinator, Faculty of Arts.