Bennington faculty member Mansour Farhang and Maryland University professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak have received multiple grants—including $50,000 from George Soros's Open Society Institute—to convene a conference on "Toward a Culture of Civil Liberties, Human Rights and Democracy in Iran" at the University of Maryland's Roshan Center for Persian Studies, from October 28-31.
The conference will bring together intellectuals, academics, journalists, and rights advocates to "examine, interrogate and assess ... the possibility of a non-partisan and pluralistic discourse ... and, if at all possible, solidify its gains and chart its course in the foreseeable future," Farhang and Karimi-Hakkak said in a statement. "We believe strongly that non-partisan demands for political equality regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity stand a chance finally to bring about a paradigm shift in the consciousness of Iranians and lead to the establishment of a state that would respect and advance the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people."
More than 30 influential figures have volunteered to participate in the conference, including Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Laureate for Peace, and Ambassador John Limbert, a former American Embassy hostage in Iran and currently a Distinguished Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy.
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Farhang, a former Iranian ambassador to the UN, is Bennington's Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching.