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December 23, 2013

Helping Persecuted Refugees Begin New Lives

If you're seeking asylum or interested in becoming a volunteer lawyer, go here

A few years ago, Iran’s intelligence services got in touch Parveneh Vahidmanish and instructed her to stop working on her book about the history of Israel. The government regarded it as Israeli propaganda—a crime punishable by death. Frightened and distraught, she jumped at the chance to be a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia.

In the United States, she spoke out against human rights violations in Iran, and in 2009, the Wall Street Journal published her letter to Ali Khameini, the leader of Iran, in which she criticized the Iranian government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protestors. She couldn’t go home again.

We secured for her attorneys from the top Washington DC firm, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP, and we advised them as they helped Parveneh seek asylum. With her visa about to expire, she was in a tenuous position, alone, broke, unable to work. “I was very scared,” she said. “I felt that I didn’t have a past or a future.”

At her hearing, after her lawyers had presented her case, the asylum officer asked Parveneh to give her hand. When she did, the asylum officer shook it and said, “Congratulations.” After a moment of confusion, she understood. “My life changed,” she said. “A new life.”

Watch her story: