About Nazanin Boniadi

As an official spokesperson for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) since 2009, British-Iranian actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi has worked at a grassroots level and has also appeared on international TV and radio programs to campaign for the rights of disenfranchised populations across the world. In particular, Nazanin has been very involved in bringing attention to the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoner's of conscience. She has met with political leaders, collaborated with other prominent human rights defenders, and endorsed human rights petitions to the United Nations. She has also advocated women's rights on a global scale. Nazanin provided a voiceover to AIUSA’s “Power of Words” public service announcement with Morgan Freeman, which won a Webby Award in 2010. She campaigned with the organization for the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), which would ensure the United States raises the issue of women’s rights in its diplomatic work. She has served as a speaker, panelist and emcee for events related to Iranian rights, as well as AIUSA’s Western Regional Conference and Annual General Meeting. Nazanin helped launch The Neda Project in 2010, a collaborative effort between Amnesty International and indie rock band The Airborne Toxic Event, commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan in the streets of Tehran in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election, and encouraging people across the world to show their solidarity with the people of Iran. In December 2010, she initiated an Amnesty International petition for Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who were wrongfully convicted of “propaganda against the state”. The petition was co-signed by prominent Hollywood directors and industry leaders such as Paul Haggis, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Ron Howard and others, and generated over 21,000 signatures. On June 8, 2011, Nazanin joined a delegation of Hollywood luminaries, lead by Paul Haggis and former AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox, to deliver the petition to the Iran Mission to the United Nations in New York. She has also supported the Education Under Fire campaign, calling for an end to discrimination against and persecution of Baha’is in Iran. On July 11, 2011, Nazanin received the Social Cinema Award at the Ischia Global Film and Music Festival for her human rights work with Amnesty International. Nazanin has campaigned with AIUSA for the release of numerous political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran including Roxana Saberi, Maziar Bahari, Doctors Arash and Kamiar Alaei, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer. She continues to campaign for those who remain wrongfully imprisoned in Iran, and those who are facing injustice around the world.
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Will Rouhani Create Meaningful Reforms or Play Political Games?

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The global community recently celebrated the release of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and what appears to be dozens of others, among them political prisoners. However, we should reserve judgment regarding the future of human rights under the new administration in Iran until all those who remain unjustly imprisoned are freed and Iranians achieve the freedoms they have been demanding for several decades.

Sotoudeh, who had been detained in Iran since September 2010, was originally sentenced to 11 years in jail for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security.” In reality, she is a lawyer who has defended many high-profile human rights campaigners, political activists, and juvenile offenders on death row. Throughout her career she publicly, but peacefully, challenged the Iranian authorities about the shortcomings of the rule of law and due process in the proceedings against her clients.

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The Future of Human Rights in Iran Under President-Elect Hassan Rouhani

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

Iran’s challenges are not few, from job creation and stopping inflation to improving foreign relations. Most presidential candidates in 2013 ran on such platforms. However, there was a key issue that was not directly addressed in their political vernacular: human rights.

While many jubilant Iranians and a hopeful international community are touting president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a reformist because of his promise to ease restrictions at home, free political prisoners, and to offer more transparency for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, it should not be ignored that he remains, nevertheless, among those select few candidates approved to run by Iran’s Guardian Council.

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Join Hollywood and Amnesty International in Calling for the Release of Behrouz Ghobadi

By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi
Nazanin Boniadi is an actress, activist and spokesperson for Amnesty International USA. Roxana Saberi is an Iranian-American journalist, author and human rights advocate. www.roxanasaberi.com

Behrouz with his newborn son, Harmang

Behrouz with his newborn son, Harmang.

The imprisonment of Iranian filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi appears to be the latest attempt by Iran’s regime to silence the country’s artists. Hollywood has united with Amnesty International to call for his release; now others can join them by sending a message  of concern to Iran’s supreme leader.

Behrouz, a younger brother of exiled Iranian film director Bahman Ghobadi, was arrested on November 4 in western Iran. Since then, he has had no contact with either his family or an attorney. His family has asked the Iranian authorities for information, but no one has told them why or where he is detained.

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Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers

Paul Haggis hands off Amnesty petition to Iran mission representative on June 8, 2011. © AI

World-renowned Iranian film director and peace activist, Jafar Panahi, and his artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof continue to face an uncertain future. Both men were charged with “propaganda against the state” in December, 2010, and sentenced to six years in jail.

Their lives have been in limbo for the past five months as each day carries with it the dreaded possibility of starting this lengthy period of incarceration. Panahi also received a 20-year ban on filmmaking, traveling abroad, and speaking with the media, which has been in effect since the sentencing.

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Recognizing Critics, Empowering Dissidents: A Statement of Solidarity with Advocates for Human Rights in Iran

By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

In June 2009, hundreds of thousands of courageous men and women took to the streets in Iran, demanding their inalienable rights amid the turmoil of the country’s disputed presidential election. News of the deaths of innocent people such as Neda Agha-Soltan and Sohrab Arabi, raids on the dormitory of the University of Tehran, mass show trials, and reports of the torture and rape of political prisoners made the world take notice.

Sadly, the international community has since largely averted its gaze, despite the fact that Iran continues to violate its international obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail, and execution by stoning is still allowed, as is the execution of juvenile offenders. The authorities continue to suppress the freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and religion, while many students are being denied their right to higher education based on a discriminatory system that penalizes them for their political and religious beliefs.

