Persian Student Association hosts dinner and dance, invites students of all backgrounds to connect with and enjoy the culture

Bellevue College’s Persian Association held a dinner and dance for BC students on Saturday, Feb. 6. Padria Cafe, a restaurant that specializes in Persian and Greek food, catered the event. Students got to eat authentic Persian food, dance to multicultural music and see displays exhibiting artifacts of Persian culture.

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The previous event held by the association was an open house in November, during which a documentary was shown that depicted Anthony Bourdain on a trip to Iran.

Omid Vahabnejad has been the president of Bellevue College’s Persian Association since September of 2015. Vahabnejad said that the dinner and dance on Feb. 6 was the Persian Association’s biggest event of the year.

Vahabnejad said that the dance and the Persian Association in general allow students to make connections with each other. “We want them to step into our lives,” he said.

Arab countries are “viewed as a bad or dangerous place,” according to Vahabnejad. The Persian Association aims to combat that view by allowing students to experience Persian culture. “We try to just focus on the bright side,” said Vahabnejad. “We’re trying to keep the club growing.”

Vahabnejad, a first-generation Iranian American, said that though he was born in the U.S. he does regularly visit Iran. “People think Iran is oppressed, but Iran is one of the most cultured nations,” said Vahabnejad.

“Over there, people are just like how we are over here,” said Vahabnejad. He said that the Persian Association wants people to become more comfortable with Persian culture, and for them to come to recognize commonalities and shared values.

Noruz, the Iranian new year celebration of the vernal equinox, falls on March 21 this year. The Persian Association plans to have an event similar to the Feb. 6 dance to celebrate.

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Orchideh Raisdanai is chair of the Arabic Culture Club at BC and also involved in the Persian association. She said there are a large number of Persian students at BC and when the Persian Club was disbanded, members needed a space to form a community.

Raisdanai said that students start developing their future life in college. The Persian Association gives BC students an opportunity to learn about the culture and learn in an academic setting rather than get information exclusively from secondhand sources.

She also spoke of experiences she’s had, seeing students from multicultural clubs and programs engaging in cross-cultural discussions. “The more you’re surrounded, the more facts you learn,” said Raisdani. “Students become part of the dialogue.”

“This is such a fun club,” said Arya Kani, the head of media and social technology for the Persian Association. He heard about the Persian Association after attending their November event, and getting to know Vahabnejad. He said he was interested in the events and officially became a member in January.

“It’s wonderful to work with all these passionate people,” said Kani. He manages the social media for the association, taking photos and making graphics for their Facebook page. In all, the Persian Association has seven officers, including Kani and Vahabnejad. In addition to the officers, there are 31 members of the association.

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Kani said that the dinner and dance allowed students to participate and experience new culture, cuisine and information. He encourages students who are interested in and enjoy multicultural studies to check out the Persian Association and their events.

Some events, like the dinner and dance are open to the wider community of Bellevue, beyond just BC students. Kani said that at Persian Association events, “everyone comes and sees each other and has fun.”