Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dr. Soraya Fallah introduces "The Climate Crisis -United nation Day" by UNAUSA SFV

In partnership with the Sierra Club/Los Angeles Chapter, Citizens’ Climate Lobby the United Nations Association San Fernando Valley Chapter hosts the 2019 UN Day Celebration recognizing Our Planet: Our Future
The Rev. Dr. Richard Lyon, psychotherapist, Presbyterian minister & Citizen's Climate Lobby member will to speak on:
The Climate Crisis Now!
Perils and Prospects

This presentation will focus on the current findings of climate science, the answers to questions typically raised by Doubters and Deniers, and a proposed solution contained in House Res. 763: the Carbon Fee and Dividend.

Thursday Nov 7th, 2019 ; 7:00 to 9:00 PM
LAFD Fire Station--89 Community Center7063 Laurel Canyon
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Light Refreshments
Home                       Logo_for_Citizens_Climate_Lobby_2015

Sunday, September 15, 2019

UNWomen-LA chapter Annual Assembly from Newsletter

Date: Monday July 22
Time: 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Place: Meet in front of Bibibop Asian Grill
           1401 3rd Street Promenade
           Santa Monica, CA 90401



Dear Members and Friends,

Safe Cities LA (SCLA) brings the global work of UN Women home to Los Angeles. It is our local initiative to further all women’s direct participation in creating inclusive and equitable cities. SCLA was launched in 2014 at our second annual assembly. Below are some of our Safe Cities LA projects since 2014;  
Annual Assembly 2014: Safe Cities LA
SCLA Safety Walks + Toolkit (2014-ongoing)
SCLA Safety Metro Rides + Toolkit (2014-ongoing)
SCLA Transit Forum (2015-ongoing)
SCLA Twitter Chats (2016-ongoing)
SCLA Forum: Gender Parity and the LA Experience (2017)
SC Self-Defense Workshops (2017-ongoing)
SC Women and Mobility Survey (2018)
SC Transit + Design Thinking Workshop (2018)
SCLA Forum: The Transgender Urban Experience (2019)

At this year's Safe Cities L.A. 2019 Annual Assembly; Displacement and Belonging; Uniting Heads, Hearts, and Hands over 300 people gathered to collect the stories and wisdom of strong and inspired change-makers who have made passionate commitments to counter division in their communities.

Displacement is half of this year's theme. Why Displacement? Because while we recognize that the experiences of being a refugee, an immigrant and a person living without housing are distinct, displacement as an experience is connected in that it is constructed through division - through the process of othering i.e. patriarchy. Displacement is happening at our border. It is experienced inside our homes and felt inside our bodies. It happens in corporations, in schools, in public spaces, and on public streets. We all have experienced displacement. Displacement is endemic. And it has reached a fever pitch under our current president. Hurt people often hurt others. Displacement, when not processed, creates more distance, disconnection, and division - creating a vicious circle. Thankfully this way of being is not a foregone conclusion, especially as we act with agency. 
My own experience of displacement has taught me to be open and empathetic. It is my access point to the displacement suffered by others in the world. Because, if the displacement of all types, at its very core, is the “othering”  and the lack of empathy, then through opening ourselves to empathy, we turn away from the experience of displacement and pivot to belonging; the other half of this year’s theme.

Creating a shared belonging requires us to practice deep empathy and compassion. It necessitates true listening. It compels us to ask the questions “What if, instead of destroying, we restore? Instead of dividing, we include? Instead of displacing, we engage? It asks us to have the courage to be vulnerable as an act of resistance. We are all creative catalysts in the making of a shared experience of belonging. In the same way, that displacement is deliberate; so too must we deliberate in meaningful discussions on belonging and what it means to each of us, with the hope & possibility of co-creating a shared vision of belonging.

I am deeply grateful to the many members and volunteers who worked on the event. Your amazing energy and generous efforts made our 2019 Annual Assembly a memorable experience of belonging for all.
A special thank you to Suhasini Gupta, Safe Cities L.A. Coordinator and the event assistant producer. Suhasini worked tirelessly on our Safe Cities L.A. programming and the Annual Assembly. As a recent UCLA graduate, she has moved on and is currently in Boston striving to fulfil her goals. We wish Suhasini all the best!

