Azadeh Shahshahani – Defending Our Civil Rights
Atlanta, GA – Fighting anti-immigrant laws, discrimination, and racial profiling in the United States is not an easy task. Anti-immigrant prejudice coupled with constant discrimination facing our community due to events unfolding in the Middle East, does not provide an easy playing field for immigrants’ rights and civil rights lawyers in the United States. However, there is one person that continues to vigorously fight for Iranian-American civil rights and the civil rights of Muslim-American, Arab-American, and Latino communities.
NIAC member, Azadeh Shahshahani’s drive to combat difficulties facing immigrant communities is inspiring and motivational. As the current Director of National Security and Immigrants Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia and author of numerous reports and op-eds on human rights, immigrants’ rights , and racial profiling, Azadeh has extensive experience working on immigrant civil rights.
She is currently busy fighting a bill that was passed by Georgia lawmakers mimicking Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, known as the “show me your paper” bill If this bill were implemented into law, it would authorize law enforcement to check people’s immigration status with whom they come into contact, including in cases of minor offenses such as traffic violations. At the ACLU of Georgia, Azadeh is working on a campaign urging Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia against signing the bill into law. “At this point, we continue to urge the governor to veto this unconstitutional measure, and we continue to actively monitor the situation and examine all of our options,” said Azadeh.
Having moved to the United States at the age of 16, Azadeh’s experiences in a post-revolution Iran laid the foundation for her future career path in human rights. “I have always had a little bit of a revolutionary spirit in me. Growing up in Iran, injustice always infuriated me,” said Azadeh.
“My main focus at the ACLU is bringing Georgia and its localities into compliance with international human rights and constitutional standards in treatment of refugee and immigrant communities,” said Azadeh. She emphasized that through her work experience she has seen that the Iranian-American community is hesitant in becoming involved in immigrants’ rights and human rights activism. “People are afraid within our community, they don’t want to bring additional attention to themselves. We need to take a more proactive role and need to be very vigilant and aware of our rights,” Azadeh said.
The ACLU provides presentation to immigrant communities across the nation and educates them on their rights. Azadeh encourages Iranian-Americans to attend and organize these sorts of events and to become familiar with their constitutional and human rights. “It is of upmost importance that Iranian-Americans talk to their elected officials and testify at state legislative and city council hearings on civil rights issues that they are facing. We must also act in solidarity with other communities that come under attack – such as the Latino community,” stressed Azadeh.
In order for the Iranian-American community to prosper and grow, Azadeh encourages our youth to pave the path forward in defending our civil and human rights in the United States. “I would like to encourage younger Iranian-Americans to consider human rights advocacy as a profession. I think people should follow their passion, and if their passion happens to be law, then they should go for it. We definitely need more Iranians in this field and we need people to represent our community members ,” said Azadeh.