On October 11, 2007, Governor Martin O’Malley signed an Executive Order to create the Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs. The Commission was created to address the need for State agencies to respond effectively to the needs and concerns of Maryland citizens with ancestral heritage in Middle Eastern countries.
This is the first State Commission, which is composed of Middle Eastern Americans and gives the community a voice at the highest executive level. To date, the Commission has worked tirelessly to address concerns of the Middle Eastern American community in Maryland. Most recently they held a health conference to raise awareness of the Middle Eastern American community’s health needs. The Commission also seeks to implement innovative ways of enhancing the participation of businesses and individuals of Middle Eastern extraction in the economy of Maryland and increase Middle Eastern American access to state programs and services.
According to the 2007 American Community Survey, there are 14,935 Iranians in Maryland, making Iranians the largest Middle Eastern community in Maryland at 28% of total Middle Eastern American population in the state. The Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs focuses on reflecting these demographics on the Commission and is interested in further engaging the Iranian American community of Maryland.
Currently, the Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs has one Iranian American Commissioner. Mrs. Farzaneh Riar joined the Commission on January 10th 2009 and previously served on Governor O’Malley’s Transition Team for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She is a public health consultant living in Potomac, Maryland. Mrs. Riar’s expertise in Public Health played a vital role for the Commission by bringing concerns of the Iranian community to light at their 2009 Health Conference. She enlisted the help of an Iranian health organization, Ibn Sina Foundation of North America, to present at the conference. “I wanted to showcase the hard work of an Iranian organization, the Ibn Sina Foundation, in Maryland,” Mrs. Riar says, “it is important to me that our community takes an active role in helping shape the future of the Commission for better future of our Iranian American generation to come in Maryland.”
Mrs. Riar believes it is important for Iranian Americans in the State of Maryland to learn about the Commissions work, participate, and serve on the Commissions and boards. Farzaneh Riar represents the Iranian voice for the Commission. Mrs. Riar expresses that, “the role of the Commission on a State level is very important to our community, it gives us a chance to have a voice in Annapolis and encourage policy that will benefit the growth of our community.”
“By participation in volunteer efforts through the commissions and the board at state level, the Iranian American community of Maryland clearly has an opportunity for representation of Iranian-American owned small businesses including women-owned minority businesses. On the policy side, active advocacy on legislative issues and helping enactment of laws, that have direct effect to Iranian culture, history, and heritage, such as official recognition of Eid Norooz, the Persian traditional New Year celebration at the beginning of the spring, in the similar manner as Chinese New Year is recognized in Maryland. At the state level, integration of Persian history, of similar significance as of Roman history, in academia is my vision for our progressive Iranian American community living in Maryland.” Said Mrs. Riar.
For more information on the Commission, please visit www.middleeastern.maryland.gov