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Below is a selection of my published work.

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Despite a big year for women in politics, national legislatures are still dominated by men

The Washington Post 

It’s a big year for women in politics. In a historic first, Hillary Clinton was named the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in the upcoming U.S. elections. If she wins, she will join Theresa May of Britain and Angela Merkel of Germany in the ranks of women who lead prominent Western democracies. They’re not alone, either. In recent years, the number of women holding positions in both parliament and executive government has grown. As of June 2016, women’s membership in parliament doubled from 11.3 percent in 1995 to 22.1 percent in 2015, according to a recent study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. And this year alone, there have been many historic firsts.

Young people don’t see a future in Afghanistan, so they’re leaving

The Washington Post 

The well-educated, 20-year-old woman did not want to leave Afghanistan, but she said she had no choice. After receiving death threats because of her work on women’s rights, she feared for her life and left in 2013 — feeling guilty, but intending to return after a few months when the security situation at home improved.Three years later, the young woman, now 24, lives in the United States and does not know when she will go back to Afghanistan. She told her story on the condition that her name not be used because of concern that her family in Afghanistan could be in danger. “I left because I didn’t feel safe anywhere,” she said. “Afghanistan doesn’t need another dead body or another dead woman.” She is one of a growing number of educated young people who, frustrated by their country’s growing insecurity and lack of job opportunities, have been leaving Afghanistan in record numbers.

The world is getting better at paid maternity leave. The U.S. is not. 

The Washington Post 

When news broke that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line doesn’t offer workers paid maternity leave, some were surprised. After all, the Republican presidential nominee’s daughter has said she champions the rights of working mothers. “Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties,” she said on the last day of the Republican National Convention in July. “They should be the norm.” The truth is, however, that in the United States bearing a child comes at a high price for many women. Despite having one of the world’s most advanced economies, the United States lags far behind other countries in its policies for expectant mothers. In addition to being the only highly competitive country where mothers are not guaranteed paid leave, it sits in stark contrast to countries such as Cuba and Mongolia that offer expectant mothers one year or more of paid leave.

After Nice, Newt Gingrich wants to ‘test’ every Muslim in the U.S. and deport Sharia believers 

The Washington Post 

Following the attack in Nice that killed at least 84 people, former House speaker Newt Gingrich has called for deporting everyone in America with a Muslim background who believes in sharia law. “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti says harming gays is unacceptable even as LGBT crackdown continues 

The Washington Post

Egypt’s grand mufti recently said that hurting gays and lesbians is unacceptable despite the fact that homosexuality is not allowed in Islam. In an interview with Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper late last month, Shawki Allam said that he condemned the Orlando massacre in which 49 people were killed and that no one had “the right to hurt homosexuals or to take the law into their own hands.” Allam’s comments, which were part of a discussion about moderate Islam, are a historic milestone for Egypt’s religious institution. Along with the grand imam of al-Azhar mosque, the grand mufti of Egypt holds one of the highest positions on religious authority and plays an important role in determining opinions on religious law.

The Washington Post 

The attack near the Prophet’s Mosque in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina — the second holiest site in Islam — took place around sunset. The bomber reportedly sat with security guards as they were preparing to break their fast for Ramadan. Then he detonated his explosives, killing himself and the four security officers. Thousands of people were gathered nearby to pray when the attack took place on Monday. Video on social media shows stunned worshipers taking out their cellphones to film the dark clouds of smoke that rose in the air from the explosion.

Why Iran was so quick to praise Brexit 

The Washington Post

While the international community squirmed in distress when Britain voted to leave the European Union, there was one country that was quick to voice its optimism: Iran. Even though only a few Iranian political and military leaders decided to speak about Brexit, the ones who did expressed support and even enthusiasm for the referendum. “The departure of England from the E.U. is a ‘historic opportunity’ for Iran — an advantage must be taken from this new opportunity,” President Hassan Rouhani’s deputy chief of staff for political affairs, Hamid Aboutaebi, wrote in a tweet.

Another American has been detained in Iran, the fourth dual national in five months to be arrested

The Washington Post

Before Reza “Robin” Shahini flew to Iran to visit his ailing mother in May, he was careful to delete years-old postings about Iran on his social-media accounts. He was not a political activist, but Shahini wanted to avoid attracting any attention from Iranian authorities. For the first six weeks, the trip went as planned. The San Diego resident texted friends photos of his sightseeing in the country of his birth. But on July 11, Shahini, 46, was arrested in Iran on suspicion of crimes against the Islamic Republic, becoming the latest Westerner with dual citizenship to be detained. He joined two other U.S. citizens known to be detained, and at least four dual nationals from Britain, Canada and France, three of whom have been arrested in the past five months.

