2017 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. Mandana Zandian is a graduate of Shahid Beheshti Medical School in 1997. She works at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, and is currently engaged in research on aggressive types of advanced cancers. Dr. Zandian, also a published poet, author, and journalist, serves on the editorial board of the “Rahavard” quarterly journal and collaborates with Homa Sarshar in her weekly Radio Programs. Selected Works by Dr. Zandian in poetry include: “Negah-e Abi” (The Blue Gaze), Tehran, 2001; “Hezar-tu-ye Sokut” (The Labyrinth of Silence), Tehran, 2003; “Vazʿiyat-e Germez” (State of Emergency), Los Angeles, 2005. Dar Qalb-e Man Derakhtist (A Tree in My Heart), Los Angeles, 2009, Chashmi Khak, Chashmi Darya (An Eyeful of Earth, an Eyeful of Ocean), Los Angeles, 2012, Ma Khorshide-e Sayeh-Haye Khisheem (To Our Silhouettes We Are the Sun) London, 2016

A selection of Zanduan’s love poems is translated into English by Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak as An Eyeful of Earth, An Eyeful of Ocean, Los Angeles, 2014.

Her books include: “Omid o Azadi” (Hope and Freedom), on the life and works of Iraj Gorgin, Los Angeles, 2012; “Baz-khani-e Dah-Shab” (The Ten-Nights Revisited), Los Angeles, 2014; and her latest book titled “Ehsan Yar Shater: an Interview with Mandana Zandian”, Los Angeles, 2016.




Mr. Fariborz Sahba received a Master’s degree in architecture in 1972 from the School of Fine Arts in Tehran University. As head of the design teams of various architectural firms in Iran, he was involved in the design of a wide range of prestigious buildings in Iran.

In 1974, he was recognized by Ministry of Housing of Iran for his design of a low-cost housing system. Fariborz Sahba was Associate Architect for the design of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the administrative center of the Bahá’í Faith in Haifa, Israel. In 1975, he was appointed Manager of the design team for the construction of Iran’s largest cultural center, the Negarestan Cultural Centre in the Marble Palace.

In 1976, he was selected to design the Bahá’í House of Worship for the Indian subcontinent in New Delhi. This project, on which he worked for 10 years as Architect and Project Manager, was described by Canadian Architect Arthur Erickson as “one of the most remarkable achievements of our time, proving that the drive and vision of spirit can achieve miracles.” With over 3.5 million visitors a year, this building, commonly known as the “Lotus of Bahapur”, is one of the most visited sites in the world and is currently in the short list of UNESCO as a World Heritage. 

In 1987, the Baha’i World Center awarded him the task of designing 18 monumental terraces as a majestic approach to the Shrine of the Báb- one of the holiest sites in the Bahá’í World. The Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb received the 1998 Ephraim Lifshitz Award from the Municipality of Haifa, and the 1999 Magshim Award from the Council for a Beautiful Israel.

Mr. Sahba was also appointed Project Manager of the “Arc Project”- the construction of the four edifices of the Bahá’í administrative complex- on the slopes of Mount Carmel, near the Shrine of the Báb. In 2008, both the terraces and the “Arc Project” buildings received “World Heritage Site” designation by UNESCO.  

Fariborz Sahba has written and published several books. He has lectured extensively on the topics of Art, Architecture, Project Management, Culture and Environment in universities, conferences and organizations all over the world and across the continents.

In 1970 he founded a children magazine called “Varqa” (the Dove) in Iran. The magazine was later published in nine other languages. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Varqa International Children Magazine (ISSN 1708-7767), a bi-monthly magazine published in Canada up till 2006.  

Mr. Sahba's works have been published all over the world.



Masih Alinejad is an Iranian journalist and writer who at present has a program called “Tablet” in Persian Voice of America, and is a reporter for “Radio Farda”, and an editor in “Iran-wire.com”, and a frequent guest at “Manoto” TV network. She has won many prestigious awards, such as, “Human Rights” award from “The Human Rights Watch” organization and another journalism award from “Hope” organization funded by “Medi Semsarzadeh Foundation”. She has been praised by many International Media Groups and Forums. Ms. Alinejad is residing in exile in New York.

In 2014, Masih Alinejad started a movement called “Stealth Freedom for Iranian Women” on Facebook to defend the freedom of the right of choice for women in Iran and invited Iranian women to take and send videos of themselves without a Hijab. She is very much involved and committed to voice “the Concerns and Issues of Women in Iran”.

In 2015, the Human Rights and Democracy Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, awarded her the “Women’s Right” prize for “Reflecting the voice of the oppressed, and stimulating the conscience of humanity in support of Iranian women's struggle for fundamental human rights, freedom and equality”.



Dr. Farhad Sabetan teaches Economics at California State University, East Bay for the past seven years and has been a research economist in the private and public sectors for more than 15 years.  He is currently a spokesperson for Bahá’í International Community at United Nations and has been involved in the human rights field in the past thirteen years.  He has given many interviews about the situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran on a variety of news media programs including BBC, VOA, NPR, New York Times, Radio Farda, Radio France International, Radio Zamaneh, Deutsche Welle, Khodnevis, Radio Koocheh, Roozonline, Sobh-e-Emrooz, Seday-e-Iran, Radio Payam, among other.


