Peace Corps in Iran: A History and In-Depth look at the Later Years
Jasamin Rostam-Kolayi, Paul Zimmerman, Warren Sawyer, Jo Floyd, Paul Barker. Moderator, Jeanette Gottlieb.
Why did Peace Corps leave Iran in 1976? It is impossible to consider that question without considering why Peace Corps was brought to Iran in the first place, the role of Peace Corps in the White Revolution, and the social context of Iran in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This panel explores various perspectives on Peace Corps’ years in Iran. Jasamin Rostam-Kolayi will begin by presenting an overview of her postdoctoral research on the history of the Peace Corps’ program in Iran from its origins in 1962 to its end in 1976. She frames this often forgotten and marginalized fourteen-year history in light of the diplomatic history of U.S.-Iran relations; the expansion of education, urbanization, and economic development in Iran; and the increasing U.S. presence in Iran in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The remaining four panelists then focus on the later years of Peace Corps in Iran.
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Jasamin Rostam-Kolayi is an associate professor at California State University, Fullerton with a PhD in Modern Middle East History. Her journal publications cover late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Iranian history, including U.S.-Iranian educational partnerships. At the International Society for Iranian Studies Conference in August 2014, Rostam-Kolayi gave a talk placing the Peace Corps in the context of the Pahlavi White Revolution and relations between the United States and Iran during that period. She is currently working on a journal article and book project on the history of the Peace Corps in Iran and, with this in mind, will be observing the conference activities as well as doing oral histories with interested Iran PCVs.
Paul Zimmerman received his BA from Dartmouth in 1955 and a degree in law from Yale in 1958. He practiced law from 1958 until 1966. He served as Peace Corps Director in South India from 1966-68 and in Iran from 1968-71. On returning to the U.S., he served as Deputy Environmental Administrator for New York City. He was Founding Executive Director and counsel of Moped Association of America before returning to private law practice. From 1994-97 he lived in Nairobi, Kenya where he worked for U.N. agencies and his wife ran the East Africa office of a U.S. NGO. Since then he has been involved in volunteer work in the Washington, D.C. area.
Warren Sawyer was Regional Director of the Peace Corps in northern India stationed in New Delhi from 1969 to 1971. In mid-1971 Warren, with wife Joan and five school-aged children, he moved to Tehran, where he was Country Director of Peace Corps Iran until mid-1974. After returning to the United States and completing graduate studies, he was managing partner in a real estate development partnership as well as serving on non-profit boards such as Habitat For Humanity International, where he chaired their international work. In 1992 Warren, with Joan and their eldest daughter Debbie, founded The Caleb Group, a non-profit affordable housing organization now spread around New England. Warren earned degrees at Gordon College and Harvard’s Kennedy School.
Paul Barker was a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran from 1971-76. He taught English in Bidokht, Khorasan from 1971-73, then in the Tribal High School in Shiraz from 1973-75. From 1975-76 Paul served as a TEFL field officer and also conducted Peace Corps training programs in Bahrain. He earned a master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a master’s in teaching from Lewis and Clark College. He and his wife, Nora, worked in international relief and development work from 1982 until their retirement in 2014. This included eleven years of work in Afghanistan, as well as assignments in Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, West Bank/Gaza, and Tanzania. He made a return visit to Iran in 1999 and again with Nora in May 2014.
You can view Paul’s presentation to the Juneau World Affairs Council earlier this spring.