Congratulations on a successful event and many thanks to the entire team: Suhasini Gupta, Yao Jin, Kathleen Hernandez, Faiza Riaz, Jessica Gomez, Celeste Frank, Narelle Norris, Tricia Leskiw, Patricia Natalie, Alexandra Korba, Gorkem Hayta, Jennifer St Clair, Kim Tillman, Carla Truax, Matthew Donovan, Melissa Tillman, Dominique Pinon, Heidi Gaudet, Maria Camila Pava, Hannah Jiang, Beth Mathews, Beth Tyson, Niku Kashef, Jennipha Lauren Nielsen, Mame Mbaye, Soraya Fallah, Swati Srivastava, Hareg Assefa, Christina Kflom, Julie Heifetz, Deepa Paral, Sean Hill, Evie Lee, Glenda Turner, Elham Zare, Brooke Scott, Jessica Gomez, Savannah Downey, Sasha Shapiro, Sharon Nat, Brenda Cruz, Jessica Saldana, Amy Ho, Faria Tahir, Su In Lee, Annika Anderson, Elisabeth Tuttass, Rachel Feng, Hanan Al-Malssi, Daniela Xitlaly Sandoval, Isabelle Ortiz-Luis, Maritza Nat, Melissa Oskouie, Marisa Martinez-Rodenbaugh, Jenna Welsh, Ashley Fleming, Sierra Ryanisrael, Ariana Diaz, Miriam Admasu, Juliette Oliver, Angelina Quint, Chloe Levian, Mackenzi Greene, Safa Saleem, Aelita Arshakyan, Paola Lopez, Marisela Lopez, Delilah Ngayan, Savannah Minassian, Ashley Arias, Brianna Angulo, Veronica Mkhsi-Gevorkian, Nayiri Artounians, Christine Almadjian, Taylor Fairless, Deepa Patel.
It was an honor to work with all of you! Here's to future collaborations towards achieving greater belonging in Los Angeles and beyond!
Warmly, Cathy

Saturday, September 07, 2019

UNWomen-LA Belonging and Displacement: Uniting heads, hearts and hands

UNWomen-LA Annual Summit, Belonging and Displacement “Middle Eastern and North African immigrants with disabilities, Othering vs. Inclusion”, June, 2019.
My talk on : Otherness vs.Inclussion,MENA case

Belonging and Displacement: Uniting heads, hearts and hands

By Dr. Amir Sharifi 28/6/2019

An Iraqi family waits by the roadside outside an IDP camp for civilians fleeing Mosul. PHOTO: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
An Iraqi family waits by the roadside outside an IDP camp for civilians fleeing Mosul. PHOTO: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Last week, the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the United States National Committee for United Nations Women organized an event on the global day of Displacement and Belonging.

It brought together a wide spectrum of attendees:  native-born Americans, first generation immigrants, second generation immigrants, migrants, human rights activists, artists, and city officials, to address the displacement crisis in both Los Angeles with its increasing homelessness, and escalating displacement elsewhere.

The Annual Assembly featured keynote speakers, Kiki Ayers Fadia Afashe, and Kenia Alococer who highlighted issues of homelessness, Syrian conflict and displacement, and gentrification from unique angles.

Ayers once a homeless young girl and now a celebrity, spoke about the power of personal initiative and determination in rising above the unfortunate circumstances.

Afshe, a Syrian artist and women’s rights activist, spoke of the multiple dimensions of the Syrian crisis and how images of the past including her friends’ drowning in “the dark sea” still haunt her. She spoke of why, as a ‘caring citizen of the world’  she wanted to cultivate a sense of belongingness through her engagement with art and activism.

Kenia Alococer, an immigrant and representative of the Poor People’s Campaign, gave an impassioned bilingual (English-Spanish) talk on the root causes of ill-treatment of undocumented immigrants, fear of deportation, and the specter of gentrification, which she attributed to unfettered capitalism.

There were also multiple discussion groups on how and why it was important to build and nurture safe places for people to have a sense of belongingness. These discussion groups, each attended by 15-30 people, addressed issues ranging from public and private physical places to common humanity, heterogeneity, and displacement.

In the 'role of creative art' discussion group, I was reminded of my uncle who left me with an enduring fascination for oral storytelling (the only kind that I came to know, since written Kurdish was forbidden in Iran). This in turn, played a part in informing my scholarly pursuits in Los Angeles, where I now call home.  

In another discussion group, we discussed gentrification as a form of displacement. I brought up the global dimensions of displacement, and the specific case of Kurds as a stateless people, who faced existential threats including displacement and disappearances, mass exodus, and expulsions.

I cited Turkey as an example, and how the Turkish state has sold the “safe zone” as a humanitarian project, when it would also serve as a much needed economic boost through housing projects in areas that have been inhabited by Kurds along its borders. This is the same policy that Hafiz Al-Assad pursued in the 1970’s, in a massive displacement of Kurds, in what has come to be known as the “Arab Belt”.

The event held during the Refugees’ Week, was timely and important as displacement is one of the greatest dilemmas of this century as every other minute someone somewhere in the world is displaced. 

Our world is facing a colossal crisis, violence committed against refugees and internally displaced people that we cannot turn away whether the reason be environmental, political, or cultural.

Displacement has become truly global, exponentially rising from 10 million in 1980 to 71 million in 2019. An issue that the Assembly did not address adequately is the relation between violations of human rights and different forms of displacement; from house evictions to people displaced by violence.

The all-day event culminated in a panel discussion in which the Director of Domestic Violence and Vulnerable Populations at the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, Chanel Smith, in addition to other human rights activists including Cynthia Buiza, Dr. Soraya Fallah, Alisa Orduna, and Set Hernandez Rongkilyo debated about the underlying causes of bias and ways of building more welcoming and safer spaces for vulnerable populations.

The discussion ranged from being sensitive to social cues in our environment to built-in social structures, concepts, developments, and policy making, all of which have to be revisited and conceptualized as Los Angeles has yet to become both physically, culturally, psychologically a place of comfort and safety for all.

The participants discussed their outlooks and visions for this reconceptualization of Los Angeles as they uncovered various forms of discriminations, particularly against women.

Dr. Soraya Fallah, A Kurdish woman from Iran, a longtime human rights activist, one of the organizers, a founder and former co-president of UNAUSA chapter, as a part of her research, addressed the different types of discriminations that Middle Eastern and North African immigrants, particularly those with disabilities experience.

She stressed the need for a broader education on cultural sensitivity towards the issue of “otherness” and acceptance as practical ways to mitigate and eliminate various forms of discrimination.

There was much more to say about belonging and displacement, but the UN Women’s event did bring “heads: “hearts” and “hands” together. We should acknowledge in particular, Cathy Hillman, the event’s main organizer, and event art curator and master of ceremony Niku Kashef, for their efforts in organizing and coordinating the Safe Cities in L.A.

Dr. Amir Sharifi is director of the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Dr. Soraya Fallah sent a message to support human rights in China

UNAUSA-San Fernando Valley Chapter’s Participation in Falun Gong Supporters’ Rally to end Falun Gong Persecution in China

On July 21st , Southwestern Falun Dafa Association, and Falun Dafa practitioners from Greater Los Angeles held a rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of persecution of Falun Gong. In this event Falun Dafa practitioners, members of the community, and human rights leaders came to express their support for Falun Dafa practitioners’ spiritual freedom.

Ginny Hatfield, vice-president of membership of the United Nations Association (UNA) Southern California Branch, participated as a speaker . She said “Truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance are the core beliefs espoused by the Falun Gong,” said Hatfield. “We, as advocates for their human rights, need to tell the world the truth about what has been happening and continues to happen to the Falun Gong; we need to express our compassion for their plight; and we need to educate all peoples to be tolerant of those who may differ from us.”

Another board member of the chapter,  Dr. Soraya Fallah, sent a letter of support to the rally’s participants which was read by Thanh Le, a human rights activist and UNAUSA board member.

Dr. Fallah in her message indicated that “  This gathering is an opportunity to bring to the international community’s attention the efforts of Falun Dafa on the global level. Your unity also enables you to publicize the systemic human rights abuses in China, particularly the crackdown on civil society peaceful spiritual practitioners, Falun Gong.”

Please read the story below:

After 20 Years, Southern California Supporters Call for End of Persecution in China.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dr. Soraya Fallah's interview:Iran Continues Crackdown on Women Activist

Iran Continues Crackdown on Women Activist, an article on women rights in Iran and Iranian Appeals court upholding a 7.5 year prison sentence of activist Hengameh Shahidi on the backdrop of women’s rights in general. Soraya Fallah of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the US National Committee for United Nations Women (UN WOMEN USNC LA) was previously imprisoned by the Iranian regime, and argues that females in the country face more challenges than their male counterparts.
“Fighting for human rights by a woman is very different than for a male colleague due to gender-specific challenges that women face,” she said. “There are also many human rights issues…[that] must be addressed not from a gender-neutral perspective but from a gender-sensitive and awareness point of view.”

Read more 
Government crackdown hindering work of rights activists
An Iranian appeals court earlier this week sustained a lower court’s decision to imprison activist Hengameh Shahidi for seven-and-a-half years after she publicly criticized former chief justice Sadegh Larijani.
Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher with the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told The Media Line that Iranian authorities are holding at least 12 women activists, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, a distinguished human rights lawyer, and Narges Mohammadi, a civil liberties campaigner.
Far says that on May 1, International Labor Day, several activists were arrested, including five women for protesting a compulsory hijab law that requires adult females to wear a headscarf and cover much of their bodies.
Omid Memarian, deputy director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told The Media Line that “the Iranian judiciary has been politicized for a long time. It doesn’t tolerate dissent. People face grave consequences for such acts, which shows the lack of freedom of expression in Iran.
“The judiciary intelligence apparatus has blocked peaceful ways to bring about change” he continued, “and this has created a suffocating environment for activists in the nation. That’s why you see so many of them behind bars.”
Soraya Fallah of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the US National Committee for United Nations Women (UN WOMEN USNC LA) was previously imprisoned by the Iranian regime, and argues that females in the country face more challenges than their male counterparts.
“Fighting for human rights by a woman is very different than for a male colleague due to gender-specific challenges that women face,” she said. “There are also many human rights issues…[that] must be addressed not from a gender-neutral perspective but from a gender-sensitive and awareness point of view.”
One such issue is the compulsory hijab law, which the current regime implemented soon after coming to power.
“There has been consistent pushback by everyday Iranians over being told what to wear,” Fallah said. “Our right to choose an outfit and decide on our public appearance has been denied since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.”
HRW’s Far contends that nation-wide protests last year changed the nature of the debate in the country.
In fact, the Iranian government recently released two studies indicating that public support for prosecuting violators of the hijab law has declined. The Iranian parliament’s research center study showed that 70 percent of women do not even adhere to the regime’s strict religious interpretation of the law.
“I think the Hijab law will change because you can’t force people to observe what they don’t believe,” Fallah affirmed. “Iranian society has evolved a lot in terms of social issues, and it is inevitable that it will continue to do so. The government should realize that the compulsory hijab policy failed a long time ago.”
According to Fallah, women contend with many other inequities such as being “discriminated against in all arenas…[including] gender-specific education and segregation.”
HRW’s Far likewise stresses that Iranian women are treated unfairly when it comes to marriage, divorce and many other legal issues. “A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s so if you need two witnesses in a trial, you would have to bring in four women,” she noted.
For his part, Memarian from the Center for Human Rights in Iran suggests that the work of Iranian female activists has been hindered by the government’s crackdown on public demonstrations.
“The [regime] has raised enormously the cost of peaceful activism, which poses a major challenge for agents of change in the country,” he said.
Despite this, Memarian has a positive view about the future.
“Regardless of the situation, women continue to ask for change and push boundaries because of the very determined generation now in Iran that dares to challenge the state. The enthusiasm and the will of the women activists make many people hopeful,” he said.
Memarian points to recent successes such as the draft nationality law, approved earlier this week by the lower house of parliament, that if green-lighted by the upper house would enable mothers (like fathers now) to pass on their nationality to their children.
Overall, Memarian emphasized that one of the top issues for Iranian female activists is the promotion of draft legislation to address violence against women. While the bill has not been passed, women continue to apply pressure on the government to approve the motion.
“It shows how civil society in the country and beyond can lead to grand change,” he said. “[The proposed legislation] does not go far enough, but it is keeping women activists [confident] that by insisting on their rightful demands they can have a [positive impact].”
By contrast, Fallah from the UN WOMEN USNC LA insists that “it is unlikely big changes are on the way in Iran. Sharia [Islamic] law is far more powerful than allowing women to gain more rights,” she concluded.

An Iranian appeals court earlier this week sustained a lower court’s decision to imprison activist Hengameh Shahidi for seven-and-a-half years after she publicly criticized former chief justice Sadegh Larijani.

Soraya Fallah's Preparation for Belonging and Displacement docuseries


About the Project: 

This docuseries will highlight seven (7) women who have experienced and/or have worked to create a sense of community and belonging as unhoused, immigrant or refugee individuals. Short clips from the docuseries will be used to promote UN Women LA’s upcoming annual assembly, ‘Belonging & Displacement’ on June 22nd, to be held at the Santa Monica Women’s Club. The clips will appear on the Chapter’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter platforms, as approved by the interviewees. 

Alexandra Korba, Digital Media Coordinator 

Alexandra Korba is a 25-year-old documentary filmmaker and photographer living in Los Angeles. She volunteers for UN Women LA as their Digital Media Coordinator. 

Originally from Texas, she graduated from American University in Washington DC with a double major in Film/Media and International Studies with a focus on Peace, Conflict and Global Security. 

During her undergraduate career, Korba worked at National Geographic Channel, National Geographic Society, Paramount Pictures, Paradigm Talent Agency and USA Today. She has also had the privilege of working at the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and awards shows ranging from the Golden Globes to the Emmys. 

Korba currently works at Moxie Firecracker Films as Executive Assistant to Academy Awardnominated, Primetime Emmy Award-winning director/producer, Rory Kennedy.  


