2020 Civic Engagement Forum

2020 Civic Engagement Forum

PAAIA’s second Civic Engagement Forum took place in February of 2020 at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California.  This year's CEForum covers Iranian American identity, accomplishments, and civil rights as well as addresses how Iranian Americans can be more involved in public service and the importance of the 2020 Census.


Yassamin Ansari
Pooya Azadi
Avid Boustani
Zohre Elahian
Paris Etemadi Scott
Cyrus Habib
Michael McFaul
Abbas Milani
Navid Negahban
Pirooz Parvarandeh
Sarah Parvini
Condoleeza Rice
Layla Razavi
Ahsha Safaí
Roya Soleimani Winner




Stanford University near Palo Alto, CA on February 22nd, 2020

11:15AM - 3:30PM

Kickoff & Opening Remarks

Scan your tickets to check-in for the event and then get situated for opening remarks!

Time: 9:00am

Speakers: The Honorable Ahsha Safaí and Leila Golestaneh Austin

Remarks by Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Join us for a discussion with former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now also a Professor at Stanford University. Rice will be joined by Abbas Milani, the Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University. Rice will be introduced by businessman and philanthropist Hamid Moghadam.

Time: 9:30am

Speakers: The Honorable Condoleezza Rice, Dr. Abbas Milani, and Hamid Moghadam

Tech for Social Good: How Iranian Americans are Using Their Tech Expertise to Benefit Public Society

Technology is radically changing how we interact in our daily lives — a ride home is just a tap away, and groceries can arrive at the door in an hour. News is being consumed not just from newspapers or the nightly broadcast but also increasingly from social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The digital revolution is touching nearly every aspect of life.

Join PAAIA’s Tech and Social Good panel for a compelling discussion with Iranian American technology experts on how they are using their skills to benefit society at large. Panelists include international development expert Zohre Elahian, tech executive Pirooz Parvarandeh, and Facebook Communications Manager Roya Soleimani Winner. The panel will be moderated by Avid Boustani.

Time: 10:15am

Speakers: Zohre Elahian, Pirooz Parvarandeh, and Roya Soleimani Winner
Moderator: Avid Boustani

Civil Rights and Civic Engagement with Cyrus Habib

Join us for a conversation with Washington state Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib about the importance of Iranian American civic engagement and protecting the civil rights of our community.

Time: 11:15am

Speakers: The Honorable Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib

Lunch Networking

Lunch provides a valuable opportunity for attendees to network with others in the community who are interested in public service. Lunch is provided.

Time: 12:00pm

Discussion on Stanford Iran 2040 Project

Pooya Azadi of Stanford University talks about the Stanford Iran 2040 project, an initiative which serves as a hub for academic researchers to conduct research on issues related to the future of the Iranian economy and evaluate their possible implications in a global context. The Stanford Iran 2040 Project encourages quantitative and forward-looking research on a broad array of areas relating to Iran's economic development in the long-run to forecast the future of the country under different scenarios.

Time: 1:00pm

Speaker: Pooya Azadi

Civil Society, Civic Engagement, and Diplomacy: From Academia to Arenas of Power

Join us for a discussion with former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, now also Professor of International Politics at Stanford University. McFaul will be joined by Abbas Milani, the Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University.

Time: 1:15pm

Speakers: The Honorable Michael McFaul and Dr. Abbas Milani

Census Training - Write In Iranian: Why the 2020 Census is the Most Powerful Effort Yet to Count our Community Accurately

Join us for a discussion with Paris Etemadi Scott, Legal Director at PARS Equality Center, for a conversation about the upcoming 2020 Census and why it is critical Iranian Americans participate.

Time: 2:00pm

Speaker: Paris Etemadi Scott

Identity and Representation: The Dynamic Ways in Which Iranian Americans Take Part in American Society

There are over one million Iranian Americans in the United States. One million Iranian Americans means one million stories, one million voices. Each of us is charting unique paths in our pursuit of a better life for ourselves and our family. Join PAAIA’s Identity and Representation panel for an enthralling discussion on how these voices take part in American society.

Time: 2:30pm

Speakers: Navid Negahban, Sarah Parvini, Layla Razavi, and The Honorable Ahsha Safaí
Moderator: Yassamin Ansari

Closing Remarks

Join us for closing remarks as we reflect on what was discussed during the day and how we move forward as a community.

Time: 3:30pm



Stanford's Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies

PARS Equality Center

2019 Civic Engagement Forum

2019 Civic Engagement Forum

PAAIA’s inaugural Civic Engagement Forum took place in June of 2019 in Washington, DC, bringing together Iranian Americans from across the United States for the first-ever conference of its kind. The flagship event is part of a broader program recently launched by PAAIA, the Civic Engagement Initiative.

