Community Politics

‘Tug-of-war’ over origin of U.S. Ambassador to Sweden

When Azita Raji was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, it resulted in a tug-of-war, not with regards to her qualifications, but her origin. The Indian press considers Raji to be an Indian-American whereas the Iranian groups suggest that she was in fact born in Tehran, thus making her an Iranian-American.

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Trita Parsi, Founder and President of the non-profit National Iranian American Council, sent her a congratulatory tweet referring to her as the first Iranian-American ambassador.

Raji was indeed born in Tehran and grew up there but also studied in Western Europe, graduating from an international high school in Lausanne, Switzerland. There she was a competitive skier and chess player before moving to the United States to attend college.

She lived, worked and studied in numerous locations across the world such as the Middle East, Latin America, Western Europe, and the Far East and now lives with her family in Northern California. She is also fluent in many languages including French and Farsi.

Raji’s life has no reference to India, or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. If she did, however, have any Indian roots they have not been pointed out by the White House. Also, no facts have been confirmed by the Indian media.

A Pakistani forum was also quick to comment on her appointment, calling it the “result of aggressive Indian lobbying.” The confusion on this issue drew the attention of Iranians, who tweeted inquiring as to whether the Indians were trying to “claim” her.

There has been so much debate regarding her origin, whether she has Iranian or Indian roots. The question of her being qualified to be the ambassador of Sweden seems to have been overlooked. When one looks at her biography, there is no doubt about it, Raji is a former investment banker, who also served as national Vice-Chair of Finance and helped raise millions for Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012.

Irrespective of her origins, in the Obama administration, race is not an obstacle to securing a top diplomatic post.