Belonging & Displacement: Uniting Heads, Hearts and Hands

Saturday, April 13, 2019

My real friend Ralph Fertig will be remembered forever

My mentor, a mensch; Ralph D. Fertig
People have been writing about Ralph’s many life accomplishments and rather than regurgitate the well-known facts of his life, I wanted to share on a more personal note, the way he has impacted my life and played a pivotal role in my growth.
The last few times Ralph and I met, I just assumed he wouldn’t remember little details from our past, but he would always refer to them, asking about my son, my daughter, our mutual friends and my plans. He remembered my research topic, he knew details about my advocacy work, he knew what was important to me. He always made me feel unique and special. Thinking back now, I am sure I was not the only one who had this feeling around him. He paid close attention to each person in his life and made us feel like the center of the universe. This was one of his many human gifts.  
A True Mentor
Ralph had many qualifications and qualities that are now well-known in the LA community and beyond. He was a fighter for justice, a steadfast believer in activism for freedom in all its forms. One of his most important roles was as a mentor. When I was applying for graduate school positions, I once came to him feeling so disappointed. I had just been rejected from a Ph.D. program because they were seeking a pure academic and researcher and my long-life activism history didn’t align with their vision. I was questioning everything. I told him I felt like my activism was becoming an obstacle to my progress. He listened to me for some time without saying anything and then in a very compelling tone told me: “if you become an academic and have no passion and ambition for change, you are no longer complete. Your activism is a plus, not an obstacle.” He cheered me on and reminded me to pick programs that aligned with my life’s work. He kept me on track.  
A Problem Solver
Every time I came to Ralph with a request, like a letter of recommendation or a lead on an internship or ideas for how to hold a large event together, he was quick to respond. He would ask me to sit behind his computer and would dictate emails to people he knew around the city, networking and bringing people together. People had so much respect for him that we would always hear back with positive news. He was so deeply generous and no matter what the issue was, he was quick to brainstorm for solutions. We never ruminated too long on the problem.  
A Caring Role Model
In 2008, we all went to the Democratic convention. My delegation was part of Hillary’s campaign, he was on Obama’s team and we would have long fruitful discussions about differences. Our delegation was trying to get a signature from Hillary about troops in Iraq and he encouraged us to go in front of the line and make our statement in one or two sentences to get her signature. He told us to ask people to allow us to go in front of them. He said tell people about your cause and make your case. He was a seasoned campaigner and a fierce advocate.  
A few hours later, we found ourselves in a hospital. He was under IV for hours and we were waiting in the urgent care. I was sitting close to his hospital bed and looking at his face and hand, hoping he gets better soon. He opened his eyes, looked at us, and in a gentle voice asked: “Did you finally get the signature, Soraya?” My friend and I looked at each other and smiled: “Yes, Ralph, we did!” He said “I am so glad, good job”, and closed his eyelids to fall back asleep.
We only later found out that he had stayed up all night the night before and had barely had anything to eat because he had been part of a resolution team on homelessness and they had had to work through the night. He was deeply and selflessly dedicated.  
When Ralph asked me to become his SME (subject matter expert) for his book, I was trilled and humbled. Ralph was ready to write another book. In one of his last emails to me he said: “read and comment on that chapter. Be candid; we have many more chapters to write on that subject.”; he was ready to continue.
A real friend
One of my great honors in our relationship was being able to accompany him to UCLA Medical Center for a routine test and appointment. Afterwards, we went together to Wholefoods. He bought a few items and I bought him Iranian pastries that he loved. I once gave him a handmade painting with the words “welcome” on a creamy/ greenish colored canvas. He adored it. He asked “Why do you always bring me something?” I told him: “Because I love you Ralph. I bought this during an art walk and thought of how welcoming you have been. I thought you might like it.” “I love it!” He said. 
It was these simple but meaningful interactions that I will keep treasuring and carry with me to help me through the grief of his loss.
I am truly honored to have had an amazing friend, role model, and mentor in Ralph D.Fertig. I am humbled that he wrote glowingly about me to my doctoral department. He once said that he held me in high esteem and the feeling was truly mutual. I suspect there are many in this city who hold him in high regard and miss him dearly.
After every event or pictures taking, I was creating a folder to send him the photos.I am creating him one again.

A few pictures of us

In KNC conference 2007 talking

2010 in Ralph's Home office, in an interview with him from Voice of Kurdish/American after supreme court on Humanitarian Law Project vs. Holder. 

VOKRADIO: An Interview with Dr. Ralph Fertig , Video No 2

during a demonstration for Free Kurdish girl in Turkish prison" Free Berivan". Front of Turkish consulate 

"Free Berivan" Protest in LosAngeles, March2010 - VOKRadio

He encourages the qualision  to stay together to make changes 
Front of Turkish Consulate after we talked to the member of Turkish consulate and gave them the demand for free Berivan

Arminian, Kurds, Greek, American for one cause, social justice and freedom 

During my hooding ceremony, a picture for him and his message 
invitation for graduation, sent photo to Ralph

In Ralph's House after her book was published. he was super happy for her book and super proud for my dissertation on her table and of course the water melon he loved 

In a demonstration to support Kurds in Afrin /Rojava/Syrian Kurd, front of Federal building.
He came with his caregiver on wheelchair, this man is a hero


After a successful meeting with Aris Anagens 
 ,Nyma Ardalan, Ralph, and I for a qualision on rights of minorities and emphasize on Kurdish issue
In Kurdish National Congress conference 

Demonstration front of Federal building. He asked me to write Human Rights for Kurds,Now


July 2018 book signing, ready to write another one for sure. Ralph

Dr. Ralph D. Fertig, ’ book A Passion for Justice: One Man's Dedication to Civil Rights

April 7th Memorial ceremony , my picture with Ralph was featured
 Leo Baeck Temple 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90049 

Kurdish community in Ralph's ceremony, "we lost a mountain" 
Kurdish women in support of Sussi(Ralph's better half)