In recognition of the historic election of six Iranian American women in 2018, the 2019 conference highlighted female leaders in public service. We celebrated the achievements of Iranian American women and empowered aspiring leaders to get involved in public service, public advocacy, or elected and appointed office.


Mahnaz Afkhami
Yassamin Ansari
Negar Azimi
Narges Bajoghli
Maya Berry
Hon. Anna Eskamani
Hon. Amir Farokhi
Hon. Shireen Ghorbani
Cookab Hashemi
Judge Nahal Iravani-Sani
Samira Jali
Hon. Zahra Karinshak
Sima Ladjevardian
Amanda Makki
Nili Moghaddam
Avideh Moussavian
Vali Nasr
Mitra Jalali Nelson
Ali Nouri
Yasmin Radjy
Jason Rezaian
Mahyar Sorour
Manar Waheed
Navid Zanjani



Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC on June 8th & 9th, 2019

Saturday: Breakfast 8-9am  |  Conference 9am-4pm  |  Book Talk & Soirée 6:30pm-8pm

Sunday: Training Session 10am-2pm

The Pioneers Who Got Us Here

As the former Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran, Mahnaz Afkhami has been a pioneer and leading advocate of women’s rights for decades. She currently serves as the president and CEO of the Women’s Learning Partnership, a partnership of 20 autonomous women’s rights organizations located throughout the Global South that promote women’s leadership, civic engagement, and human rights. From Iran to the United States, this session will delve into Mahnaz’s extraordinary journey in public service, and the challenges she and other female leaders have overcome along the way. It will surprise you, amaze you, and we hope, leave you inspired for what’s next.

Time: 9:15am

Speakers: Mahnaz Afkhami
Moderator: Negar Azimi

The Women Breaking the Glass Ceiling for You & Me

2018 was a game-changer in American politics. We witnessed more than 100 women elected to the United States House of Representatives, making this the youngest, most diverse Congress in history. The Year of the Woman was also a historic one for the Iranian American community, as five Iranian American women were elected to public offices across the country. This makes 2019 the year with the greatest number of Iranian American elected officials in U.S. history.

Join this session to hear directly from these inspiring women. They will talk through the unique challenges they faced as candidates (and now as elected officials) and their plans to make waves in the political arena for years to come.

Time: 10:00am

Panelists: State Representative Anna Eskamani, Councilmember Shireen Ghorbani, State Senator Zahra Karinshak, and Councilmember Mitra Jalali Nelson
Moderator: Councilmember Amir Farokhi

Translating Your Voice into Impactful Policy

Public service is not all about running for office yourself— far from it. Your voice can be a powerful tool to make change happen on an issue you feel passionately about, at all levels. From volunteering your time, to writing letters to Congress, to creating social media campaigns, advocacy can take many different shapes and forms. This panel will delve into some of the most effective ways that you can be an advocate for positive change.

Time: 11:15am

Panelists: Maya Berry, Avideh Moussavian, and Manar Waheed
Moderator: Yassamin Ansari

Rethinking Iran: Role of Arts, Culture, and Communities in Shaping Policy and Politics

Our luncheon presentation will be a moderated discussion about SAIS's new initiative: Rethinking Iran. At a time when Iran is viewed in starkly black and white terms, Rethinking Iran aims to highlight the intricacies and nuances of this complex nation and its people to present a richer perspective.

Time: 12:30pm

Panelists: Narges Bajoghli and Vali Nasr
Moderator: Shamila N. Chaudhary

Diversifying the Bench 

As the first Iranian American Superior Court Judge in Santa Clara County, and one of only five nationwide, the Honorable Nahal Iravani-Sani is a force to be reckoned with in the legal arena. She was appointed to the position in 2017 by former California Governor Jerry Brown, after serving as the Deputy District Attorney for more than twenty years.

In this session, Judge Iravani-Sani will be speaking not only about her own experiences, but also about the importance of diversity in the legal profession as a way of ensuring fair access to our courts and instilling public confidence in our legal system.

Time: 1:00pm

Panelists: The Honorable Nahal Iravani-Sani
Moderator: Nili Moghaddam

Why Money Matters

Tired of all the fundraising calls? Wonder how your donation is used? Not sure about the difference between a PAC, Super PAC, independent expenditure, or other kinds of fundraising committees? Or maybe you’re just someone that doesn’t have time to volunteer at your local shelter or food pantry but care about the mission and are thinking about donating instead. Well, this is the panel for you.

