February 7, 2013 – Philanthropist and entrepreneur Bita Daryabari’s Pars Equality Center—a Bay Area non-profit organization, and the first of its kind, providing social and legal support for all members of the Iranian American community, including refugees, asylees and immigrants—opened its second office in San Jose, California in April 2012, and is currently planning expansion into the Los Angeles market. The LA office is located in Westwood and slated to open on April 1,2013. Pars Equality Center will also host its 3rd Annual Nowruz Gala in honor of the Persian New Year on Saturday, March 9th at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel.
Daryabari, Pars Equality Center (PEC) founder and executive director, says, “We are here to ensure that our community is served in the best way possible, and Pars Equality Center truly blossomed this past year. We continue to introduce new programs in the areas of Social and Legal Services that are improving lives, so we are excited about the prospects for bringing this unique set of services to Los Angeles-based Iranian Americans.”
No stranger to the plight of many Iranian Americans, Daryabari knows first-hand the challenges of arriving as a new émigré to the United States. In 1985, she fled to the U.S. from Iran in the shadow of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. The Golden Globe-winning feature film “Argo,” directed by Ben Affleck, portrays this tumultuous time.
Daryabari adds, “Over the years, and especially since 9/11, the climate in the U.S. has gotten more challenging for Iranian Americans and Iranian immigrants, and this is why I founded the Pars Equality Center. There is so much misperception in this country about the Persian culture. Firstly, Iranians were not responsible for 9/11, and secondly, the émigrés coming here are doing so because they do not agree with the current politics of our homeland that are so often seen in the news.”
Daryabari is on a two-fold mission of helping educate the public-at-large about the positive contributions that Iranian Americans are making to the country as a whole, while also bringing the Iranian community together. She aims to break down barriers and create a more compassionate community between the many Iranian cultures and beliefs that have settled in the U.S. since it takes a unified and organized community to build and grow together.
Her mission carries through all her philanthropic endeavors. She recently was appointed the International Arts Ambassador to the LA-based charity, Adopt the Arts, which helps keep art education in public elementary schools. Daryabari is working with the organization to ensure that the children are offered programs that will nurture multicultural sensitivity.
In addition, she and her husband are co-sponsors for the San Francisco exhibition of the upcoming Cyrus Cylinder Tour. Recognized as one of the most iconic objects of religious tolerance and multiculturalism, the Cyrus Cylinder (currently housed in the British Museum), will for the very first time, be exhibited in the United States in five major museum venues, starting in March 2013. The Cylinder has, over the centuries, come to symbolize mankind’s first document on human rights.
PEC is known for holding community-wide events, such as job fairs, as well as partnering with local and national community organizations.
PEC has been expanding its reach to the most vulnerable Iranian Americans—Iranians who have recently arrived in the U.S. with few or no financial resources and need support in order to establish themselves in this country.
With the help of Iranian and American volunteers, PEC Social Services range from Mentorship Programs to ESL classes, a computer lab, in-home visits, emergency assistance, and job development services (i.e. soft-skills workshops, resume preparation, job placement, and personal follow-up). A newly established casework system served over 160 newcomer Iranians and their families in the first year alone. In 2012, PEC hosted three Job Fairs that connected more than 200 job seekers with 38 Iranian or American employers, leading to 45 successful job placements, despite the difficult economy.
The Legal Department at PEC focuses upon providing general guidance and research in essentially all areas of the law, such as helping community members navigate through the complicated Iran Transactions Regulations overseen by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC Sanctions), and offering low-income individuals assistance applying for OFAC licenses, as well as tackling complex issues relating to discrimination.
The 3rd Annual Nowruz Gala in honor of the Persian New Year will be held at the Santa Clara Marriott on Saturday, March 9th. Funds raised from this event will fund the ongoing programs and expansion of Pars Equality Center into more U.S. markets. The 2012 event sold out almost a month in advance, and introduced PEC to 600 members of the local Iranian American community with a fantastic night of performance, music and dancing.
Daryabari adds, “We cannot do this alone. It is through education, collaboration and dedication that we can all come together to create a more peaceful and tolerant society.”
About Pars Equality Center
Founded by Bita Daryabari in 2010, the Pars Equality Center (PEC) is a non-profit organization, and the first of its kind, supporting the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the United States. PEC provides social and legal support for all members of the Iranian American community, including refugees, asylees, immigrants and the American-born. The Center advocates for more positive perceptions of Persians in the U.S. media, while offering services and programs that help establish, integrate and support Iranian Americans so that they are able to function responsibly and productively in American society. Daryabari’s aim is to create a more just and compassionate community in which Iranians of all cultures and beliefs can participate.
About Bita Daryabari
In less than a decade, arts advocate and philanthropist Bita Daryabari has emerged as one of the most beloved and cherished leaders of the Iranian American community. From the beginning of her professional life, her work has been accompanied by her avid interest in the world of literature, poetry, paintings and sculpture. She created the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University, where The Annual Bita Prize in Literature has become the most coveted prize in the realm of Persian letters. In 2010, she founded Pars Equality Center—the only non-profit providing social and legal services to Iranian emigrants, refugees and asylum seekers—in the Bay Area where she is also the Executive Director. Her Unique Zan Foundation is dedicated to supporting the education of women all over Asia—from building orphanages for Afghan children to schools in the Middle East. Honors include Golden Gate University’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008); PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010); United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the UN and Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (2011); and Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012). Bita Daryabari’s multi-faceted philanthropy is founded on her simple idea that creativity is the only way to alleviate suffering and ennoble our minds to better comprehend the human condition.