2022 Guest Speakers


Cyrus Alai was born in Iran and received his PhD from Technische Universität, Berlin. He founded and directed for twenty years a group of engineering companies in Iran, and also lectured at the University of Teheran. Dr. Alai settled later in England, working as a consulting engineer and at the same time studying the history of cartography and collecting old maps of Persia. He has written numerous articles on ‘the cartography of Persia’ and ‘the cartography of medieval Islamic societies’, including the entry ‘Geography/Cartography of Persia’ for the Encyclopaedia Iranica. He is the author of the award winning two large volumes of the General/Special Maps of Persia, published by Brill in 2005 and 2010. In 2013, he donated his unique collection of old maps of Persia to SOAS, which we later digitised and made available to all scholars, researches and others worldwide. He has been an active member of the Baha’i community in Iran and later in the United Kingdom. He was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran for ten consecutive years until the Islamic revolution. He has given numerous lectures on Baha’i subjects in Persian and English, many of which have been published in the magazines Andalib, Payam Baha’i, Khushe-ha, Danesh-and-Binesh and others. 



Behrooz Sabet holds a doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been a university professor, academic dean, and consultant on aspects of education and culture.  For more than 20 years, Dr. Sabet has been intellectually engaged in research and writing on the intersection of religion, science, and culture. He is a well-known scholar of religion, contemporary intellectual thoughts and movements, and the conceptual and historical origins of modernity and its impact on 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 also established the Burhan Institute, a nonprofit organization formed to pursue interdisciplinary research, educational activities, and social discourse on advancing ideas for peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Two volumes of his edited works in Arabic and English are published. Dr. Sabet has given more than 300 media presentations and interviews on human rights, education, women's rights, religious freedom, modernity, social and cultural change, and globalization.


Nader Saeidi is an author well known for his publication,“ Gate of the Heart”. Dr. Saiedi 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 over 25 years he was a professor of sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 2013, he became the Taslimi Foundation Professor of Baha'i Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. His interests include the social thoughts of Nietzsche, Habermas, Veblen, and Sorokin; social theories of the medieval Middle East; Middle Eastern response to modernity; and political-economic relativism in formation of governments in the Middle East.


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 Zandian’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.



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.


Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011, largely working in Tehran; in 2009, after reporting on the Iran presidential election crisis, Bahari was jailed for 118 days in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Prison. He was released after a successful international campaign. Bahari’s book “Then They Came for Me” told the story of his incarceration and in 2014 it was adapted as the feature film Rosewater by Jon Stewart.
Bahari directs IranWire, Journalism Is Not A Crime and Education Is Not A Crime, Paint the Change, RaceUnity.us and other projects. Bahari graduated with a degree in communications from Concordia University in Montreal in 1993.



Parham Aghdasi came to the US in 2011 after finishing his studies at BIHE. He lived in Texas for about three years where he learned about and engaged in community building efforts of the Baháʼí community, more specifically the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program,  inspired by the Baháʼí Faith. He moved to California in 2014 where he continued his studies while serving the community through the empowerment of youth and junior youth. Parham and his wife, Katie, currently live in San Pablo, CA where they aspire to continue to be of service to their fellow community members.



Ali Banuazizi is Research Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Research Fellow at the Center for International Studies at M.I.T. After receiving his Ph. D. from Yale University in 1968, he taught at Yale and the University of Southern California before joining the Boston College Faculty in 1971. Since then, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Tehran, Princeton, Harvard, Oxford University, and M.I.T. He served as the founding editor of the journal of Iranian Studies, from 1968 to 1982. He is a past president of the Association for Iranian Studies (AIS) and of the Middle East Studies Association in North America (MESA); associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World; and currently editor-in-chief of Freedom of Thought Journal.                Ali Banuazizi is the author of numerous articles on society, culture, and politics of Iran and the Middle East, and coauthor (with A. Ashraf) of Social Classes, the State and Revolution in Iran (2008) and coeditor (with M. Weiner) of three books on politics, religion, and society in Southwest and Central Asia.