Understand the way even a few dollars translates to advocating for work you’re passionate about through the lens of organizations and campaigns that make strategic decisions behind every dollar they receive. Learn the importance of early money contributions and how they can set the tone for the long run.

Time: 2:00pm

Panelists: Sima Ladjevardian, Yasmin Radjy, and Navid Zanjani
Moderator: Samira Jali

Behind the Scenes

How do you actually influence a Member of Congress to do what you want them to do? Take a peek inside the Capitol and learn from current and former staffers about what really goes on in the halls of Congress. Panelists will discuss how to most effectively communicate concerns to elected leaders, the day-to-day life and tasks of a Hill staffer, and the importance of getting involved with your local, state, and federal elected officials.

Time: 3:15pm

Panelists: Mahyar Sorour, Amanda Makki, and Cookab Hashemi
Moderator: Ali Nouri

Book Talk: Prisoner with Jason Rezaian

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian will be speaking about his latest book, a memoir of his time imprisoned in Iran. In Prisoner, Rezaian writes of his exhausting interrogations and farcical trial. He also reflects on his idyllic childhood in Northern California and his bond with his Iranian father, how his teacher inspired him to pursue journalism, and his life-changing decision to move to Tehran, where his career took off and he met his wife. You'll hear about his experiences firsthand and be able to ask questions after his talk. Attendees will receive a signed copy of the book.

Time: 6:30pm

Panelists: Jason Rezaian
Moderator: Narges Bajoghli

PAAIA Soirée

Join us for a summer soiree to celebrate PAAIA’s inaugural Civic Engagement Forum. What’s included? A delicious dinner by Kook Caters, LLC., live entertainment and DJ to get your gher on, and a fun night filled with laughter and dancing with friends, old and new. You definitely won’t want to miss it.

Time: 8:00pm

Featuring: Live entertainment, dinner, drinks, and dancing

1st Regional Training Session

Following the inaugural Civic Engagement Forum, PAAIA will host its first regional training event in Washington, DC. If you are motivated to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, join us to learn the nuts and bolts of organizing and advocating for what you believe in. The only way to make a positive difference in our communities is to get engaged. The time is now.

Time: 10:00am



Mr. Hamid Moghadam (President's Club)

Mr. Hamid Moghaddam (President's Club)

Anonymous Donor (President's Club)

Dr. Abbas Ardehali (Congressional Club)

Mr. & Mrs. Bijan Ansari (Mayor's Club)


Regional Event: ATLANTA

Regional Event: ATLANTA

The first Regional Event for PAAIA's Civic Engagement Initiative brought together Iranian Americans in and around Atlanta to learn about how to enact change in the community. This event provided aspiring leaders an opportunity to learn more about advocacy and the political process and allow for an incredible networking experience.


Yassamin Ansari
Davar Ardalan
Maryam Banikarim
Sarah Beeson
Hon. Stephanie Bice
Hon. Zahra Karinshak
Hon. James Clapper
Amanda Makki
Hon. Amir Farokhi
Firouz Naderi
Samira Jafari
Ali Vaez
Samira Jali
Dr. Anna Westerstahl Stenport



Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA on October 19, 2019

9:00AM - 3:00PM

Kickoff & Opening Remarks

Time: 9:00am

Speakers: Dr. Leila Austin, Dr. Anna Westerstahl Stenport

Keynote: "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence"

Hear directly from the fourth U.S. Director of National Intelligence and retired Lieutenant General. A public servant for over five decades, the Honorable James Clapper will discuss the importance of civic engagement through his experiences.

Time: 9:30am

Speaker: The Honorable James Clapper
Moderator: Ali Vaez

Our Strength is Our Story

Join us for a discussion on the importance of building a collective, empowered voice for our community through our stories.

Time: 10:30am

Panelists: Dr. Firouz Naderi, Maryam Banikarim, Samira Jafari, and Davar Ardalan
Moderator: Samira Jali Burns


Box lunches will be provided; opportunity for attendees to network

Time: 12:00pm

Breaking Glass Ceilings and Making History 

Join this session to hear directly from a panel of movers and shakers. Hear their stories on the unique challenges they face as candidates or elected officials, and their plans to make waves in the political arena for years to come.

Time: 1:00pm

Panelists: The Honorable Stephanie Bice, the Honorable Amir Farokhi, the Honorable Zahra Karinshak, and Amanda Makki
Moderator: Yassamin Ansari

Closing Remarks & Call to Action

Learn about the many ways you can be civically engaged!

Time: 2:30pm