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Roya  Hakakian

Roya Hakakian

Iranian Writer & Journalist


Roya Hakakian is a writer, journalist and public speaker. Her opinion columns, essays and book reviews appear in English language publications like the New York Times, the Daily Beast/Newsweek, Wall Street Journal and NPR's All Things Considered, among many others. A founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, she has collaborated on over a dozen hours of programming for leading journalism units in network television, including CBS 60 Minutes. She currently serves as an editorial board member of World Affairs. In the book, Political Awakenings by University of California at Berkeley Professor Harry Kreisler, she has been highlighted as being "among the most important activists, academics and journalists of her generation."  Read More >

Hakakian is the author of two collections of poetry in Persian, and is listed among the leading new voices in Persian poetry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies around the world, including La Regle Du Jeu and Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

Her new book, A Beginner's Guide to America: For Immigrants and the Curious, offers the immigrant’s first-hand perspective on the issue. She believes the immigrant needs to be reintroduced and recast for the native-born Americans so that we, as Americans, can continue to do what we have done for decades: be a destination for those who need to take refuge in the U.S. Her most recent book, Assassins of the Turquoise Place (Grove/Atlantic), about Tehran’s terror campaign against Iranian dissidents in Western Europe, was named a Notable Book of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review, made a Newsweek’s Top Ten Not-to-be-missed Books of 2011 and was among Kirkus Reviews’ Best Non-Fictions of 2011. It was also named the 2013 best non-fiction by the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. In 2014, the US Federal Bar Association created a prize for the first time in 100 years to honor the leading prosecutor she features in her book.

Her memoir of growing up a Jewish teenager in post-revolutionary Iran, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (Crown) was a Barnes and Noble's Pick of the Week, a Ms. Magazine’s Must Read of the Summer, a Publishers Weekly's Best Book of the Year, an Elle Magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of 2004, was named Best Memoir by the Connecticut Center for the Book in 2005 and has been a favorite of colleges as a “Freshman Experience” read. Hakakian is also a recipient of the 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in nonfiction.

An active thinker of foreign relations, Hakakian serves on the board of Refugees International. Born and raised in a Jewish family in Tehran, Hakakian came to the United States in May 1985 on political asylum. She is currently at work on a new book at the The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she has been awarded a fellowship in 2014. Talking to her readers is one of her great joys. She has addressed them at venues ranging from high schools on Native American reservations to the US Capitol and the CIA. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDTalk: How to Fight Terrorism In a Court of Law

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

Interview with Rabbi David Wolpe at the Hammer Museum

On MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Discussing Iran

Book Talk on Assassins of the Turquoise Palace - Foreign Policy Research Institute

Wilson Center NOW – Global Anti-Semitism Rising: What About Iran?

Speech Topics

In the Lion's Den: The Paradox of Iran's Jewry Under the Islamic Republic of Iran

The most open and vehement rhetorical assaults against Israel have been staged by Tehran since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earned global notoriety by casting doubt about the Holocaust and promising to wipe Israel off the map of the world. And yet, Iran continues to remain home to a much-diminished yet sizable Jewish community. This talk will focus on how this paradox came into being and why its continuity is detrimental to Iran’s claim for regional hegemony.

Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

Revolutions are often remembered by those who had a stake in them –fallen royals and rulers, or newly-minted officialdom. In her talk about the historic 1979 revolution that transformed Iran, and subsequently the entire region, Roya Hakakian speaks from the rare perspective of a girl witness.

Global Anti-Semitism Rising: What About Iran?

The Anti-Defamation League’s most recent report, the Global 100 Study released recently, measured public attitudes and opinions toward Jews in over 100 countries. Contrary to the leadership’s vehement anti-Semitic rhetoric and global expectations, the findings about Iran contrasts vastly from the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa. Roya Hakakian explains why Iran is so unique and why the country, 36 years since the rise of its Islamic theocracy, continues to be home to a sizable community of Jews in the Middle East.

Murder in Berlin: How the Rule of Law Defeated Islamic Terrorism

13 years after the '79 Iranian revolution, four Iranian Kurdish exiled opposition leaders were assassinated in Berlin, Germany. One of the survivors and another victims’ widow began a crusade pitting them against not only Tehran but against some of the greatest powers in Germany. When an undeterred federal prosecutor, a real life Atticus Finch, took over the trial, a historic verdict followed which shook both Europe and Iran, and achieved something few could have predicted—justice.

The Art of Telling True Stories

At the age of 19, having arrived in the United States as a refugee, Roya Hakakian begins to learn English. Several years later, having been inspired by her encounter with the legendary poet, Allen Ginsburg, she does something that few writers have ever done: She crosses from writing in Persian (in which she had already published two books of poetry), into writing in a whole new language: in English. Since then, she has published countless articles and essays in leading publications, written for radio and television, and taught the art of writing non-fiction.