Azam Bahrami is a researcher, writer and civil rights and environmental activist. Many of her articles on social and environmental issues have been published in well-known and international media sites. She is regularly invited by the international news outlets to speak and share her expertise on environmental issues. Ms. Bahrami is a graduate of physics and management studies, she is an author and an activist on environmental and women’s rights issues relating to Iran.



Sahba Shayani is Senior Lecturer in Persian at the University of Oxford. He holds a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on the role of women in premodern Persian epic romance poetry, specifically in the works of Ferdowsi, Gorgani, and Nezami. He is also interested in female poets of the Persian canon. His article on the use of literary devices in the poetry of Tahirih Qurratu'l-'Ayn is currently under review with Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World.



Farzaneh Sabetan psychological/educational analyst and women, children and family activist got her bachelor degree in Industrial Psychology and continued her studies in Clinical Counseling in California. She also studied in Educational Psychology and Human Resources Management at the graduate level in Iran and UK. She presented her counseling services for 15 years in Iran and was directing Psychology Department in BIHE for 8 years, while teaching courses like: “Social Psychology”, “Schools of Psychological Thought”, “Mental Health”, “System Theory views of the World” and “Healthy Personality”.  She also has been active in writing and translating several books related to philosophy and psychology. Currently, she is one of the founders of the Hamzaban Cultural Foundation and works as a psychological research consultant.



Reza Daghati is an Iranian photojournalist at the National Geographic magazine, known in the world simply as Reza.            Reza was a self taught photographer since he was 14 years old. He graduated from the University of Tehran with a degree in architecture. Before the revolution, Reza was mostly engaged in architectural photography, but with the beginning of the conflicts of the 1979 Iranian revolution he turned to news photography when, from 1979 to 1981, he produced a collection on post-revolutionary developments, clashes, and killings in the Turkmen Sahara and Kurdistan. Reza, then, worked for the Newsweek magazine as a Middle East correspondent from 1983 to 1988. Reza's first report for National Geographic was published in 1993 under the title “Cairo, the roaring heart of Egypt”. He has covered over 100 countries in his photojournalism. His reports recount wars, revolutions and human suffering. Perhaps no journalist in the world has been more directly present on battlefields than Reza. Reza Daghati has always used the image as a means to advance his humanitarian goals and struggles against tyranny. In 1990, he accepted the responsibility for distributing aid to the international community from the United Nations. Following this experience, he established the Ayeneh Cultural Foundation in Kabul in 2001. On May 13, 2005, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced, he had been honored with the Order of the Knight of Merit.



Sohrab Kourosh is Vice President and Senior Environmental Scientist of an environmental consulting engineering company in Texas. He was previously on the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.  His diverse educational background includes B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering, M.A. in Psychology, M.S. in Aerospace Engineering (rocket design), Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, and Juris Doctorate in Environmental Law.  He has authored and published books and articles on Bahá’i subjects, papers in engineering and medical journals and has lectured internationally at scientific and Baha’i conferences. He is the author of three-volume series “Self Study Notes for The Kitáb-i-Íqán, The Book of Certitude” and the “Self Study Notes for the Seven Valleys of Bahá’u’lláh.”



