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Iran Summit: Speakers

image1.pngJamal Abdi: President of NIAC since August 2018, and also serves as the Executive Director of NIAC Action, the group’s sister organization. Jamal Abdi joined the National Iranian American Council as Policy Director in November 2009, directing NIAC’s efforts to monitor policies and legislation, and to educate and advocate on behalf of the Iranian-American community.

image1.pngBeeta Baghoolizadeh: Beeta Baghoolizadeh (PhD, History, University of Pennsylvania) is a historian, editor, and artist. Born in Los Angeles to Iranian immigrant parents, Beeta received her BA from UCLA and MA from UT Austin before pursuing her doctorate in the history of race and racism in modern Iran. She is an assistant professor in the Departments of History and Africana Studies at Bucknell University. She is currently working on her book project, which focuses on the moving racial boundaries of slavery and abolition during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beeta is an editor of the Ajam Media Collective, an online space dedicated to issues concerning the broader Persianate world, and directs the Ajam Digital Archive. Her visual project (Instagram: @diasporaletters) features scenes from the mundane and every day in Iranian life. She is also working with an animator on her first short film.

image1.pngMana Kharrazi: Executive Director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization dedicated to community building and youth empowerment. Mana's expertise is in the Iranian diaspora, community organizing and youth leadership development.

She is a former field organizer at Amnesty International USA. Mana was also the Education Director of Emergency Response Centre International. 

image1.pngMichael Page: Deputy Director in the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. A graduate of the American University of Beirut and the Harvard Kennedy School, he previously worked closely with civil society organizations in the Middle East, including on the documentation of human rights abuses during the Syrian conflict.

He supervises Human Rights Watch’s work on several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Egypt.

image1.pngBarbara Slavin: Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council and a columnist for, a website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. The author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation (2007), she is a regular commentator on US foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, and C-SPAN.

She has covered such key foreign policy issues as the US-led war on terrorism, policy toward "rogue" states, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. She has traveled to Iran nine times.

image1.pngSussan Tahmasebi: Director of FEMENA, an organization supporting women human rights defenders and women’s movements in North Africa and West Asia. She is a veteran women’s rights and civil society activist.

While in Iran (1999 - 2010), she co-founded the Iran Civil Society Training and Research Center and the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots effort working to end gender-biased laws in Iran. She continues to maintain strong ties with Iranian civil society and women’s groups inside the country.

image1.pngLawrence Wilkerson: Larry Wilkerson is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. n addition, he has been published in The American Conservative, Playboy Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Miami Herald, the New York Daily News, and other magazines and newspapers across the country, as well as appeared on television with Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Keith 

Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Wolf Blitzer, the BBC’s Hardtalk and Newsnight, and others.

Jasmin Ramsey: Deputy Communications Director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran where she leads communications and social media outreach, and edits the English-language news articles. Previously she was a journalist and editor based in Washington, DC. From 2012-2016, Jasmin was the Washington correspondent for the Inter Press Service, an international news wire service, and took over its US foreign policy blog, Lobe Log, as chief editor. During her leadership, Lobe Log was listed as a must-read site on US-Iran relations by prominent news sites and in 2015 became the first blog to receive the Arthur Ross Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs from the American Academy of Diplomacy. The Guardian named her a top-10 twitter account to follow on Iran.

Medea_sm.jpgMedea Benjamin: co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK and the co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange. Described as "one of America's most committed -- and most effective -- fighters for human rights" by New York Newsday, and "one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement" by the Los Angeles Times, she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. She is the author of ten books, including Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control and Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her most recent book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is part of a campaign to prevent a war with Iran and instead promote normal trade and diplomatic relations.

Azadeh1.jpgAzadeh Shahshahani: Azadeh has worked for a number of years in the South to protect the human rights of immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities. She previously served as National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia. Azadeh is a past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Azadeh also serves as Chair of Georgia Detention Watch, Co-chair of the US Human Rights Network Working Group on National Security, and on the Advisory Council of the American Association of Jurists.

Azadeh has served as a trial monitor in Turkey, an election monitor in Venezuela and Honduras, and as a member of the jury in people’s tribunals on Mexico, the Philippines, and Brazil. 

Fatemeh.pngFatemeh Keshavarz: born and raised in the city of Shiraz, completed her studies in Shiraz University, and the University of London. She taught at Washington University in St. Louis for over twenty years where she chaired the Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from 2004 to 2011. In 2012, Keshavarz joined the University of Maryland as Roshan Institute Chair in Persian Studies, and Director of Roshan Institute for Persian Studies.

Keshavarz is author of award-winning books including Reading Mystical Lyric: the Case of Jalal al-Din Rumi (USC Press,1998), Recite in the Name of the Red Rose (USC Press, 2006) and a book of literary analysis and social commentary titled Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran (UNC Press, 2007).

image1.pngPhyllis Bennis: directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, focusing on Middle East, U.S. wars and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

She works with many anti-war organizations, writing and speaking widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. Phyllis has written and edited eleven books.

image1.pngNiki Akhavan: is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Media and Communication Department at the Catholic University of America. She is the author of "Electronic Iran: the Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution. Prior to working at CUA, she was the Iran and UAE Researcher at Human Rights Watch.

She is the author of Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution (Rutgers, 2013).

image1.pngTyler Cullis: is an Associate Attorney at Ferrari & Associates, P.C. where he is engaged in the practice of U.S. economic sanctions, including trade compliance, regulatory licensing matters, and federal investigations and prosecutions. Mr. Cullis has extensive experience counseling clients on matters falling under the purview of the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

image1.pngSamira Damavandi: is a freelance writer based in Washington D.C. Her research specifically focuses on women in Iran. She has been published in Al Jazeera, Bourse & Bazaar, and the Huffington Post and more. Originally from California, she is a graduate of UC Berkeley and received her MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.

image1.pngTrita Parsi: Trita Parsi is an award-winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. His latest book - Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press, 2017) - reveals the behind the scenes story to the historic nuclear deal with Iran.

image1.pngLeila Zand: is an Iranian-American educator and peace activist. Leila has more than a decade of experience in Track II Diplomacy, with expertise in nonviolence education and intercultural communications, interfaith dialogue, and women empowerment. She has worked closely with civil societies, and peace and justice organizations within the greater Middle East; namely Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine. Since 2014 Leila has taken time to reflect on her first-hand experiences and has begun a PhD program with a concentration on the U.S. policy in the Middle East. She is currently focused on activities that raise awareness about U.S. militarization in the Middle East, and the impact it has on the lives of ordinary people.

Sina Toossi: is a research associate at the National Iranian American Council. In this role, he conducts research and writing on U.S.-Iran relations, Iranian politics, and Middle East policy issues.

Previously, he was a research specialist at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he focused on nuclear and security policy issues related to the Middle East.