L.A. Radio Station Broadcasts Full-Time In Farsi
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Ever since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, millions of Iranians have left their country, and that includes many who now live in the United States. The largest community is in Los Angeles. And their people have been hungering for news from their homeland, and also to share stories of family and friends. One radio station catering to that need in recent days is KIRN.
NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man: (Farsi spoken)
INA JAFFE: Radio station KIRN bills itself as the only U.S. station that broadcasts full-time in Farsi. Ordinarily, current events share the airwaves with music, technology, business and sports. One of the most popular programs is a daily psychological advice show with Dr. Farhang Holakouee.
Dr. FARHANG HOLAKOUEE: (Farsi spoken)
JAFFE: Holakouee usually gets questions about relationships with family, friends or coworkers. But the questioner he's responding to here asked him for his reaction to the pictures of violence coming out of Iran. His answer lasted several minutes. At one point he said he was thinking: What if I were there and this had happened to my sons? How could I deal with it?
Holakouee says those are the kinds of feelings that many of his callers have.
Dr. HOLAKOUEE: Frustration, anger, sadness, sometimes even helplessness - you can feel it, because they really don't know what to do.
JAFFE: Nearly all of Holakouee's callers are in the United States, but many have been in touch with friends or family still in Iran. So in the past few days, his show has become the sort of community bulletin board.
Dr. HOLAKOUEE: Even sometimes people calling me and crying that my brother or my friends got killed, or right now he or she is in, right now, in prison or arrested.
JAFFE: KIRN is now almost all call-in, all the time. The station's general manager, John Paley, made that decision the day after Iran's disputed election. He says the estimated half-million Iranians living in the Los Angeles area deserve no less.
Mr. JOHN PALEY (General Manager, KIRN): Our decision to open the lines was because of the need to give the Persians in this country, and maybe even some around the world, an opportunity to vent, to talk about what's going on. And we also learned from it.
JAFFE: For 10 years, KIRN has been heard on the AM dial in Southern California, and it can now also be heard around the world on the Internet. The station produces most of its own shows, but some of its airtime is sold for infomercials - also in Farsi.
Nick Yekani and Jim Hossein Madjid buy a couple of hours a week to talk about their financial planning business. But this week, Yekani says they decided on the spur of the moment to convert their finance show into a public affairs program to talk about events in Iran.
Mr. NICK YEKANI (Financial Planner): And I think that was a wonderful idea, because people came and they talked about, you know, what's taking place in their country. We've been waiting for this for many, many years. And it's so beautiful that we are all united, fighting for freedom, and then that was the least we could have done today.
JAFFE: Some of the people I spoke with at the station told stories - only off the record - of their harrowing escape after the Iranian Revolution or the executions of many loved ones during those times. But the feeling that now, finally, some measure of freedom may be coming to Iran seemed pervasive throughout the station.
Yekani and Madjid were no exception.
Mr. YEKANI: Something has opened up, you know. And I think this is just going to get bigger and bigger. That is my personal opinion. I feel it. I don't know how Jim feels about it, but I do.
Mr. JIM HOSSEIN MADJID (Financial Planner): Well, yeah. This time, I think something major will happen. Major, major, major reform's going to happen.
JAFFE: No one knew if that would take days or years, or what price the people of Iran would have to pay. But the Iranians in Southern California now have a place to share their dreams and their fears.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
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