Thursday, November 5, 2009

Human rights defenders - Roya Hakakian

Roya Hakakian was born in 1966 in Iran and raised in a Jewish family in Tehran. In May of 1985, 19-year-old Roya arrived in the United States seeking political asylum, which was granted. She studied psychology at Brooklyn College and went on to earn a Master of Social Work at Hunter College, both of the City University of New York.

Roya is a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and currently serves on the board of Refugees International. She has appeared on numerous television shows speaking on the subject of the Middle East and human rights.

Her book, in which she recounts her memories of growing up a Jewish teenager in post-revolutionary Iran, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran was published by Crown and was highly acclaimed. It went on to become a Barnes & Noble¡¦s Pick of the Week, a Ms. Magazine Must Read of the Summer, Publishers Weekly¡¦s Best Book of the Year, and Elle Magazine¡¦s Best Nonfiction Book of 2004. It also won the Persian Heritage Foundation¡¦s 2006 Latifeh Yarshater Book Award and was the 2005 winner of the Best Memoir by the Connecticut Center for the Book. The book has been translated into several languages and is available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. In 2008 Roya won the Guggenheim fellowship in nonfiction.

Roya is also the author of two poetry collections. The first collection, For the Sake of Water, was nominated as poetry book of the year by Iran News in 1993. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World listed Roya among the leading new voices in Persian poetry. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies around the world, including La Regle Du Jeu, Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature. It is also due to appear in the forthcoming W.W. Norton¡¦s Contemporary Voices of the Eastern World: An Anthology of Poems. Today Roya contributes to the Persian Literary Review, and served as the poetry editor of Par Magazine for six years. Her opinion columns, essays, and book reviews appear in English language publications, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among them. She is also a contributor to the Weekend Edition of NPR¡¦s All Things Considered.

Roya Hakakian has collaborated on over a dozen hours of programming for leading journalism units on network television, including 60 Minutes and on A& E¡¦s Travels With Harry, and ABC Documentary Specials with Peter Jennings, Discovery and The Learning Channel. Commissioned by UNICEF, Roya¡¦s most recent film, ¡§Armed and Innocent,¡¨ on the subject of the involvement of underage children in wars around the world was a nominee for best short documentary at several festivals around the world.

Roya Hakakian currently lives in Connecticut.

(Information from various sources)

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