It seems that Iranian authorities are systematically targeting current and future community leaders in what appears to be a relentless crackdown on student and human rights activists.

Amnesty International has included one such case, that of student leader and prisoner of conscience, Majid Tavakkoli, as an urgent action in its global Write-a-thon campaign.

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I Am Neda

By Mikel Jollett and Nazanin Boniadi for The Neda Project

Actress Nazanin Boniadi and The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett

The tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20th, 2009, sent a shiver down the cumulative spine of all freedom-loving people across the world. She quickly became the face of the human rights movement in Iran and has given a voice to the voiceless around the world.

In honor of her and in solidarity with the people of Iran, The Airborne Toxic Event and Amnesty have teamed up for the Neda Project. The song “Neda” is released on iTunes today (Tuesday, June 8th) with ALL proceeds from sales to benefit Amnesty International.

In addition to the iTunes release, we have made a web-based video retelling the historic events around Neda’s death. The purpose of the video is to tell the story to people of the world who may not be aware of the Iranian struggle for freedom and to send a message to people living inside Iran that we stand with them and support their brave efforts.

What you can do:

1.  Watch the video

2.  Send out a message via your various social media, alerting others to the video. If you use twitter include this text:

I am Neda. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXN_yCSbUYk #neda r/t

3.  Change your Facebook/Myspace/Imeem status to “I am Neda”

4.  Upload a picture of yourself holding a sign saying “I am Neda”

5.  Visit nedaspeaks.org to learn more about the struggle for human rights in Iran and to participate in specific political actions that Amnesty has crafted urging the release of political prisoners.

Why Neda?

We believe that the viral video of Neda’s death was a sea-change in political power in the world. It was the first viral video to change the course of history, a symbol that the power of broadcasting is no longer simply in the hands of governments and corporations, but in the hands of people. It is in the hands of anyone with a cell phone camera and an internet connection. It is in your hands right now.

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In Solidarity with the People of Iran

naz250The first charter on human rights was authored by Cyrus the Great over 2500 years ago. As Iranians we are heirs to a proud tradition of human rights and tolerance. Sadly, the Iranian authorities have not lived up to this legacy, as can be seen by the mock trials, false imprisonments, torture, child executions, and lack of equality for women in Iran today.

For the past 30 years the Iranian government has barred Amnesty International from entering the country, affording us no transparency in regards to its human rights record. However, advances in technology and the internet are allowing brave Iranian activists to share direct eyewitness accounts of what is happening on ground zero in the post-election crackdown: brutal attacks on and murder of peaceful protestors, wrongful imprisonment without access to an attorney or fair trial, forced confessions obtained under torture and duress, rape used as a weapon of torture in prisons, and the lack of freedom of assembly as seen in the case of the ‘Mourning Mothers’ whose only “crime” was gathering for an hour each Saturday in a peaceful vigil near the place and time of the killing of protester Neda Agha-Soltan.

Despite the dangers posed to protesters, Iranians continue to take to the streets in hundreds of thousands to demand their universally recognized rights. The movement has grown beyond simply contesting the results of the presidential election. It has morphed into a Civil Rights movement of the magnitude seen in the United States in the 50′s and 60′s, uniting Iranians across a broad spectrum of political ideologies, bridging our differences for the first time in 30 years, with a single goal in mind: Freedom.

Today, I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran in demanding a fair and democratic society where the 30 articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights are fully realized. Together we can ensure that their pleas for freedom are not going unheard by the international community, that their struggle is not in vain, and that they will prevail.

– Nazanin Boniadi

What the UDHR Means to Me

The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proposed by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by the United Nations in 1948 established 30 articles of universal Human Rights. This document establishes and protects the framework for civilized and respectful interaction between all people and nations no matter what their political, religious or cultural beliefs. Over 190 nations have ratified this declaration; and yet surveys show that more people can name 3 members of the Homer Simpson TV Cartoon family than they can name three of their basic human rights. You can’t defend what you do not know.

At a time when we see women being stoned to death, child executions, people starving in the Eastern Sudan, children being stolen from their families and made into child-soldiers or prostitutes, prisoners being water-boarded, millions of people starving and dying of AIDS each year – we have to ask: what can human rights education do? My answer is everything. It’s where it all begins.

A friend once told me a story I will never forget. In the early 1940’s there was a young black boy in the Deep South, a sharecropper’s son. He went to school in a one-room, tattered schoolhouse. One morning, sitting by himself, he opened a third-hand, torn Civics text book. He read a page – The United States Bill of Rights. He read it again. He looked around and what he saw were white only schools, white only restrooms, and “sit on the back of the bus”. It didn’t make sense. And at that single moment, education, as it does for all of us, made that young Black boy more aware – and he decided to do something about it. His name was Martin Luther King Jr., and the rest is history.

Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can learn to love.”

Human rights violations know no borders. From child soldiers in the Congo, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, to the rise in human trafficking right here in the US, it is easy to see that the whole world needs to change.

By knowing all 30 Articles of the UDHR we can be equipped with the knowledge to fight against any injustice anywhere in the world. On this 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration, with all the turmoil that currently exists in the world, it has become more important than ever for people to know their rights, to pass them onto others, and to defend them relentlessly.

The solution to global issues such as poverty, famine, war and political unrest is encompassed by the UDHR, and human rights education is the first step in resolving these issues at a grassroots level.

I hope to see the day when human rights education becomes a mandatory part of every middle school curriculum on every continent across the world, so that every man, woman and child knows and can defend their God-given rights.