Overheard in Fog City:
City Hall Norouz event postponed over flap

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Culture, News, Politics

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Published on March 18, 2008 with 40 Comments


The third annual Norouz event, scheduled for Friday, March 21 has been postponed one week
due to a flap between event organizer, Turquoise Bridges, and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

March 18, 2008

Hold on to your Chelow Kebabs, folks – this year’s City Hall Norouz (Iranian New Year) event has been postponed one week due to a flap between Norouz event organizer Turquoise Bridges and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi, who is the first Iranian-American to hold elected office in San Francisco and was instrumental in launching the first officially celebrated Norouz event at City Hall in 2006, was not invited to be a guest speaker at this year’s event.

In other words, Mirkarimi, who has become the patron saint of all things Persian and a beacon for the Iranian diaspora, has been snubbed.

“The board is very interested in bringing unity to the community,” Turquoise Bridges founder Nazly Mohaje told Fog City. “They don’t want any hint of division in the community.”

“We’re not a political organization, we’re a peace organization,” Mohaje added.

That division, we’re told, was created as a result of political differences between Mayor Gavin Newsom and Mirkarimi. Newsom, according to Mohaje, is “extremely popular with the Persian community. They don’t like the animosity between Mirkarimi and Newsom.”

Mohaje also did not appreciate the ever-judicious Mirkarimi highlighting Turquoise Bridges’ non-sanctioned use of the City’s Seal in their 2006 and 2007 invitation literature authorized by the mayor’s office.


Turquoise Bridges founder Nazly Mohaje (right) , Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (center)
and Mayor Gavin Newsom (left) at the first official celebration of Norouz
in San Francisco City Hall, 2006.

Unrelated to the snub, Mirkarimi announced he will host a Norouz celebration of his own at his City Hall office at the same time Turquoise Bridges scheduled their event in City Hall’s rotunda on March 21, and that’s when the Turquoise Bridges board decided to postpone their event one week to March 28.

“I am thrilled to see as many Persian Norouz events now being celebrated throughout the United States,” Mirkarimi told Fog City. “However, I am concerned that some of these events are becoming more exclusive and more political which is why I decided to hold a more modest and free Norouz event in my office on March 21.”

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • Amir

    This is very interesting. As an Iranian-American, a tax payer and San Francisco resident, I have never been invited to the last Nouroz events in city hall. Turquoise Bridges founder Nazly Mohaje invites only rich Iranian-Americans. If you look at the list of their guests, they are all wealthy Iranian-Americans. Newsom and Mohajer celebrate Norouz for wealthy people, not for middleclass tax payers. This event is in the city hall building, the public building which is supposed to belong to all citizens. In the time of event they block the main entrance and won’t let you in and they roll their eyes and say “you are not invited.”

    This is a shame for the City of San Francisco and its residents.

  • Erika

    Wow. Mayor Newsom and his minions are really going after Mirkarimi. More judicious and measured than Daly, Mirkarimi is much harder to use as a punching bag. So they are employing these subtle tricks to bring him down. Sneaky and transparently shameful!
    I bet Newsom will speak at the event on March 28, along with the rest of the hack parade. Mirkarimi’s event on March 21 is sure to be much more fun.

  • joe smith

    Mayor Newsom and Supervisor Mirkirimi should
    be included in the event. It is at City Hall. Any
    party/person which excludes either of the two elected
    officials should be excluded himself/herself. These
    functions are for the community at large, not to
    furthur someone’s personal agenda or career.
    Rich or poor, all should be invited to celebrate
    New Year’s at City Hall. What happened to the
    Mayor’s staff person by the name of Safai? This
    guy should be bringing the Mayor, Supervisor, and
    community together. If he can’t do this, he has no
    change as supervisor. Was he fired by Newsom?

  • anynomous

    How petty. Mirkarimi — ” who has become the patron saint of all things Persian and a beacon..” was not asked to speak.. get over it, Supervisor. You’re not the center of the universe, and honestly, I don’t don’t know why people have been putting you on a pedestal.

  • a friend

    much appreciation should be given to
    asha Safie, Mayor Newsom and Supervisor
    Mirkarimi for starting the New Years celebration
    at city Hall 2006. A great tribute to our community.
    Its a sham that the persian community would
    exclude any one of these founding architects
    of this great annual event. Shame on any one
    who is participating in not including these fine
    gentlemen. This commmunity should unit, not devide
    dispite there differances for the annual NEW YEARS event.
    Excluding is a form of discrimination which we should
    not be part of. We should make every effort
    to include “all”. we should not “exclude” any.
    This community can only grow by unity.

  • Jess Drake

    I, for one, see Supervisor Mirkarimi’s presence at this event symbolic, if not unmindfully pressured by social functions, because he is the first Iranian-American to be elected to office in the San Francisco. That aspect, along with being one of the founders of this annual event, makes it almost a given that he would be nothing but the keynote speaker. So, for the organizers to hold Gavin Newsom at a higher stature of importance? It is incredulous.

  • Atefeh Khajenouri

    As an Iranian American, I am deeply disappointed in the folks at Turquiose Bridges, who are always right in the middle of all these petty disagreements. At some point we have to ask what this Nazy woman is doing to incite so much hate.

    How embarrasing to postpone Norouz.! Anyway the prices are way too steep for what you get, and it always seems like more self promotion than the unity of the community. Ross has the right idea by making a free event.

