2018 Guest Speakers




Dr. Shapour Rassekh is an expert in sociology. He is a former professor at the University of Tehran, and also served as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Economic and Social Planning in Iran. He worked as a consultant to UNESCO, the IIEP, and IBE for many years. He is the author of several studies written for these organizations, including The Contents of Education: a Worldwide View of Their Development from the Present to Year 2000 (1988 – in collaboration with G. Vaideanu); Perspectives on Literacy: a Selected World Bibliography (1991); and Education et Culture de la Paix: Sélection Bibliographique Mondiale (1996). He was co-editor of the report of the IBE curriculum development seminar for the countries of the Arabian Gulf held in Muscat, Oman in February 2001 on the theme “Management of Curriculum Change and Adaptation in the Gulf Region”. He is one of the editors of “Payam-i-Baha’i”, an international Basha’i journal. Dr. Rassekh has also served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in Iran and later on, on the Continental Board of Counselors in Europe.




Dr. Behrooz Sabet holds a doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo. For more than 20 years, Dr. Sabet has been intellectually engaged in research and writing on the intersection of religion, science, and culture in the Middle East. He is a well-known scholar of religion, contemporary political thoughts and movements in Iran, and the conceptual and historical origins of modernity and its impact on Islam and the Middle Eastern societies. He has translated and written extensively on religious, ethical, educational, philosophical, and social themes, and presented research papers at national and international conferences. He has been a University professor, academic dean, and consultant on aspects of education and culture in the Middle East. Dr. Sabet has given more than 300 media presentations and interviews including interviews by BBC, Radio Farda, Kuwait TV, VOA, national radio stations, and various websites and international media on human rights, education, women rights, religious freedom, modernity, social and cultural change, and globalization.


Nader Saiedi Ph.D, teaches Baha’i studies at UCLA. He was born in Tehran, Iran. He holds a master's degree in economics from Pahlavi University in Shiraz and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin. 
For twenty seven years he was a professor of sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 2013, he became the Taslimi Foundation professor of  Baha'i History and Religion in Iran​. 
His main interests include Babi and Baha’i studies, social theory, Iranian studies, and peace studies. Among his published books are: The Birth of Social Theory (1993), Logos and Civilization (2000), and Gate of the Heart (2008). 


Jane Lewisohn is a graduate of Pahlavi University, Shiraz, Iran. She has been involved in the research and promotion of various aspects of Persian culture and Studies for the last four decades. Since 2005 she has directed the Golha Project under the auspices of the British Library, London, and the Music Department of SOAS, University of London. The Golha Project (http://www.golha.co.uk) is an encyclopedic website for Persian music and literature based on the Golha Radio Programs broadcast in Iran from 1956 through 1979. She is currently the director of the Golistan Project working in collaboration with the Samuel Jordan Center of Persian Studies at the University of California, Irvine to create a world resource for Persian Performing Arts of the twentieth century, music, film, theater, and printed matter. See: http://www.golistan.org/.


May Khadem is a comprehensive ophthalmologist and public health activist. May served on the faculty of Northwestern University Department of Ophthalmology for 25 years, then she spent seven years in China where she assisted the development of rural eye care in several provinces. May was one of the co-founders of a not-for-profit charitable organization named Health for Humanity (HH), where she served as the organization’s Executive Director for 17 years. She also co-founded Vision in Practice, a not-for-profit organization that has helped rural eye hospitals in China raise the standard of eye care and capacity for elimination of avoidable blindness. She has served as consultant and offered workshops to many international organizations active in blindness prevention including the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Her work led to a book which she co-authored entitled: Transformative Leadership: Developing the Hidden Dimension. She currently works in Portland, Oregon


Saghar Sadeghian started her higher education in Iran at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). She received her MA in Historical Research at Lancaster University, the U.K. and her Ph.D. in History at Sorbonne Nouvelle, France. Saghar came to the U.S. as a postdoctoral associate of Iranian Studies, Yale University, where she also received the Rice Faculty Fellowship. Saghar is now a History assistant professor at Willamette University. She is also the associate director of Yale Iranian History Internet Archives (YIHA). Sadeghian’s primary research focuses on minority groups and the concept of citizenship in the Middle East. She is writing her book on “Non-Muslims and the Iranian Constitutional Revolution: A Quest of Identity.” Her new research on Environmental History focuses on “Forestry and Exploitation of Caspian Forests of Northern Iran in the 19th and 20th Centuries.




