American Iranian Friendship Council

Thursday, July 20, 2006

AIFC Sponsored a Forum on the US - Iran Relations

On July 20, 20006, the American Iranian Friendship Council (AIFC) sponsored a forum on the US - Iran Relations at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. This was AIFC’s first public educational forum on this topic.

The forum was presented in two parts. Part I, entitled “Living Experiences in Iran”, was presented by US citizens who have lived and worked in Iran in various capacities, such as Peace Corps volunteers, volunteers for the Mennonite Central Committee, or delegates for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The speakers in this segment were: Marion Ward, Gretchen Kafouri, Bruce Livingston, and Ann Huntwork.

Marion Ward is active with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Vancouver for Peace and Veterans for Peace. She was in Iran in December 2005 with a delegation from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The mission of the delegation was to promote friendship with the people of Iran and to learn about current realities of everyday life there. The delegation traveled to Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and Qom, meeting with religious and community leaders.

Gretchen Kafoury was a Peace Corps Iran, 1964-66. She served for 22 years in the Oregon State Legislature, and Council member for Multnomah County and City of Portland. For the past seven years she has served as a faculty in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. She is a regular volunteer with the Middle East Studies Center and currently on the Persian Studies Advisory Board.

Bruce Livingston’s first visit to Iran was in the summer of 1964, which he spent living with a tribe of the Qashqai confederacy. He returned to Iran in 1969, and was a Lecturer in Anthropology at Pahlavi University in Shiraz. Until the end of 1973 he worked with Iranian colleagues on a demographic project. After a few years' hiatus he returned to Iran and worked as Project Manager for an Oregon construction company, until 1978. He is currently the Executive Director of PlayWrite, Inc., an organization dedicated to engaging disadvantaged youth in creative arts.

Ann Huntwork worked in Iran for ten years (1958-63 and 1967-72) in Presbyterian Church supported medical programs, primarily in Mashhad - with last two years in Jondi Shapur University Medical School in Ahvaz. She taught medical and nursing history and ethics, and worked in the English medical library and supported the hospital social worker. After the revolution they returned to Iran on other assignments sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee and the Iranian Red Crescent Society. Ann and her husband (a physician) had four children born in Iran, and consider Iran their other home.
All their kids have Iranian middle names.

Each speaker presented a brief overview of his/her experience living in Iran, interactions with Iranians, their culture, customs, and how Americans and Iranians can foster better relations through dialogue, and to build on the rich history of people to people friendship between citizens of both countries.

The second segment of the forum, entitled “Crisis with Iran on Nuclear Issues”, was presented by Drs. John Damis, Catherine Thomasson, and Goudarz Eghtedari.

John Damis is Professor of Political Science and International Studies in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, and Director of the University’s Middle East Studies Center. He received BA and MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard, and Ph.D. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1970. From 1975 to 1977, he worked for the Department of State in Washington, D.C., and was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University in 1986 and 1987. Dr. Damis has studied and worked in the Middle East or North Africa for a total of five years and is the author of four books and monographs and over thirty articles and chapters on the politics and international relations of the Middle East and North Africa. He was decorated by H.M. King Mohammed VI of Morocco and made a Commander of the Alawite Order.

Catherine Thomasson, MD, is President Elect of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) who works to advocate for an end to nuclear weapons, end the use of war as a foreign policy tool and is launching a national PSR campaign on the Health Effects of our Energy Dependence on Fossil Fuels. She is a local internist and resident educator. She has been a coalition builder in the peace community and has produced community events for peace, ranging from the international Shadow Project on Hiroshima Day to PeaceQuake. She also educates to reduce the use of toxic chemicals that have global significance. She has worked within the city and county on advisory panels ranging from West Nile Prevention Task Force to Water Treatment Policy decisions.

Goudarz Eghtedari is a political analyst, writer, radio producer, human rights advocate, and peace activist by choice and an engineer and educator by profession. He is a contributing member of the University of Columbia's Gulf2000 group, a think tank with focus on the Persian Gulf under supervision of Gary Sick. He received a Ph.D. in Systems Science/Transportation Engineering from Portland State University. Dr. Eghtedari has taught engineering and IT courses at Portland State University and University of Phoenix. He has been working in Civil Engineering field for the past 25 years, 10 years as Structural Engineer and the last 15 years in transportation Engineering field. He is the Traffic Engineering manager for the City of Vancouver, WA.

Each speaker presented different perspectives on the history of recent events leading to the current condition, followed by ways to offer non-violent responses to the looming crisis between the governments of the United States and Iran. They stressed the rights of all peoples to non-violent means for resolution of conflicts, and suggested ways to foster mutual understanding and friendship, and to avoid violence and war. Through presenting forums like this, the aim is to create common understanding of the mutual perils of war, to bring the United States and Iran together to build bridges, and to lobby both governments to pursue face to face negotiations.

The Forum was co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee Portland, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, Middle East Studies Center at PSU, Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.