Wednesday, February 2, 2011

14-year-old Irani/Saudi-American Yasmin Siraj: A Rising US Figure Skater

Yasmin Siraj, 13, prior to representing the United States at an event in Italy, April 2010.

During this year's US Figure Skating Championships (January 22-30, 2011), I discovered a rising young figure skater named Yasmin Siraj. Although Yasmin's maternal Persian roots are often mentioned, I was surprised to learn that she is also Saudi. Yasmin's parents, Ra’ad A. Siraj, the son of a Saudi diplomat, and Aban Makarechian, raised in Tehran, met as graduate students in the United States, married and settled there. While Yasmin's father pursues his career, Yasmin's mother devotes herself to their children, Yasmin and older sister Layla, and to making sure they are familiar with Persian language and culture.

Yasmin Siraj, 13, with her silver medal at the US Figure Skating Championships, 2010 from Iranian of the Day

Yasmin now pursues a place on the senior women's podium after silvers as a junior, in national and international competitions. At only 14 she has a lot of time to perfect her sport performance. Based on her skates this year, and in the past, her strengths are her artistry, and dance and musical sense, while jumps are her main challenge. It will be fun to watch her development, presumably to competition at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Yasmin is a competitive pianist as well.

Two interesting biographical articles on Yasmin Siraj:
A Fine Balance
From Salchows to Chopin: Get to Know Yasmin Siraj

Yasmin at the 2010 US Figure Skating Championships

Any thoughts on why Yasmin is so strongly identified as Iranian-American and weakly identified as Saudi-American?
Other comments, thoughts, impressions?


Susanne said...

Do you think it's because the Iranians "claim" her and the Saudis do not? Or maybe her mother has influenced her to see herself as Persian instead of Arab. Cute girl...thanks for sharing!

Chiara said...

Thanks for your comment Susanne. I suspect it is primarily because her Iranian (or Armenian raised in Iran?) mother is most front and centre, as competitive figure skating mothers are. Fathers are too busy earning money to pay for what is an expensive sport.

However, I was struck that her mother emphasizes that the girls are learning Persian language and culture, and Persian customs are kept alive in the home, without any mention of Saudi, or Arab culture and language.

Another of my hypotheses is that Iranians in the US are mostly antipathetic to the current Iranian regime and thus may be more favourably viewed as a group than Arab Muslims are now, especially Saudis given the psychological impact of 9/11.

Yasmin is cute and talented. I hope she goes far in her chosen pursuits.

Thanks again for your comment!

programmer craig said...

I think you're right about Iranians being well accepted in the US, but I don't think it's got anything to do with 9/11. It was true before 9/1, too. I'm not sure, but I think it might be because they are generally very accepting of American culture and take to it fairly easily.

Anywa, cute kid! I wish her lots of success :)

Anonymous said...

She's an American! Born and raised. We are descendants from one or two different nationalities. I'm French, English and Scotish. But I'm still an American.

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thanks for your comment. I think that is the point--she is an American who is being raised with a strong sense of identification with her Iranian heritage, which is only one half of her heritage. In any case, I hope she excels in and enjoys her chosen pursuits. Thanks again for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous. You're right.


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