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In Raqqa, support ISIIL or die 

Al Jazeera English 

At first glance Abdel Aziz al-Hamza, with his slender stature and mellow voice, appears shy. Other than his thick black beard, nothing in particular about him stands out. Like most young people, he wears standard blue jeans, T-shirt and a baseball cap. But he is not at all like most young people. Al-Hamza, a 24-year-old Syrian exile who is the cofounder and spokesman of the underground citizen journalist groupRaqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), is constantly under threat by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. Al-Hamza is from Raqqa, a city of 300,000 in northern Syria that has become ISIL’s self-declared capital and has been under its control for a little more than two years. When the group started tightening their grip and began executing people in public, al-Hamza and a group of his friends launched RBSS.

The dangerous influence of online hate speech in Gaza 

Al Jazeera America 

A series of unsettling events in the past week has once again provoked new waves of violence inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Just hours after the bodies of the three kidnapped settler youths, Eyal Ifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, were buried near Modi’in, a 16-year old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped, beaten, burned alive and left in a forest, throwing Jerusalem into a state of upheaval. News of the murder of four innocent boys has left Israeli and Palestinian communities devastated and angered. Vengeful messages on social networking sites following the deaths of these four boys, by both Israeli government officials and Jewish Israeli citizens, demonstrate the ways in which Israeli society is divided along religious and ethnic lines. The racist sentiments expressed show how Israeli society has cultivated a false “us vs. them” paradigm, leading many to mistakenly believe that violence against the state is a byproduct of cultural or religious differences, instead of understanding that it is a symptom of Israel’s brutal occupation.

Why are Twitter and Facebook still blocked in Iran? 

Al Jazeera America 

Since the election of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, social media have played a central role in his administration’s media strategy. Rouhani has two Twitter accounts — one in English, one in Farsi — that he uses to frequently tweet on matters of foreign and domestic affairs. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif uses Facebook to post daily updates and connect with Iranians in Persian. Even the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is hooked: He has shared more than 800 photos — most of which are action shots that show him at speaking events and meetings — with his 22,000 Instagram followers since 2012. Rouhani’s administration has been embracing these digital media platforms as a means to bypass conventional media outlets and break the barrier to Iran’s isolation. And by using these platforms to engage in discourse with their constituents and the international community, the Iranian establishment is acknowledging the popularity of these networking websites.

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Human rights reform in Iran requires a nuclear deal  

Muftah Magazine

As Hassan Rouhani’s first 100 days as Iran’s  president draw to a close, some may be wondering how serious he is about    campaign promises to improve human rights and institutionalize reform. Since Rouhani came into office, Iran’s domestic landscape has yet to undergo any serious reform.  Last month alone, 16 prisoners accused on belonging to Sunni separatist groups were executed as retribution for the recent killing of 14 Iranian soldiers on the volatile border with Pakistan, the reformist newspaper Bahar Daily was banned and its editor-in-chief arrested for publishing commentary on the Prophet Mohammad, and prominent actress Pegah Ahangarani was sentenced to 18 months in prison for her political activism, termed by authorities as “action against national security and links to foreign media.”

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Twitter and Iran’s public diplomacy gap 

IranWire 

When President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used Twitter to wish Jews Happy Rosh Hashanah back in September 2013, their messages commanded the world’s attention and seemed to herald a new era of social media diplomacy and public exchange on the part of Iran, a nation for years seemingly little concerned with its parlous reputation in the West.

In what was unimaginable just one year prior, it became common to see Iranian and American officials re-tweet, tag, and respond to one another on these digital media platforms, conducting exchanges that signaled a new openness to communication with both each other and the wider public of each other’s nations.

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We dream of returning one day. Will Iran let us?  

Your Middle East

Thirty-five years into the Islamic Republic, political shifts are occurring in Iran. President Hassan Rouhani has been able to bring the US and Iran closer to rapprochement in the last six months than in all the years since the 1979 Revolution. Over the years, one group that has felt the burden of US-Iran estrangement has been the Iranian-American community. But now, perhaps the idea of exiled Iranians returning to Iran is not far from reach.