Shohreh Asemi studied Fine Arts in University of Tehran. During her artistic career, she acted in fifteen plays and directed five. After immigrating to England in 1985, Shohreh lived in London for ten years, during which she worked as a presenter and producer for Persian BBC and Pegah TV. Meanwhile she also taught theater in different Persian schools in London. Shohreh immigrated to the United States in 1995 and since then has been active as theater actor and director. She has also been collaborating with many Iranian Cultural Centers. For the past seven years, Shohreh has been conducting the Nawrouz Festival which is the largest of its kind and attracts more than twelve thousand participants every year.



Abbas Amanat is William Graham Sumner Professor of History at Yale University and Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. His most recent book: Iran: A Modern History is published by the Yale University Press in 2017. Among his other publications are Resurrection and Renewal: the Making of the Babi Movement in Iran; Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy and Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi’ism. He co-authored, edited and co-edited numerous titles including Az Tehran ta ‘Akka: Babiyan va Baha’iayan dar Asnad-e Dowran-e Qajar and a special issue of the Journal of Iranian Studies (2016) on “Iran’s Environmental Changes and Challenges.” His forthcoming Persianate World: A Conceptual Inquiry will be published by Brill in 2018.  He is the Bahari Fellow at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University in Spring 2018. Abbas Amanat is a Consulting Editor of Encyclopedia Iranica and served as the editor of the journal of Iranian Studies and formerly chaired the Council on      Middle East Studies at Yale MacMillan Center.



Behrouz Afagh was born and brought up in Iran, and studied at Tehran University and then University of Surrey in Britain. He has lived in Britain since 1978. He is an international media specialist and consultant. He worked as a journalist and manager for the BBC for 30 years. He was Director of Middle East and West Asia until February 2016, overseeing BBC’s TV, Radio and Online services for the countries in this region. He set up a number of new channels for the BBC, including the BBC Persian TV in 2009. He has served in the advisory board of the Journalism Program at the Open Society Foundation. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Taslimi Foundation, and works for the Foundation as editorial advisor. 


Fereidoun Farahandouz, Radio and TV announcer and program creator, was born in Tehran on February 28th, 1947, and started his broadcasting profession in radio and TV productions of Radio Tehran in 1967. Mr Farahandouz started working for the National Iranian Radio and Television Organization until 1979, and served as Channel Two news managing director and editor among other positions. Mr. Farahandouz immigrated to America in 1979 and joined the Voice of America’s Persian Service in 1980 where he assumed various responsibilities over a period of 23 years. Alongside delivering the news throughout those 23 years, Fereidoun Farahandouz’s voice was the medium for performing various cultural, literary and cinematic programs and delivering Norooz and the spirit of spring to Iranian households.  After retiring from VOA in 2003, he focused on studying, selecting and voicing the poems of contemporary Iranian poets in albums titled “Hello Again” (2004), and “Shouting in the Wind” and “Sound of Love” (2006).  He also voiced as talking book three works of Ali Akbar Saidi Sirjani titled “Zahak With A Snake Growing on Each Shoulder of His”, “Myths” and “Faces of Two Women.”, and a collection of Omar Khayyam’s ballads which is is an anthology titled “Septa-millenary Works”.


