Maryam Zar named Women of the Year by State Senator Ben Allen

Zar, a lawyer and decade-long resident of the Palisades alongside her husband and three children, holds a number of positions across several civic projects 

By Keemia Zhang

Maryam Zar, president of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, was named Women of the Year by State Senator Ben Allen earlier this year.

Zar, a lawyer and decade-long resident of the Palisades alongside her husband and three children, holds a number of positions across several civic projects. She is the chair of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils Land Use and Planning Committee, founding chair of the Palisades Homelessness Task Force, secretary of the local Park Advisory Board, and chair of the board of the Palisades YMCA.

“It’s an instinct really, without any sense of boundary.” explains Zar, when asked about her passion for community. Zar first served as Council Chair from 2016 to 2018, and is now serving a second presidency in the community. “People wanted change – which is strange to say that I would be changed, but maybe people wanted a different sort of modus operandi to get things done.”

Zar views the Palisades as a “very tight-knit, little community with a sense of neighborliness. It’s important that during these exchanges we don’t lose that.” Alongside other members of the council, Zar hosted a Public Safety meeting last month, which she believes is important to address local concerns. “People were wondering, is my community safe? People feel secure from getting their questions answered.” 

Allen, a longtime friend of Zar’s, also lauded her involvement in the Women Life Freedom Movement, an Iranian women’s rights campaign born from the Mahsa Amini protests which began last year. “Persian-American women have led the fight to make sure their struggle is not ignored – Maryam has been a leader in this effort,” said Allen in a statement. “Her leadership builds upon years of community service in the Palisades and broader LA region.”

The commemoration ceremony “actually happened on Nawruz, so we decided to milk it for all it’s worth,” says Zar,with a traditional Haft-sin table, a cultural altar with different symbolic objects to celebrate the Persian New Year, being set up at the venue while Zar was awarded.

Senator Allen’s constituency comprises one of the most densely populated Persian communities in the state. “California does have the most concentration of Persians outside Iran,” explains Zar.  Zar was among those who lobbied for the successful California Senate Concurrent Resolution 6, which expressed legislative support for the Iranian protests and encouraged the United States government’s response to the Iranian government’s repression.

“Our goal is to get it in all fifty states, hopefully it starts with New York and goes from there.” proclaims Zar, who warns about the waning discussions regarding the protests. “The news of the protests has been dwindling down, but we have to keep speaking about it and talking about it because women are still being gassed, and still taking their scarves off in public and protesting against the government.”

Despite public encouragement, Zar has expressed little desire to run for public office. “I might run for state assembly. It’s more national and generational but besides that, not really.” Zar, who left Iran in 1979, has stated that it is a “privilege and luxury to help out your community, to solve problems, and getting people together to solve a problem. And reminding people to be kind.”

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