Bijan Khadem-Missagh was born into a family of musicians in Tehran and grew up in Vienna from 1958. He studied first with his father Ata Khadem-Missagh and then at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna graduating with distinction.
Khadem-Missagh celebrated an early debut as a violin soloist. In 1971, he became first concertmaster of the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester. In the same year he won the Grand Prix at the International Chamber Music Competition in Colmar, France. Also in 1971 he founded the Eurasia Quartet and in 1977 the Tonkünstler Chamber Orchestra, later called Academia Allegro Vivo. Bijan Khadem-Missagh travelled to Iran and frequently performed there from 1973 until 1979: -Concerts with Teheran Symphony Orchestra in the Rudaki Hall as the Soloist for Violin-concertos from Mendelssohn, Paganini and Szymanovsky, -Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Iranian TV Orchestra, -Numerous recitals in different Iranian cities and TV recordings. In 1979, he founded Allegro Vivo, the international chamber music festival in Horn. From 1980 to 1990, the musician was artistic director of the Midsummer Music Festival in Umeå, Sweden. In 1981, he founded the Badener Beethoventage in Baden near Vienna, of which he was artistic director until 1998. In 1997, he founded Globart [de] - Connecting Worlds of Arts and Sciences in Krems. Khadem-Missagh is listed as honorary president. From 1991 to 2000, he was artistic director of the Musik Forum Landegg in Switzerland. Khadem-Missagh directed Allegro Vivo until 2016. Khadem-Missagh's compositional work is characterised by his relationship to the concert music world. Formative for his works are the years of collaboration with the singing group "Dawn-Breakers", which he founded in Vienna in 1970 and led until 1992. Priority is given to the human voice. His aim is to achieve a harmony between words and music, and he is concerned with the choice of texts, which are above all spiritual in character. Khadem-Missagh is highly appreciated for his artistic work as well as for his social and humanitarian commitments across the world.



Janet Afary holds the Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is a Professor of Religious Studies. She is a historian of modern Iran and has a PhD in History and Near East Studies from the University of Michigan, where her dissertation received the Distinguished Rackham Dissertation Award. Previously she taught at the Department of History and the Program in Women’s Studies at Purdue University, where she was appointed a University Faculty Scholar. Her books include: Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2009, winner of the British Society for Middle East Studies Annual Book Prize); The Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism (Columbia University Press, 1996, winner of Dehkhoda Institute Book Awardj;  (with Kevin B. Anderson) Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (University of Chicago Press, 2005, winner of the Latifeh Yarshater Book Award for Iranian Women’s Studies); (with John R. Perry) Charand-o Parand: Revolutionary Satire in Iran (Yale University Press, 2016), Honorable Mention Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize; and (with Kamran Afary) Mollā Nasreddin: The Making of a Modern Trickster (Edinburgh University Press, 2022).




Neda Towfiq; "As a child growing up in Iran, I was surrounded by creativity, which inspired me to pursue fine arts. I studied arts and design in Florence, Italy, attended the Gemological Institute of America, and have a degree in digital art. Painting for me is a form of meditation, filling the spirit with joy and brings meaning and purpose to my life. I enjoy experimenting with a range of diverse textures and materials such as rice paper, tree bark, and packing paper. My most recent paintings are made up of watercolor on packing paper which focus on portraits from my past life or people whom I have met in different parts of the world and have touched my spirit."


Simin Fahandej is a Representative of the Bahá’í International Community’s United Nations Office in Geneva. Her areas of work include human rights, food security and and peace-building. She has also been involved with the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY), including as editor-in-chief for Annual Youth Assembly at the UN. Ms. Fahandej has conducted research consultancies for various organizations such as Amnesty International, Nobel Women Initiative and Centre for Defenders of Human Rights. Prior to joining the Bahá’í International Community, Ms. Fahandej worked as a journalist, at various news outlets, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Ms. Fahandej holds a combined Honors degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of King’s College in Canada and a Master's degree in International Law from SOAS in the United Kingdom.


Shirin Towfiq is a conceptual artist of Iranian descent who works in textile, photography, installation, performance, and socially engaged art. Her work addresses cultural, communicative, and interpersonal relationships. Drawing from her experience as a second-generation immigrant, Towfiq recontextualizes commonly held ideas surrounding family, memory, comfort, and self-constructed identity. In recent years, Towfiq presented a solo-exhibition at San Diego City College, 1078 gallery, Chico, CA, and the Hill Street Country Club, Oceanside, CA and has been included in group exhibitions at Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco; SomArts, San Francisco; San Francisco State University Fine Arts Gallery; c3artspace, Melbourne, Australia. Shirin Towfiq has won various awards, such as the Murphy award in 2020, and the Curator’s Choice award from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2017. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Art Practice from the University of California Berkeley in 2016 and a Masters of Fine Arts from Stanford University in 2020.