Dr. Nayereh Tohidi is a Professor and former Chair of the Department of Gender & Women Studies at California State University, Northridge. Currently, she is the founding Director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at CSUN and a Research Associate at the Iranian Studies ans also Center for Near Eastern Studies of UCLA where she has been coordinating the Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran since 2003. Professor Tohidi earned her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS (with Honors) from the University of Tehran in Psychology and Sociology. She is the recipient of several grants, fellowships and research awards, including a year of Fulbright lectureship and research at the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan; post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard University; Stanford University; the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; the Keddie-Balzan Fellowship at UCLA; and an NEH grant to develop the MEIS Program at CSUN. She has held visiting positions at Universities of Iowa, Minnesota, Harvard, UCLA, and USC. Tohidi has integrated her human/women’s rights activism with excellence in academic work and scholarship. Dr. Tohidi has served as a consultant to the United Nations (UNICEF, UNDP and WIDER) on projects concerning gender, development, and civil society building in the Middle East and post-Soviet Eurasia. She represented women NGOs at both the third and fourth World Conferences on Women in Nairobi and Beijing sponsored by the United Nations. She is frequently consulted by the media on women’s issues in the greater Middle East, such as BBC, VOA, LA Times, Radio Farda, and openDemocracy.


Mr.Hosein Ghazian, PhD., is a prominent Iranian Sociologist. Over the span of his career he has provided high level consulting, overall strategic guidance, project design and also lead scientific polling organizations in Iran and the United States.
His experiences in Iran include both public and private sector. In 1994, after several years working with Foreign Press Department of Islamic Culture and Guidance, Mr. Ghazian began directing the Department of Culture (Center for Strategic Research) while Hassan Rouhani - the current President - was leading the Center. He went on to establish his first polling Organization “Ayandeh” prior to serving in Mohammad Khatami’s administration as the advisor to the President Office and the Political Deputy of the President. Before the conservatives shut down Ayandeh, he collaborated with leading international polling organizations, such as Gallup and Zogby International. He conducted scientific polling on multiple hot topics and issues of the day such as the view of Iranians regarding US role in the Middle East and bilateral relations with Iran. These polls and his role among Iranian reformist circle put him in the spotlight and he became a target of the conservatives. Before his arrest in 2002, he was the advisor to the Center for Media Studies and Research, the National Institute of Public Opinion Research and one of the supervision team members of the first National Survey of Iranian Values and Attitudes. He also was a Chief Editorial Board of progressive magazines like Kiyan, Zanan (Women) and Rah-e Now.
More recently he has made over 500 media appearances, as a sociologist, pollster and expert in Iranian affairs. Respected media outlets, such as BBC Persian, Radio Farda, VOA, Al Jazeera and others, routinely publish his opinion pieces and writings. He was the visiting scholar at Syracuse University for two years and has presented his academic work in different prestigious think tanks, such as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Stimson Center, Heinrich Boll Foundation, and universities such as Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, SOAS, Simon Fraser and University of Toronto.
Since his forced exile, he has consulted multiple successful projects for well known international organizations and co-founded iPOS, a polling organization that among other work accurately predicted the results of the 2013 Iranian presidential election. IPPO Group, his newly founded polling and consulting firm is conducting daily tracking polls for the 2017 Iranian presidential election.




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). 




Ms. Shabnam Toluie is an Iranian actress, theater director, and playwright. She is currently forbidden from working in Iran by the government because of her religion, the Bahá'í Faith. She has been living in Paris, France, since December 2004. She has studied filmmaking in Bagh-Ferdos Film School, Tehran, and had her B.A. in Theatre Studies from Université Paris Nanterre, France. She has been writing short stories for cultural magazines since 1990, acting on stage since 1993, and writing plays since 1994. Since 2002 she has also taught the bio-mechanic method and acting for the camera at Karnameh Culture, an Art Training Institute in Tehran. Her awards include; the Best Supporting Actress in 14th International Fajr Theatre Festival, Iran 1996, Second Prize for Best Playwright in the same year, Second Prize for Best Actress in 15th and 21st International Fajr Theatre Festival, Iran, and Best Supporting Actress in 22nd International Fajr Theatre Festival, Iran, 2004. 


Hamid Rahmanian



MR. Hamid Rahmanian  is a 2014 John Guggenheim Fellow. His work centers on film and graphic arts. Rahmanian was educated in Tehran, Iran where he gained his B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Tehran University. His work as a graphic designer spans two decades. H e owned and managed a top firm in Tehran for five years. In 1992, he received the highest honor and was awarded recognition as the youngest professional designer in Iran. He has received numerous awards for his achievements and his work has been exhibite d in international festivals and competitions. He continued working as a graphic designer in the US and has been commissioned to do work for cultural organizations and commercial companies including The United Nations, GQ Magazine, Lincoln Center, Tribeca Film Institute, Pacifica Radio/ Democracy Now! , Aramex, and Eurasia Foundation.

Rezvanollah Tavakoli


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.

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