"Armenian" or "Ararat" Club in Tehran, including its address, whether it issues membership cards, and whether it has had any confrontations with Islamic fundamentalists (1994-1998) [IRN31139.E]

In a 16 February 1999 telephone interview, the Office Manager of the Armenian Society of Los Angeles stated that the Ararat Club is a sports club for young people that has existed for a long time. She stated that she was a member when she was last living in Iran 20 years ago. Her confirmation about its continued existence is based on conversations "from time to time" with people in Iran as well as reports from people coming to Los Angeles from Iran who have used the facilities. She said that it is located just north of Tehran and that it issues membership cards to both boys and girls for the use of a wide range of sporting facilities including soccer, basketball, volley-ball and table-tennis. When asked if she is aware of any confrontations the club has had with Islamic fundamentalists she replied "what I've heard is they've had a few crashers." She explained that there have been times when non-members have tried to get in to either see or use the facilities.

The following information was provided during an 18 February 1999 telephone interview with a professor of Political Science at the University of Southern California who specializes in Iranian politics and published an article in 1995 concerning the Armenian Diaspora in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She confirmed that the Ararat Club is a large sports facility in Tehran offering a range of sports options. However, she said that it also plays an important social function within the Armenian community for persons of all ages. The professor stated that dinners and other social functions are held on site. She was unaware of the use of membership cards and said that if a person was an Iranian of Armenian descent their membership would be "almost automatic."

She also stated that there is another Armenian club in Tehran, a much smaller one, for persons of Armenian descent who are "more on the left politically." She explained that the Armenian community is divided to a certain extent and that the Ararat Club is part of the grouping known as Dashanak, which is the "dominant nationalist organization in the Armenian Diaspora that controls many of the social functions." However, those persons that belong to the smaller club in Tehran also frequently attend functions at the Ararat Club.

The professor stated that there have been some "confrontations" with Islamic fundamentalists at the Ararat Club, but that they had been more frequent in the past. While noting that "the treatment of Armenians in Iran has been the best of non-Muslim minorities," she said there have been occasions when revolutionary guards, or vigilantes, have attempted to enter the club. She stated that this was usually a product of "childlike curiosity" as a result of the mixing of the sexes that occurs at the club. Since the club is private and does not permit the entry of Muslims and non-Armenians, it has a right to religious freedom that allows for the interaction of sexes in a social setting. According to the professor, the knowledge of this, and the possibility that women may be unveiled, has sometimes caused Islamic fundamentalists to demand entry. On those occasions their access would be refused and telephone calls would be made to government authorities to report the "confrontation" at the gates. The professor said that invariably the guards or vigilantes would leave after receiving instructions that access to the Ararat Club for non-Armenians was not permitted.

The "Armenian Ararat club" was also mentioned in a Sharg News Agency report on statements made by the Azerbaijani ambassador in Tehran. The ambassador was reported to have "expressed dissatisfaction that the Armenian community enjoys broad rights in Iran" and added that "the Armenian Ararat club is also open" (21 Nov. 1997). He was expressing concern that Azerbaijani people in Iran do not enjoy similar access to cultural services (ibid.). There are also reports of an Ararat Association in Tehran (The Boston Globe 23 Oct. 1994; The Armenian Reporter 9 Sept. 1995). The Globe article mentions an Armenian cultural association called the Ararat which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1994 (23 Oct. 1994). According to the same article one of its founders was Jack Karapetian (Hakob Karabents). According to The Armenian Reporter there is an "extremely well-organized Armenian community of Tehran, which revolves around the Ararat Association - a veritable 'city within the city' - possessing a structure and facilities unlike any other Armenian organization" (9 Sept. 1995.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Armenian Reporter. 9 September 1995. "Choral Conductor Raffi Sevadjian to Give Lecture..." (The Ethnic News Watch/NEXIS)

Armenian Society of Los Angeles, Glendale. 16 February 1999. Telephone interview with Office Manager.

The Boston Globe. 23 October 1994. "Jack Karapetian 69; Armenian Author, Journalist." (NEXIS)

Sharg News Agency [Baku, in Russian]. 26 November 1997. "Azerbaijan and Iran Sign Economic Cooperation Accord." (BBC Summary/NEXIS)

University of Southern California. 18 February 1999. Telephone interview with professor of Political Science.

Additional Sources Consulted

The Middle East [London]. January 1994-December 1996; January 1998-present.

Middle East International [London]. January 1994-December 1996; January 1998-present.

Middle East Report [Washington, DC]. 1997-present.

Resource Centre. Iran: Amnesty International country file. January 1994-present.

Electronic sources: IRB Databases, LEXIS/NEXIS, Internet, REFWORLD, World News Connection (WNC).

Two non-documentary sources contacted could not provide information on the requested subject.