April 12, 2023

Can Iran Recover Its Democracy?

Event Series: Free Speech at the Crossroads: International Dialogues

Showing the Can Iran Recover Its Democracy? Video

Ever since Mahsa Amini died in September 2022, in the custody of Iran’s morality police, for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly, the world has watched tens of thousands of Iranian protesters face off against an authoritarian government determined to deny women’s rights. Nearly 20,000 have been arrested, and human rights groups say the country has issued at least 11 protest-related death sentences and is expected to try dozens more, including children, for charges that can carry the death penalty. But even in the midst of deadly violence and threats from security forces, the protesters, a significant number of whom are young and female, continue to defy the regime. Taking to the streets in dozens of cities throughout the country, they are marching and burning their headscarves. Will the protests threaten the 44-year-old theocratic government? Could a new Iranian Revolution that values free speech, secularism, and democracy be on the horizon?

This event is co-sponsored by the Free Speech Project (Georgetown University) and the Future of the Humanities Project (Georgetown University and Blackfriars Hall and Campion Hall, Oxford).


Sanam Naraghi Anderlini is the founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She was formerly director of the Centre for Women, Peace, and Security at the London School of Economics. Anderlini has 25 years of experience as a global peace strategist. At ICAN, she spearheads the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), comprising over 90 women-led peacebuilding organizations in 40 countries.

Marjan Keypour Greenblatt is a human rights activist and advocate for women and minorities in Iran. She is the founding director of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), an international network that promotes equal rights for all citizens in Iran, and StopFemicideIran, an advocacy campaign that monitors and documents incidents and memorializes their victims. Co-chair of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Task Force on Middle East Minorities, she is also an advisory board member of the Atlantic Council's Iran Strategy Project and New Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI).

Fathali M. Moghaddam, a professor of psychology at Georgetown University, edits the Cambridge University Press series on progressive psychology. He previously edited the journal Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology and directed the Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science and the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown. Moghaddam’s books include Political Plasticity - The Future of Democracy and Dictatorship (2022), The Psychology of Dictatorship (2013), The Psychology of Democracy (2016), and Threat to Democracy: The Appeal of Authoritarianism in an Age of Uncertainty (2019).

Michael Nazir-Ali, president of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy, and Dialogue (OXTRAD), was the 106th Bishop of Rochester for 15 years until 2009. He is originally from southwest Asia and in 1994 became the first diocesan bishop in the Church of England born abroad. He holds British and Pakistani citizenship and served as a member of the House of Lords beginning in 1999, where he was active in several areas of national and international concern. Nazir-Ali has both a Christian and Muslim family background.

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously was the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Sanford J. Ungar (moderator), president emeritus of Goucher College, is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University, which documents challenges to free expression in American education, government, and civil society. Director of the Voice of America under President Bill Clinton, he was also dean of the American University School of Communication and is a former co-host of "All Things Considered" on NPR.