Washington, DC – PAAIA is pleased to announce the launch of the Ansari Fellowship Program, an initiative seeking to encourage and empower young Iranian-Americans to pursue careers in public service.
Iranian Americans are some of the most successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists in the United States. Yet, for various reasons, many are still not involved in politics or public service more broadly. We are aiming to change that by providing funding for unpaid Summer internships, as well as access to a network of public policy experts and mentorship opportunities.
Our mission is to help give rise to an unprecedented generation of Iranian American leaders in the field. Applications for the Ansari Fellowship Program will be open in January. Click here to learn more about this exciting opportunity.
Parisa Pirooz is a passionate human rights advocate whose career path is devoted to advancing the lives of all women alike. Her drive for achieving gender-equality has led her to travel extensively around the world to study and work on specific issues pertaining to women.
Parisa’s interest in gender issues stemmed from her acceptance as a visiting student at Oxford University, where she studied international human rights law and feminism in the Middle East. This led to her most recent journey of moving to the Middle East to work for a Jordanian non-profit organization that promotes national policies and practices towards women to become consistent with international standards. Here, Parisa assisted local human rights attorneys with outreach programs that involved refugees and youth groups on matters regarding sexual violence, honor killings and combating gender inequality in society.
Much of Parisa’s free time is devoted to volunteering for causes involving women and human rights. She has provided volunteer services for conferences at the United Nations and has worked directly for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Her leadership involvement for working with marginalized populations was personally recognized by the U.S. White House, who deemed Parisa as a “trusted voice and leader in the community.” Upon completing her Masters Degree in Political Science from George Mason University, Parisa decided to pursue her dream of becoming an international human rights lawyer. She is currently a J.D. candidate at The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., where she is simultaneously working to assist overseas clients in obtaining refugee status in the U.S. This summer she will be working at the International Center for Non-Profit Law with the support of the fellowship.
Arianna Zoghi: I have been working at the Northern Virginia Capital Defender Office this summer. This is a trial-level office; however, death penalty work, by nature, is an all hands on deck effort, so when Virginia set an execution date for William Morva, my office helped the post-conviction office as much as we could. I wound up spending a lot of time this summer working on William Morva’s clemency campaign.
Mr. Morva was seriously mentally ill. He suffered from delusional disorder, a psychotic disorder similar to schizophrenia. He had committed his crimes as a direct result of this illness and yet, the illness had not been adequately presented to jurors during the trial. His illness was treatable, but the prison was refusing to treat him. We were petitioning the Governor to grant clemency and stop the execution.
Unfortunately, the Governor denied the petition for clemency and Mr. Morva was executed on July 6th. It was my first time experiencing the loss of a client and it was definitely really difficult. However, it also made me even more certain that I want to be involved in capital defense. It strengthened my belief that the death penalty is inhumane and that it targets the most vulnerable among us. It also was a painful reminder of what we are fighting against and why trial-level defense is so important. It made me want to work even harder for our clients at the Capital Defender Office so that they never have to be in that position.
My internship at the Capital Defender Office has been really interesting and I have learned a lot about the way that death penalty trials work. I have also gotten the opportunity to meet many wonderful people in the capital defense community including attorneys, mitigation specialists, and exonerees. I have learned so much from these people and am so grateful for this opportunity!