Did You Know? Introducing the Iranian Cultural Society at Johns Hopkins University

This article is part of a series highlighting community-building efforts by Iranian American students across the U.S.

Iranian-American student groups at universities around the country are connected by a common goal of creating more passionate, resilient, and tight-knit Iranian-American communities. This pursuit for unity is seen at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, through its flourishing Iranian Cultural Society, known as the ICS. Leading the organization as President is Sami Ahmad, a recent graduate with a degree in History of Science and a minor in Islamic Studies. Since his junior year of college, Ahmad has guided the organization’s large scale events – Mehregan, Yalda, and Nowruz – as well as their smaller events.

The ICS is committed to strengthening the ties within its Iranian-American community through special meetings for the student body, as well as more prominent events like Nowruz picnics, evening banquets, and weekend mehmoonis (“mehmooni” in Farsi means gathering of friends/family). Ahmad sees this relatively smaller community as representative of a tight-knit core. “The benefit of a smaller-scale organization is that we are often able to regularly bring together the majority of the undergraduate Iranian student community and can readily foster relationships between our membership. Because of this, our organization often feels more like a group of friends than a formal student group,” Ahmad explains. The ICS’s focus of creating a group of friends through membership signifies the young Iranian-American pursuit of community and unity that extends beyond group meetings.

The ICS’s largest event of the 2019-2020 year was Mehregan, the Persian Festival of Autumn. The famous Persian and Zoroastrian festival is renowned as a celebration of friendship, love, and kindness. Ahmad highlights the success of Mehregan, explaining, “it was planned in coordination with the Iranian American Cultural Society of Maryland, the Towson University Iranian Student Union, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County Persian Students Association. This event was unique in that it was the first of its kind to bring together Iranian student and non-student communities associated with multiple universities and the DC-Maryland-Virginia area. We sold over 200 tickets, and provided our guests with a night of live performance, delicious food, and ended the evening with DJ’d music and dancing.”

The ICS is a testament to desire of the next Iranian-American generation to build and strengthen its community. Whether through a Mehregan program that brings together students from around the local area, or more casual mehmoonis, the community found at the Johns Hopkins University’s Iranian Cultural Society highlights the beauty and unity that stems from a common love and pride in Iranian heritage.

Pictures courtesy of the ICS.

By Ariane Sharifi