UCSB’s Persian Student Group, Armenian Student Association and Lebanese Club will host various film screenings, workshops and other events throughout the week in celebration of the fifth annual Middle Eastern Awareness Week.
The campaign aims to provide stu- dents an opportunity to experience various customs and cultural traditions from the region and shed light on the political and religious oppression many Middle Eastern ethnic groups face. The week’s activities will kick off today with a Middle Eastern music work- shop, conducted by music professor Scott Marcus, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the MultiCultural Center Lounge.
According to MEAW Assistant Event Coordinator Omid Niroumandzadeh, a UCSB alumnus, this year’s event — the first to omit the word “culture” in its title — emphasizes the political atmosphere within the Middle East.
“This year we’re taking a more polit- ical tone because we recognize that oftentimes culture and politics go hand in hand,” Niroumandzadeh said. “For those of us privileged to be in Western universities, education is a human right. But for the Baha’i community in Iran, there is a struggle to obtain higher education … in the face of systematic oppression.”
A screening of the film “Education Under Fire” will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the MultiCultural Center Theater. The movie depicts the reli- gious persecution Iranians of the Baha’i faith often experience within their country.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A panel with Pedram Roushan, a post-doctoral physics researcher fea- tured in the film. Roushan received his Ph.D. at Princeton University and graduated from the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, an underground university in Iran that provides Baha’is access to education despite systematic political persecution.
Roushan said the Iranian government forbids criticism of the religious persecution and other inequalities within its educational institutions.
“In BIHE, you cannot put your homework in the mail [to be graded by a professor],” Roushan said. “You have to find a Baha’i volunteer to send it to the capital and then redistribute it. There is no physical place of a university, so students must get together in the capital of Tehran for classes [and] then go back to their hometowns hours away.”
BIHE classes are secretly held in volunteers’ homes to avoid persecution from authorities.
Students for Justice in Palestine member Hani Tajsar, a second-year Middle East studies major, said increasing tensions between the United States and Iran have fostered misguided views about the country and its human rights struggles.
“What people see in political debates is this huge dichot- omy between Iran and the U.S., and we want to tell the world that we are human and that we have this rich culture,” Tajsar said. “This is an opportunity to deconstruct myths about [Iran], as well as raise awareness to people about other struggles, such as those that started after British colonialism in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Additional events include a food workshop Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the MCC, a food fair Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Storke Plaza, a Persian Culture show Thursday at 8 p.m. in the MCC Theater and an art exhibition Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. on the San Rafael Residence Hall lawn.