Social issues: Iranian-Dutch connections
When thinking about the Netherlands, visions of tulips and cheese might be the only things that come to mind. However, the Netherlands also has rich multicultural elements to its society and it is rewarding to explore what Dutch diversity has to offer.
Iranians in the Netherlands
CBS Statistics Netherlands Statline shows that in 2013 approximately 35.395 people with Iranian heritage reside in the Netherlands: 16.310 females and 19.085 males.
Generationally, this is broken down as follows:
› 27.754 first generation (12.622 women and 15.132 men)
› 7.641 second generation (3.688 women and 3.593 men)
› 3.116 second generation with one parent born abroad (1.502 women and 1.614 men)
› 4.525 second generation with both parents born abroad (2.186 women and 2.339 men)
If you would like to learn more, an earlier CBS article Iraniërs in Nederland (Iranians in the Netherlands) by Thomas Hessels is an excellent resource that takes an extensive look at Iranian-Dutch demographics.
The Association of Iranian Students & Graduates in the Netherlands
Due to the growth of this vibrant community, various organisations have developed to help provide support.
One such organisation is Associatie van Iraanse studenten en afgestudeerden in Nederland (the Association of Iranian Students and Graduates in the Netherlands). Be on the lookout for the re-launch of their website in the upcoming months.
Since early 2000, this non-profit volunteer organisation represents Iranian students, graduates and their families. Though events are often based in Delft, their mission is to become active on a national level.
The association’s structure is based on democratic principles. It actively encourages participation of Iranian students in Dutch society.
They proactively approach Dutch and international groups to gain information on current developments regarding Iranian life in the Netherlands.
› Science & Education
When not actively creating and supporting contact between Iranian students and graduates in the Netherlands, they focus on the promotion of science education.
They have a special interest in creating as many international academic connections as possible that are beneficial to members.
To this end, they are regularly in contact with universities, education / research centers and professors / lecturers, as well as academic institutions, to create connections.
Additionally, they attempt to convey to Iranian students and teachers in Iran the benefits of the Dutch educational system.
Much of their work is along academic lines, but they also work in close cooperation with government and non-government agencies in the Netherlands that have similar goals in mind.
› Social action
Socially, they are invested in building a positive multicultural society in the Netherlands and abroad. They are invested in eliminating all forms of racism and discrimination.
Thus, part of their focus is also on promoting solidarity with those Iranian students in Iran that are committed to the realisation of human rights and democracy.
Inherent in their ethos is the understanding of how important it is to make available information regarding human rights, democracy and socio-cultural development / support systems.
Many of their events promote equal rights and opportunities for women in the Iranian community in the Netherlands and in Iran. Specifically, they are invested in promoting girls' and women’s participation in education.
One of the most prominent events on their calendar is International Women’s Day. Each year on their schedule you’ll find prominent women role-models as speakers, as well as film screenings, poetry, art, dance and so on that all have a women’s rights perspective.
› Socio-cultural support
Regarding socio-cultural support, they sponsor various events that promote the integration of Iranian students into Dutch society by creating contact between Iranian, Iranian-Dutch, Dutch and non-Dutch students.
This can include activities such volleyball and ping-pong or extend to reviews of movies or current events. They wish to create spaces and opportunities for the participants to maintain their study / work relationships and friendships.
Other Iranian organisations & resources in the Netherlands
Above and beyond this organisation there are several other associations supporting the Iranian community. As you might gather from the number of academic societies, education is important in Iranian-Dutch culture.
As you can see, each organisation believes it is important to encourage involvement in sports, the arts and current events, as well as cultural, scientific, and literary pursuits. They include but are not limited to the following:
› Iranian Scientific Association in the Netherlands (ISAN)
In Delft, there is the Iranian Scientific Association in the Netherlands (ISAN). Referring to their webpage, ISAN is a social platform created for highly educated Iranians, from all study and professional fields.
ISAN was formed to share experiences and to provide support through academic and social activities. It was founded in 1989 and offers everything from tech lectures to workshops and cultural events.
› Iranian Students Society of TUDelft (ISSTUD)
Another organisation in Delft is the Iranian Students Society of TUDelft (ISSTUD). It is a society for Iranian students, researchers and alumni of the Technical University, Delft.
Not unlike other academic-focused organisations, their role is to inform, support and assist Iranian students in educational and general affairs.
› Bashgahe Golshan
In The Hague, one organisation that is accessible to the wider Iranian community, and whose focus is on a younger audience, is Bashgahe Golshan (Garden Club). Their website (in Farsi / Dutch) has a wealth of literary, social and sport activities, as well as music, language, art, and cultural lessons.
There is even judicial, mortgage and insurance advice available. Each Sunday they provide a place where parents and their children may meet each other socially. They also have a Facebook page.
› Iranian on the Move (IOTM)
If you are searching for more creative interests, then IOTM may be a good option to check out. Iranian on the Move (IOTM) is a non-profit organisation engaged in performing arts that supports social ideals.
Following their listings, you’ll discover many artists with a wide range of talents: jazz, Manouche, Flamenco, traditional Persian musicians, storytellers, theatrical performers and many more. They also have a Facebook page.
› Shahrzad News
If you are looking for media resources, then one of the best places to look is Shahrzad News. This is a bilingual, multimedia online news service that provides news and views on gender-sensitive issues in Iran, placing global concerns in a local framework and vice-versa.
Shahrzad News also offers a free platform to independent journalists (particularly women) in Iran, who despite censorship and repression are keen to publish untold stories. It is interesting to note that Shahrzad is another name for Sheherazade - the narrator of The 1001 Nights.
› Iraanse Zaar Nama in Nederland
For more general information there is an online directory, Iraanse Zaar Nama in Nederland, which lists everything from translators to bookstores and jewellers to driving schools.
In many ways the Iranian community is like any other multicultural community in the Netherlands. Every community hopes to succeed, fit in socially, understand and celebrate their heritage as well as Dutch culture.
Each have similar struggles with the Dutch language, Dutch taxes and Dutch bureaucracy and thus having effective and supportive organisations helps the process of living in this country we now call home.
Please feel free to add relevant links to the comments section of the article that may help readers. Sharing resources is the best way that internationals can help support each other.