Public protests and prospects for reform in Iran

A panel discussion focusing on the protests in Iran and prospects for change in the political system.
Tuesday, April 24
1:30 - 3:00 pm
The Middle East Institute
1319 18th Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036
(Map)

Event Information

Over the last few months, Iran has experienced a series of street protests in rural areas and social arenas once seen as the key support base for the Islamic Republic. Politically active youth are voicing their frustrations with the country's political, social, and economic prospects. Many of these protests as well as online activism have been met with pushback from conservatives and crackdown from the government.

What are the prospects for change in Iran's existing political system? Is there a dynamic that might foster greater openness, pluralism and democratization? Who are the rising political figures who may lead such a change? How can the international community support a political shift in Iran that benefits its own society?

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host Daniel Brumberg, co-editor (with Farideh Farhi) of Power and Political Change in Iran, Azadeh Pourzand (Siamak Pourzand Foundation) and Shadi Mokhtari (American University) to examine the unfolding political struggles in Iran and their potential implications for the Islamic Republic. MEI Senior Fellow Alex Vatanka will moderate the discussion.

Speaker biographies:
Daniel Brumberg
Director, democracy and governance studies, Georgetown University
Senior non-resident fellow, Project on Middle East Democracy
Daniel Brumberg is an associate professor of government at Georgetown University and director of Democracy and Governance Studies at Georgetown University. Formerly a special adviser at  the United States Institute of Peace​, he is also a senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy and fellow at the Arab Center in Washington DC. A visiting professor at Science Po in Paris, prior to coming to Georgetown University he was a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science at Emory University, a visiting fellow in the Middle East Program in the Jimmy Carter Center, and a lecturer at  the University of Chicago's Social Science Masters Program.​ Brumberg has published seminal articles on dynamics of political, social and economic change in the Middle East and wider Muslim World. His articles have appeared in leading print and on-line journals including the Journal of Democracy, Foreign Policy and The Atlantic.  His books include Reinventing Khomeini, The Struggle for Reform in Iran (University of Chicago Press), and​ Identity and Reform in the Muslim World, Challenges for US Engagement (USIP Press), co-edited with Dinah Shehata, and most recently, Power and Political Change in Iran (co-edited with Farideh Farhi and published by Indiana University Press, 2016). Brumberg has served as a consultant to the US Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development focusing on human rights, security sector reform, and governance issues in the Arab world.

Shadi Mokhtari
Professor, American University
Shadi Mokhtari teaches at American University’s School of international Service where she specializes in human rights politics, Middle East Politics and Political Islam. She is the author of After Abu Ghraib: Exploring Human Rights in America and the Middle East (Cambridge, 2009), which was selected as the co-winner of the 2010 American Political Science Association Human Rights Section Best Book Award. From 2003 to 2013, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. Her current research considers changing contours of human rights politics in and vis-à-vis the region over the course of the last decade.

Azadeh Pourzand
Co-founder and executive director, Siamak Pourzand Foundation
Azadeh Pourzand is an independent human rights researcher and the executive director of Siamak Pourzand Foundation, dedicated to the promotion of freedom of expression in Iran. She has contributed to the design, implementation and impact evaluation of civil society strengthening, media development, education and human rights programs for marginalized communities in the Middle East and South Asia in organizations such as IREX, Small Media Foundation and Open Society Foundation. Her research and writing focus on human rights in Iran, with an emphasis on freedom of expression, rule of law, ethnic rights, and women's economic empowerment. An alumna of Kennedy School of Government (HKS), she served as the editor-in-chief of HKS's Women's Policy Journal and a teaching fellow at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Alex Vatanka, moderator
Senior fellow, MEI
Alex Vatanka specializes in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran. From 2006 to 2010, he was the managing editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst. From 2001 to 2006, he was a senior political analyst at Jane’s in London (UK) where he mainly covered the Middle East. Alex is also a senior fellow in Middle East Studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an adjunct professor at DISAM at Wright-Patterson AFB. He has lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, U.S. intelligence agencies, U.S. Congressional staff, and Middle Eastern energy firms.