“I Put Myself in the Survivor Category”

Azadeh Pourzand recently met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for dinner. As an Iranian human rights activist, that didn't make her popular.

by Chris Fowler for TwentyThirty, February 11, 2019
Azadeh Pourzand

This article originally appeared on TwentyThirty.

When Azadeh Pourzand was invited by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to join the “Supporting Iranian Voices” dinner on July 22, 2018, she agreed. However, not everyone in the Iranian-American community liked her decision. But Azadeh has an unshakable belief in dialogue. If you want to know, you’ve got to go.

Azadeh Pourzand comes from a family of human rights activists. Her father is Siamak Pourzand, an Iranian journalist and a former prisoner of conscience in Iran who took his own life under house arrest in 2011. Azadeh is an independent human rights researcher based in the United States and the Executive Director of the Siamak Pourzand Foundation, which was launched in April 2013 in memory of her late father. The foundation challenges censorship, promotes freedom of expression, and defends the rights of those who struggle to be heard.

Being an immigrant herself, giving voice to those who are often unheard und invisible is very close to Azadeh’s heart. “Every time you think you transcended it, the world around you reminds you that you're always gonna be an immigrant.”

Azadeh’s research and writing focuses on human rights in Iran, with an emphasis on freedom of expression, rule of law, ethnic rights, and women's economic empowerment. An alumna of the Kennedy School of Government, she served as the editor-in-chief of its Women's Policy Journal and a teaching fellow at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Azadeh Pourzand is a member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network and the Oslo Women's Rights Initiative. Most recently, she was a panelist at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. discussing Rule of Law in Iran, as well as a panelist at the Oslo Freedom Forum where she spoke about women's rights in the Middle East.

This article is presented in collaboration with TwentyThirty

TwentyThirty is an online magazine presented by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. It sheds light on the social, political, and environmental challenges we face and features inspiring Responsible Leaders who are working to solve them. Follow their work on Facebook.