Behnaz Rouhani received her PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of Georgia in 2004. Prior to that, received an MA in Mathematics from the University of Georgia, an MA in Economics from West Virginia University, and a BS in Mathematics from Hertfordshire University in England.Currently she is professor of mathematics for the online department of mathematics at Georgia State University. Prior to teaching, she has worked in the private industry. She is recipient of the Georgia Perimeter College Exemplary Professor Award in 2012, and has written two study guides and a self-help book for students on how to be successful in their mathematics journey. She is secretary of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), and President of the Georgia Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (GMATYC), also served in the appointed role as Chair of Placement and Assessment Committee of American Mathematics Association for Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC). Since 2005 she has been collaborating with Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). She has taught and developed courses, and since 2012 has been serving as administrative and educational consultant. In this capacity, every semester she supports between 40-45 faculty who teach for this University globally.



Dr. Arash Naraghi received his Ph.D. in philosophy (focusing on philosophy of religion and ethics) from University of California, Santa Barbara (2008).  His publications include: Ethics of Human Rights (Negahe Moaser, Tehran, 2010), The Soul’s Mirror:  On Rumi’s Life and Ideas (Negahe Moaser, Tehran, 2010), A Theology of Absence: An Islamic Experience (Negahe Moaser, Tehran, 2011), and Toleration and Civility (Essays on Social Ethics), (Negahe Moaser, Tehran, 2015), Critical Traditionalism (Negahe Moaser, 2016), and On Love (Translation of some philosophical articles on love).  He is currently an associate professor of philosophy and global religions at Moravian College, PA.


Dr. Payam Akhavan is Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, and a former United Nations prosecutor.  He completed his doctoral studies at Harvard Law School and his prior academic appointments have included Yale, Toronto, Oxford, Paris, and the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.  He has served with the United Nations in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala, Timor Leste, and also appeared as legal counsel before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.  He is the author of numerous publications, including the 2017 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Massey Lectures, In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey, which became the number one bestseller (non-fiction) in Canada. Professor Akhavan is a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Prosecutor of the Iran People’s Tribunal, and appeared as an expert witness on human rights violations in Iran before the Parliament of Canada, the European Parliament, and other institutions, and contributed to documentary films including "The Green Wave", "Those Who Said No", and "Iranian Revolutionary Justice".  His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Montreal Gazette, Maclean’s magazine, Brazil’s TV Globo, and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s HardTalk program.


Ladan Boroumand is a historian and the co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran. The Center is dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran, and is best known as the home of Omid, a website that details the human rights abuses committed by the Islamic Republic and memorializes its victims.  She is a former visiting fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies and is the author of “La Guerre des Principes (1999),” a study of the tensions throughout the French Revolution between human rights and the sovereignty of the nation. She has also written extensively on the French Revolution, the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and the nature of Islamist terrorism. Ladan Boroumand is one of the three laureates of 2009 Lech Walesa Prize for their work to promote human rights, freedom of expression, and democracy in Iran.


Roya  Boroumand is the Executive Director of Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (Foundation). She has a PhD in history of international relations from France and is a specialist in Iran’s post-Second World War history and the oil crisis. She is a former consultant with the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and has researched and written about women’s rights and family law in North Africa. She has co-authored several articles on the political situation in Iran and the nature of Islamist terrorism. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. She was the recipient of the Lech Walesa Prize in 2009, shared with Ladan Boroumand.


Mr. Rezvnallah Tavakoli was born in Mashhad in 1943. He has completed his primary and secondary education, due to family migration, in the northern cities of Khorasan province. He graduated in economics and administrative affairs from Shiraz University. Mr. Tavakoli has had a long history of migrating to various Iranian cities and membership in various local Baha'i committees and associations in Iran.
In 1990, he became a member of the Executive Board of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education, and after changes in management methods at the university in 2002, after 18 years, he joined his family in the United States. From the very beginning, he has been serving at the Payam-e Doost Radio.



Welcome to the Association of Friends of Persian Culture


2018 Conference

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