Community Advisory Board
The U4I Community Advisory Board provides strategic guidance and feedback to the network and is made-up of a diverse group of experts, journalists, activists, and many more — all of whom work in various fields and countries.
Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University / Founder, The Week in Green
Hamid Dabashi received his college education in Tehran, before he moved to the United States, where he received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He is currently the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, the oldest and most prestigious Chair in his field. He has also taught and delivered lectures in many North American, European, Arab and Iranian universities. An internationally renowned cultural critic and award-winning author, his books and articles have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Danish, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Urdu and Catalan. A committed teacher for nearly three decades, Professor Dabashi is also a public speaker around the globe, a current affairs essayist, and a staunch anti-war activist.
Co-founder, Alliance for Philippine Concerns
In the 1970s, Jorge was involved in civil rights work in North Carolina with the American Civil Liberties Union. He co-founded Amnesty International chapters in Raleigh-Durham and Albany-Schenectady-Troy in the 1970’s. He co-founded the upstate NY chapter of the Committee in Solidarity With the People of El Salvador (CISPES), has served as co-group leader for Amnesty International’s Uruguay human rights campaign, and has worked for the release of the ANC’s Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In 1983, he co-founded the Alliance for Philippine Concerns (APC), a coalition working for Philippine human rights, social justice and national sovereignty. In addition to numerous campaigns and conferences by the APC, he coordinated the demonstrations, vigils, marches and media activities in the months leading to the downfall of the Marcos regime in 1986. He continued his human rights advocacy in the Philippines through the APC and as a board member of the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace. After moving to California, he became a resource speaker for the Philippine Resource Center. Jorge’s 2005 publication, The Forbidden Book, won the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award.
A Tibetan woman born and raised in Canada, Lhadon Tethong is one of the most recognizable faces in the Tibet movement. She has traveled the world and built a powerful youth movement for Tibet, training and inspiring young people to become committed activists for human rights and social justice.
She first became involved with Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) in 1996 and was a leading force in scoring an unprecedented campaign victory in 2000, when a coalition of Tibet supporters and environmental and human rights activists prevented a World Bank project that would have underwritten the resettlement of tens of thousands of Chinese settlers in Tibet. Lhadon recently stepped down as the Executive Director and is currently working on a new project for SFT called the Tibet Action Institute.
This initiative will bring together strategic campaign and direct action leaders with progressive technology advocates from around the world to work for non-violent change in Tibet.
Founder & Co-Chair, OMID Advocates for Human Rights
Nancy Hormachea is a local immigration lawyer who is also the founder and co-chair of the Iran Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild and former co-chair of the Guild’s Middle East Subcommittee. She and three other community activists founded Omid Advocates for Human Rights in Jan. 2009. She has been involved in supporting the movement in Iran for more than 30 years and lived in Iran from 1979 to 1982. Nancy has also been active in the Bay Area immigrant rights movement and was a founder of San Francisco Immigrant Legal Education Network. In the late 70s, Nancy participated in delegations to Iran to visit with representatives of civil society organizations and the families of political prisoners. She has also led or participated in delegations organized by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and NLG to visit Palestinian refugees and political prisoners and documented the fact-finding trips with reports, videos and presentations before the UN, European Parliament and Arab League. Nancy was a presenter at the Justice Not War international conference in Rome in 2003. She is a member of the Coalition for Iranian Refugees organized to send a delegation of international lawyers, physicians and academics to visit Turkey to bring awareness to the plight of recent Iranian refugees and to organize national efforts to expedite their resettlement
Dr. Nazila Ghanea
Professor of International Human Rights Law, Founding Editor “Religion and Human Rights”
Dr. Nazila Ghanea teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She has previously taught at the University of London and Keele University, UK. She is the founding editor of the international journal of Religion and Human Rights. Nazila has acted as a human rights consultant for a number of governments, the UN, UNESCO, OSCE, Council of Europe and the EU. She has facilitated international human rights law training for a range of professional bodies and NGOs, lectured widely and carried out first hand human rights field research in a number of countries such as Malaysia, the GCC and the United Kingdom.
Nazila’s publications include nine books and three UN publications including the May 2003 UN paper “Ethnic and Religious Groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran” tabled at the Working Group on Minorities. She has since also co-authored the 2011 Minority Rights Group International publication “Seeking Justice and an end to neglect: Iran’s minorities today.” Her other research tackles issues such as discrimination and equality, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and identities and their protection in international human rights law.
