2019 Guest Speakers







Dr. Abbas Milani 




























Hessam Abrishami Born in the city of Shiraz, Iran in 1951.

At age 15, through the inspiration and encouragement of a high school teacher, Hessam discovered both his love of art and his own talent for painting. As a result, he became almost obsessed with painting. Hessam, at age 17, received his first award and went on to win top honors in painting in an all-country student competition in Iran. At age 19, he achieved first place honors in the “Iranian New Artists Competition.” Many other national and international honors and recognitions have followed since.

He went on to study in Italy – a place he considered “the center of art in Europe.” It was in Perugia, Italy that Hessam studied and completed his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts at the Accademi De Belle Arti “Pietro Vanucci.” In 1980, Hessam returned to Iran and had two major exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran and at Gallery Derissi in Shiraz. Afterwards, Hessam published a retrospective of his works in a book called “Scream”.

In 1984, Hessam emigrated to Los Angeles, California where he continued to expand his creativity. After multiple fairs and exhibitions throughout the United States, he was recognized by an art publisher, Collectors Editions, and signed a contract to show and represented his artworks through multiple galleries worldwide. In 2001, he then founded his own publishing company, Studio Fine Art, to continue to expand his collector base. In his tenure as an established artist, Hessam has published 6 retrospective books and has had his images on the covers and chapter headings of 9 Sociology and Psychology university textbooks.

In 2006, during an exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Sciences of Ormond Beach, Florida, Hessam was presented with the “Key to the City” and a proclamation from the Mayor stating March 24, 2006 as “Hessam Abrishami Day”. In 2007, Hessam was invited by the American Liberty University in association with California Polytechnic University in Pomona to receive an Honorary Doctorate to commemorate his achievements as a fine art painter.

Hessam currently has over countless private collectors world-wide and has exhibited in over 150 One-Man Gallery Shows, over 30 International Exhibitions, and multiple Museums Exhibitions. Some include Museum of Contemporary Arts in Tehran and Museum of Contemporary Art of Hot Springs, Arkansas.












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.




















Masih Alinejad is the founder of My Stealthy Freedom campaign against compulsory hijab which since its launch in  2014 has become the largest civil disobedience campaign for women's rights in the history of Islamic Republic. Masih is a prominent voice advocating for women’s rights and empowerment and has been recognized by BBC Persian and Iran Wire as one of the 50 most influential women in Iran.

Born and raised in Iran, Masih was a parliamentary journalist in Tehran, where she exposed corruption among the lawmakers. Later, as a columnist for Iranian newspapers, she challenged establishment political figures including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Forced to leave the country in 2009 in the aftermath of the disputed Iranian Presidential elections, Masih spent five years documenting human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. She wrote and produced a 57-part radio series on the victims of the crackdown on protesters against the rigged 2009 elections and followed it up with a 2-hour TV documentary on the families of the victims. 

Masih has written a memoir: The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran,” (published by Little Brown in May 2018), an intimate story of her life growing up in a village to her campaigns championing women's rights. The memoir was selected by The New York Times as one its books of the summer.  In its review, the New York Times described Masih, as “The woman whose hair frightens Iran.” She has won millions of followers in Iran through her campaign of challenging the Islamic Republic's discriminatory laws against women. 

Masih is the writer and host of satirical news show Tablet, shown on Voice of America,  and has written articles for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the Independent. She has also spoken at many universities including Georgetown, Yale and Stanford as well as at conferences including the Women in the World, Facebook, and the Geneva Summit.


















Pejman Akbarzadeh  (b. 1980, Shiraz) is a documentary maker, journalist, and pianist. His reference book on the 20th-century composers and conductors of Persia (Iran), written when he was just 18, has been used as a source for academic publications including the Encyclopaedia Iranica. He has also performed Persian piano recitals in various European venues such as Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw.
Pejman began working as a journalist while still in Tehran. Following a rise in state oppression of the press, he moved to the Netherlands in 2006 and worked with the Persian-language Radio Zamaneh as a senior producer for eight years. He has also contributed to several other media outlets including BBC and VOA.
In 2009 Pejman started a new phase of his career. Recognising the wider catchment of visual media over literature, that same year he completed his first documentary, the feature-length film Hayedeh: Legendary Persian Diva. The film was screened at festivals in both Europe and the United States and nominated for Best Documentary at the Noor Iranian Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture” (2018) is Pejman Akbarzadeh’s second documentary film, for which he traveled to Iraq twice, despite the lurking presence of ISIL nearby. The film premiered at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS) in February 2018 and subsequently screened at various international conferences, museums and universities including the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer|Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Yale University, the 8th Biennial Convention of the Association for the Study of the Persianate Societies in Tbilisi and the 12th Conference of the Iranian Studies Association at UC Irvine. More: www.PejmanAkbarzadeh.nl




Dr. Firaydoun Javaheri Born in Iran, has a doctorate in agronomy. He lived for 27 years in Africa -- Gambia then  Zambia -- where he was Chief Technical Adviser for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. He served the Baha'i communities there in the area of social and economic development. He was appointed a Continental Counsellor in 1995 after serving for 19 years as a member of its Auxiliary Board.







Dr. Saba Ayman-Nolley is Professor Emerita and former chair of the psychology department at Northeastern Illinois University. Her PhD in Developmental and Educational Psychology is from the University of Chicago. Her research has explored areas of non-verbal communication and creativity as they relate to Children’s understanding of social concepts and roles. She has been a board member of the Jean Piaget Society and its Vice-President of communications.  She has also developed and implemented training programs and curriculum for teachers and parents. For the last ten years she has been an organizer of the Art in Response to Violence international conference.  She has received over 10 research grants and authored over 75 presentations and publications.   




Mr. Soheil Kamali
He was born in 1986 in a family from Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad. He spent his early years in Isfahan, where he began teaching various courses at the Institute of Higher Education. But after merging that institute with a scientific institute, he studied sociology until he and his family moved to the United States. His articles have been published in various thoughts in 'Irfán Colloquia. He has aired programs on Payame- Doost radio and Aeein-e Baha'i television and is currently studying Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Utah.








Dr. Farah Dustar: Political scientist and social scientist and author. Elementary and secondary education in Abadan / Iran. Since 1967, a resident of Europe and now a resident of Luxembourg - a university degree in Germany in political sciences - social sciences - social psychology. Ph.D. in Political Philosophy.

Author of numerous books and articles in Persian language and more in German on democracy topics - ethics in politics - political philosophy - the role of emotions in politics women's politics and research in prestigious German publications. Among the books:

"Farewell to Power - Democracy and Responsibility," "Pluralism in Kant's Liberal Philosophy" "Populism and the Role of Sentiment in Politics." "Woman and Peace," "Woman in Politics", member of the Kant's Philosophical Society in Germany, and engaged in numerous scientific projects.




Shahrouz (Shane) Tedjarati is an International business executive with operations and experience across Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. For the past 25 years he has been predominantly living in China. He has also been extensively involved in the non-profit sectors globally. He is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute and cofounder of its two flagship Leadership Initiatives in China and the Middle East. His personal areas of interest and research are leadership, development, social justice, history and literature.






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). 





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


2019 Conference

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