The 1979 Iranian revolution, and the years that followed, shaped who I am. I remember being part of massive rallies, captivated by the excitement, chaos, and hope. By fifth grade I had a strong sense of justice, and changed schools from an affluent community to one that served the working class.
I left Iran for the US when I was twelve.
I studied political economics at UC Berkeley, and later earned master’s degrees in environmental science and public policy. For seven years, I worked as an international coordinator and an environmental health advocate, first at the NGO Health Care Without Harm and later at a United Nations Development Program project on toxic and waste reduction. I worked towards building movements in partnership with communities in twenty global south countries.
When, in 2009, millions of Iranians protested the presidential election, and were brutally suppressed, I felt proud and heartbroken. The final straw was viewing the video “Where Is This Place?” Listening to a woman reading her poem through tears shifted something in me, and I decided to organize a global day of action. With rallies in 110 cities, July 25, 2009, turned out to be the largest day of global support for Iran in history. Shortly after, I founded United for Iran.
Creating and collectively growing United for Iran has been the most challenging and rewarding work—my life’s work.
Milad Keshtan Program Director
I was a pro-democracy student activist back in Iran where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management. After I left the country in 2012, I worked with several successful civil rights and human rights campaigns as a Campaign Organizer, including the “No to Compulsory Hijab” campaign and “Iran’s Right to Life” campaign.
In 2015, I joined NetFreedom Pioneers shortly before the launch of Toosheh, which provides Iranians with free uncensored internet content using satellite broadcasts. As the Content and Marketing Manager, I oversaw the umbrella of all online news, information, videos, and films that are made available offline by bypassing the IRI’s censorship efforts.
I was a United for Iran ally and supporter for many years before joining U4I. I firmly believe that creative technologies in the hands of dedicated activists can make significant strides in strengthening human rights. That is why I decided to join United for Iran.
I knew I wanted a career where I could fight for equality, human rights, and justice from the beginning, and I directed those energies for the first part of my career into the healthcare field as a public health professional working in advocacy and reproductive rights.
Once I received my Master’s degree in Public Health and settled in the Bay Area,these commitments shifted from a focus area of health to a broader idea of fighting for comprehensive rights among the people I feel most connected with. Born in the U.S. to Iranian parents, I was lucky enough to spend all of my summers in Iran, and those formative times shaped much of who I am today. I have “one foot here and one foot there”, as my mom always used to say, and that still rings true for me today. It is such a privilege to be able to do this work and I feel so fortunate to have found a home at United for Iran.
Amin Riahi Program Manager, Human Rights
I was a pro-democracy activist during my time in Iran. I left Iran in 2011 and fled to Turkey, becoming a refugee there. I have been living in Berlin in recent years and have worked as a researcher on the Iran Prison Atlas since 2015. Today, I serve as the human rights program director for United for Iran.
I continue my efforts to help the Iranian pro-democracy movement achieve the values of secular democracy, the rule of law, and an open society. I hope one day all of Iran’s inhabitants can enjoy an equal opportunity to have access to resources regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and place of residence.
Mehdi Aminizadeh Lead Researcher
As a former political prisoner, I know the importance of protecting Iranian activists, civil society members, and other political prisoners languishing in Iran’s jails. Working as the Lead Researcher of the Iran Prison Atlas is the most rewarding job I could have.
In Iran, I worked as a student activist and helped develop and publish reports for a number of political organizations, including the Advar-e-tahkim vahdat association for alumni students activists, and the influential Office for Strengthening Unity. I also served as a co-author or researcher on numerous reports by the Center for Human Rights Defenders, the organization established by Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. I was arrested four times and charged with belonging to “illegal” organizations or for “insulting God.” Our protests on behalf of a guest lecturer sentenced to death received enough support to shutdown the university.
During the post election crackdown of 2009, I was summoned to court and threatened with arrest again. Shortly after that, I fled Iran for the safety of myself and my family. At United for Iran, I continue my efforts to work toward a prosperous and free Iran.
Amir Rezaei Communications and Program Manager
I studied Agricultural Engineering at Urmia University in Iran. I was a student activist who was expelled from the university in 2010 and forced to leave the country in 2011. As a student activist, I helped found a pro-democracy student organization at Urmia University. I was also an editor and writer for 2 reformist journals at the university during my time there. I have been living and working in the US for years now, keeping my network in Iran and fighting for democracy in my home country every day. I joined U4I in late 2019 and work daily to make sure all U4I tech tools run diligently and securely.
Zachary Stickney Communications and Development Consultant
During Iran’s protests in 2009, I was a sophomore in college and trying to figure out what I wanted to study and how I could contribute to a more just world. The movement the world saw at that time – at once powerful, inspiring, and tragic – had a profound and lasting impact on my interests, worldview, and understanding of the interconnectedness of liberation movements globally. When United for Iran organized its global day of solidarity shortly after, I helped organize rallies in Salt Lake City in support of the protesters, and through that experience met a lifelong friend and mentor in Firuzeh – the start of a collaboration that continues to this day.
My work with United for Iran is ultimately what led me to pursue a PhD in Political Science at the University of Utah, where I currently study technology and activism. I believe United for Iran represents some of the best and most meaningful work in this area, and I am proud to contribute to those efforts in whatever small way I can.
Mahmoud Masoumi Researcher, Human Rights
As an activist citizen, I was imprisoned for opposing the actions of the Iranian government by trying to improve democracy in the country. I was closely affected by the security problems and pressures exerted on political critics in Iran both inside and outside of prison. This led to my to work in the field of political prisoners after leaving the country. My goal is to address the plight of political prisoners and the implementation of related projects. I wish to see a day when no human being in Iran will be prosecuted for their thoughts.
From 2016 to 2018, I was arrested by the security forces in Iran in several stages, after which I was forced to leave the country. I now live in Turkey and work as a researcher on the Iran Prison Atlas team.
Rameen Shafiee Operations Associate
I am a Bay Area native and longtime community servant for systems-impacted communities. My work in advocacy began in my undergraduate years at New York University. Shortly after Eric Garner’s tragic death at the hands of the NYPD, I was tasked with interviewing members of my community about their feelings and understandings of the police officers who are supposed to serve them. This tragic, enlightening experience launched me into a career of community service. After achieving my bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology, I joined AmeriCorps for two years to provide underserved youth in the Bay Area with robust academic programming and mentorship.
My family is from Iran, but I have never had the opportunity to travel there myself. The only connection I could foster with my family’s homeland was through pursuing my own curiosities with history lessons and infrequent Diaspora conferences. Today, I have the honor and privilege of continuing my passion for serving others while supporting the people of Iran with U4I.