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Westwood has a population of just under 50,000, and its Iranian community is part of the larger 1/2 million Iranian American enclave that stretches across the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Westwood’s main commerce area, Westwood Boulevard, serves as the center of the Los Angeles Iranian community with its numerous Persian restaurants, music shops, bookstores and media centers. The store signs are written in Farsi and the language can easily be heard walking on the boulevard. Even the businesses that do not cater specifically to the community are nonetheless owned and operated by Iranians. This area has long been referred to as Little Persia, but local officials formally named the area “Persian Square” this past spring.
Los Angeles became a hotbed for emigrating Iranians in the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution, when the fall of the Shah caused many Iranians to flee from their homeland. Since then, the enclave in Los Angeles and its smaller counterparts in Washington D.C., New York, and other major American cities, have grown into significantly assimilated and simultaneously traditional communities.
As council member, Farahanipour says he will do what is best for the local community in Westwood, yet it is also the perfect platform to continue vying for the support of his Iranian American constituents, as he has done for the past decade.
As a vocal and active member of the Iranian community, Farahanipour’s political sentiments and ambitions have been no secret here. Before buying his restaurant earlier this year, Farahanipour worked as the head manager at Shamshiri, one of the most popular Iranian restaurants in Los Angeles. As manager, Farahanipour would invite his staff and customers to participate in discussions, demonstrations, and information sessions. Regardless of his day job, Farahanipour’s main responsibility has been to spread the word about democracy in Iran.
Surprisingly, speaking of Iranian democracy and nationalism has been a source of controversy among the community. Farahanipour can retell several powerful anecdotes that illustrate the adversity he has faced. Over the years, he has experienced physical attacks, verbal altercations, and deadly threats against him in this otherwise safe and affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. He refers to his aggressors as “agents of the regime.”
The Los Angeles police and local FBI soon became aware of Farahanipour and the threats he has received. Lines in Farahanipour’s Marze Por Gohar office have been tapped three times. Members of his political party have been beaten up at community events. Most recently, Farahanipour reported that representatives of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) approached Farahanipour at his restaurant and offered to pay him a large, undisclosed amount of money in exchange renouncing his political activism and leaving the Iranian political scene.
“Having experienced what the regime can do, I am concerned for Westwood’s security,” Farahanipour said. “We have the Federal Building here, UCLA and the largest Iranian American community. We cannot trust them. This could be the regime’s ultimate target.”
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