  • Tosh A

    $175 per person is outragious. The Black & White Ball charges these numbers. New Year at City Hall
    should be a community event (FREE TO ALL)

  • a resident of district 5

    This has nothing to do with the price — Mirkarimi is is making a big fuss because he wasn’t asked to speak.

    City Hall events have always divided the classes. The low income folks come for events in the mornings.. they put on shows..and wealthy people are seated for dinner events in the evening.. they are entertained.

    I like Supervisor Mirkarimi, and I voted for him, but I really think that people are disillusioned by politicians and celebrities..like they can do no wrong. Mirkarimi is acting like a spoiled child..and I think the money issue is simply a red herring for his inflated and bruised ego.

  • Amin of the Bay Area Iranian community

    First of all Mirkarimi is not the founder of this annual Norouz event! Turquoise Bridges has held this event for the past 3 years- I know because I have been to both ceremonies. Ross with the help of his minions, I believe, is trying to destroy this holy ceremony by creating a division within the community.

    Rather than embracing Turquoise Bridges annual event at City Hall he is sabotaging the event by holding a party of his own at the same location and the same time…this is very childish and pathetic! Mirkarimi is Persian-Russian not Persian-American, so I guess that explains his lack of patriotism.

    I have met and spoke to Nazly at both Norouz events prior to this years delay and it amazed me how a REAL Persian-American WOMEN can put such on a great show for the community. She expressed how people of the Iranian community including Ross tried to discredit her for all her hard work. It has been an ongoing struggle for Nazly. Her against the world it seemed like when I spoke to her about purchasing tickets for this years event not too long ago. Whether its free or $200, the people should understand that what Turquoise Bridges stands for is the community at large and not benefiting any individual entity.

    Its a shame that Ross is so egotistical, I think that he would have been a good fit within Turquoise Bridges…apparently he likes to play hard ball.

  • A San Franciscan

    Poor little Ross, He didn’t get his binky when he went to bed.

    “I am not speaking, so I am going to sabotage everything!” “waaa, waaa, waaa””.

    Shame on you Mirkarimi. It is not all about you. The community may actually be more important.

  • Mike D.

    It is interesting to read comments like “this event should be free and open to everyone” Hmmm

    How many people does the enlightened commenter think should be invited and attend? 500, 1000, or maybe 10,000? Who pays for the cost? I am certain that they would not volunteer. Who is going to pay the dancers, the musicians, the caterer, etc.? Obviously these are comments posted by people who think that a free lunch actually does exist!

    As someone who attended the event last year (I missed the first one), it certainly made me proud to be a resident of this great city and to see such a delightful exhibit of culture and beauty. I for one will be buying my ticket and attending the event next week. It would be a sad day to let the petty tantrums of a wannabe succeed in stopping such a wonderful event.

  • Shiela

    Some one please help me with the this: Why was the event rescheduled? If Ms. Mohajer has sold enough tickets to recover her costs, why blame it on someone else having another party the same night? There are three other Nowruz events that night!

  • A San Francisco resident

    Last I heard, Ms. Nazy’s event was short $ 50,000 as of last weekend. At $ 175 a pop, she needed to sell 283 tickets in 5 days! Then comes the excuse: Mirkarimi’s art show. Yep! Blame it on him. Shame on you woman who divide the community for your own profits!

  • Shiela

    Can someone help me with this: If Ms. Mohajer had sold enough tickets and everything was ready to go, why cancel the event? There could be thousands other FREE parties out there. If she had the audience why not go ahead with it? I smell something here!!

  • Ms. Tehrani

    Lets look at the facts: MirKarimi advertised a free event for Nowrouz in the same building at the same time as the 3rd annual Turquoise Bridges event. I wonder if that had anything to do with trying to create confusion and bad will amongst the disappointed people who would show up expecting one thing and getting turned away. He was counting on making a huge scene and trying his best to divide the community for his own personal agenda.

  • Sue

    To Amin: Ross is NOT sabotaging Norouz. He has held art parties in his office on the third Friday of every month on a pretty regular basis. Having participated in one particular art party, I know that the artists need to get lined up months in advance.

    You may perceive the art party being held in his office this Friday as sabotage — but I guarantee you that it is not. Ross has been very good, throughout his tenure in office, at promoting Persian art and the art of the people in his district. Of course he would make sure, months ahead of time, to have scheduled an Iranian artist right around the time of the Persian New Year.

  • Ms. Tehrani

    Sue, I have a question, if Ross was invited to speak at the event, would he have hosted his artist party on the same day? I think you know the answer.

  • Sue

    Yes, he would have. The party goes on whether or not he is there.

  • Ms. Tehrani

    Sue, If that is the case, then why did Ross send out an email which starts the following text:
    “Please come to the first annual Nowruz Deed-o Bazdeed with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at his office in San Francisco City Hall. Deed-o Bazdeed means to exchange visits with friends and family signifying the first 12 days of the Persian New Year celebration. On Friday March 21st, we will serve Chai (tea) and Shirini (Persian Sweet) while visiting each other in the customary tradition of Nowruz. ”
    Doesn’t sound like an artist party to me. More like a divisive attempt to split the community as much as possible by having the same party in the same building, celebrating the same event, on the same night and at the same time! Please, do not try to deceive others into believing that this party had nothing to do with usurping the pre-existing Nowrouz City Hall event, and that it was all about art. The public is smarter than that, and this will ultimately backfire.