She is a regular media contributor on matters related to human rights and has been active in a number of NGOs. She has been a delegate or expert at over a dozen UN fora, and worked closely with NGOs such as the One World Trust, the Solicitors International Human Rights Group, Minority Rights Group International and Lawyers for Lawyers.
Professor of International Law at McGill University /Author / First UN War Crimes Prosecutor at the Hague/ Co-Founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre
Payam Akhavan is Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He earned his Doctorate from Harvard Law School and was previously Senior Fellow at Yale Law School and Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Toronto. He is the author of numerous publications. He was the first United Nations war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, and played a key role in the trial of Yugoslav leaders such as President Milosevic. He also served with the UN in Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, East Timor, and Rwanda, and has been appointed as legal counsel in leading cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights. He is a prominent human rights advocate for Iranian political prisoners, is Co-Founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, and has been at the forefront of efforts to bring Iranian leaders to justice for crimes against humanity. He has been appointed by the Government of Canada as a Director of the International Centre for Rights & Democracy and recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.
Roxana Saberi moved to Iran in 2003 to work as the Iran correspondent for the U.S.-based Feature Story News. She filed reports for organizations such as NPR, BBC, ABC Radio and Fox News and was working on a book about Iranian society when she was arrested on January 31, 2009. Saberi was later sentenced to eight years in prison on a trumped-up charge of espionage. She was released in May 2009. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, the daughter of Reza Saberi, who was born in Iran, and Akiko Saberi, who is from Japan. Roxana graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with degrees in communications and French. She holds her first master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and her second master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge.
Described by the New York Times “a super-specialist” in human rights advocacy, Simon Billenness has 20 years of experience helping people use their power as citizens, consumers, and investors to hold corporations accountable to standards of human rights. At the socially responsible investment firm Trillium Asset Management, Simon Billenness pioneered the use of shareholder pressure on resource extraction companies operating in countries racked by conflict and burdened by repressive regimes. His country and regional expertise includes Latin America, Burma (Myanmar), Nigeria, Sudan/Darfur, and China. He has a particular interest in working with indigenous peoples. Simon Billenness also pioneered the use of state and local Burma selective purchasing and investment laws. He was co-author of the Massachusetts Burma Law and coordinated the campaign to first enact and then defend the law from challenge at the World Trade Organization and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the US Campaign for Burma. He has developed his professional expertise as a Senior Analyst for Trillium Asset Management, Senior Policy Advisor for Corporate Engagement at Oxfam America, Special Advisor with the Office of Investment at the AFL-CIO, and as Senior Campaign Representative in the Beyond Coal Campaign of the Sierra Club. Simon Billenness has been on the board of Amnesty International USA since 2005. A member of All Souls Church, Unitarian, where he explores Buddhism, Simon Billenness gives back to his faith by serving on the Committee on Socially Responsible Investment of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Simon Billenness has a B.A. in Political Science from Loughborough University in England and an M.B.A. from Boston College.
Kelly McVicker is a San Francisco-based communications and development specialist with over nine years of experience fundraising for social justice issues. She previously served as Development Officer at the Global Fund for Women, where she raised an average of $1.5 million annually to advance women’s human rights. While at the Global Fund, she also coordinated the Women’s Media Fund to support innovative projects from digital media to street theater developed by women around the world. Prior to that, she managed the award-winning media campaign, “Emergency Contraception: Because $#*!Happens” for a small sexual and reproductive health organization in Los Angeles. Kelly has worked with Ori Brafman, author of the best-selling book The Starfish and the Spider, to facilitate leadership trainings based on interpersonal dynamics, and is a contributor to his forthcoming book.
Kelly began collaborating with United for Iran in 2012 to expand its development and communication projects, and the organization quickly became near and dear to her heart. In her other life, Kelly is the owner and operator of McVicker Pickles, where she blends her Kansas roots with California flavors via small batch pickles, mustards, and jams. A lifetime entrepreneur and explorer, she has lived in Spain and Mexico and is the former owner of a boutique screen-printing company. Kelly holds a B.A. in International Comparative Studies and a certificate in Film and Video from Duke University.
Mozhgan Sohrabi has worked for environmental, human rights, and social justice efforts through organizing & campaigning, training, and speaking since the early 1990s. She has provided progressive organizations with support and technical skills in campaign strategy, nonviolent civil disobedience, and anti-racist organizing through her work with various NGOs and training collectives. Currently serving in the General Counsel’s office for a global campaigning organization, she earned her law degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a bachelors of science in Geography and Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.