Nikki Farahanchi and Nina Farahanchi are two proud and strong young women whose goal on Saturday is to not only open people’s eyes, but their hearts and minds as well when it comes to stereotypes, misconceptions and seeing the big picture – the real big picture.
And that real big picture, one you don’t see when you turn on the TV here in the United States, hits home for the twin sisters. The Greenhills High School seniors were born in an Iranian immigrant household and raised bilingual with Iranian cultural values. On their summer trips to Iran, they experienced a beautiful country with caring and gentle people, rich traditions and a proud heritage.
What’s real in the homeland of their parents is quite different than the misconceptions and stereotypes many Americans have about the Middle East and especially Iran.
Nikki and Nina hope to start the conversation about Iran by having a conversation on Saturday at the annual TEDxYouth@AnnArbor conference. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and Saturday’s event at Skyline High School gives a voice to the future with high school students speaking about a number of different topics and sharing their ideas, dreams and goals.
The event is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturday, March 17.
SEE THE COMPLETE TEDX LINEUP: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/03/14/tedxyouthannarbor-lineup-of-speakers-on-saturday-at-skyline-hs/
Nikki and Nina have a unique insight into a world that is often misunderstood and misrepresented, and learning from what they have seen and experienced is truly at the heart of what TED is about – “Ideas Worth Spreading.”
“We are first-generation Americans,” says Nikki, “We want to talk about our trips to Iran especially the one this summer because it was the first time we went there where we understood what was happening around us. It was the first time we understood how different Iran is from how it’s portrayed here in the media.”
According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, almost 69 percent of Americans had unfavorable views of Iran. Now that could be views based only on past leadership and government and nothing to do with the culture or the people.
And the truth about the people is they don’t live in the desert any more than people in Las Vegas live in the desert, the majority of people are not religious fanatics, they are a passionate and loving people, they are very sociable and very, very proud of their country. And the streets are not filled with tanks and gun fire.
How do we know this? Just ask two people who have been there many times.
“It’s a very safe and peaceful place,” Nina says. “We have never seen any military presence there or any soldiers. The streets are safe. We’ve never even seen a police officer. And the Islamic dress code there is very relaxed.
“And the architecture is so beautiful. Iran has some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Iran actually has a lot of tourists but so few are from America. And the current Visa band certainly isn’t helping that.”
The sisters think the biggest misconception has to do with the Islamic dress code and how Iran is just lumped in with some of the unstable Middle Eastern countries.
“The perception comes from ignorance and not that people are dumb, but they just don’t know about it and don’t see what we have seen and experienced in Iran,” Nikki said. “It’s not anyone’s fault because all they know about Iran is what they see in the media and the only time the media talks about Iran is when there is violence or war.”
While in Iran, the sisters talked to other people their age to get their views on America.
“Iranians are very fond of Americans,” Nina said. “They learn English in high school and I think that helps. They are just kind and generous people. They love to practice their English and they welcome strangers to their home for dinner.”
Speaking of dinner…
“We met this one kid and he said he wants to go to McDonalds in America,” Nikki said. “And he asked us if he came to America could he stay at our house. And that made me sad because with the travel ban there is no way he could come and visit us. He can’t come to America just because of where he was born.”
“There are just a lot more similarities between Iran and America than most people realize,” says Nina. “We want to show Iran has a positive side and not just the negative aspects that are always shown in the media. And that it’s wrong to judge people based on where they are from.”
Nikki and Nina, Honor Roll students at Greenhills, will both be attending the business school at the University of Michigan next year. Nina hopes to someday work at the United Nations while Nikki would like to start her own business centered around Islamic fashion.
Nina is doing a second presentation on Saturday called: “It’s Time to Talk About the World’s Largest Minority.” Nina is legally blind, but was not born that way, and wants to share her story in an attempt to “normalize disability in American culture.”
“It’s about attitudes toward disabilities and my own experiences growing up as someone who is visually impaired,” she says.
When it gets right down to it, Nikki and Nina have a clear vision of a world of acceptance. One of tolerance. One where the only walls that need to be built are those to keep out rain, snow and wind – not human beings. The sisters have an outgoing personality and they like to share their experiences with their friends.
And they can’t wait to share their big world vision on Saturday. They certainly are “Ideas Worth Spreading.”