Washington Circle Reviews Mideast Hot Spots

By Adelaide Belk

On March 20th, longstanding members of the Washington Circle were joined by new friends and supporters at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Nearly 70 guests took time from their busy schedules to join us for a spring luncheon and briefings by RI Board Member and author Roya Hakakian and RI Statelessness Program Manager Sarnata Reynolds.

In the 11 years since the Circle was founded by Eileen Shields-West and Trish Malloch Brown, guests have come together to show their enthusiasm and support for RI’s lifesaving advocacy.

Mariella Trager, chair of the Washington Circle, opened the event with a thoughtful welcome. As chair of the Washington Circle, Mariella has been a passionate advocate on behalf of RI, and has worked hard to garner support for our mission. RI President Michael Gabaudan then took to the podium to introduce the featured speakers.

Roya shared stories from her highly acclaimed novel, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, and from her own life as an Iranian-American refugee. “We, as refugees, become a family and a collective people,” she said, “joined together for reasons of nostalgia and moral support.” Through her poetry, books, and activism, Roya has worked tirelessly to defend those who have been deprived of basic human rights and to promote international justice. The Iranian government's repression and extraterritorial assassinations, Roya said, have pushed more than 4 million Iranians into exile.

Sarnata then spoke about some of RI’s recent work in the Middle East. She explained that she had recently returned from a dual mission to Kuwait, where she met members of the country’s 100,000-strong stateless community; and Lebanon, where she examined the needs of Syrian refugees. Sarnata said that combining RI’s traditional field reports with personal and social media outreach would be key to building support for these vulnerable populations.

To close the event, RI Board Chair Eileen Shields-West thanked our inspiring speakers and encouraged guests to attend RI’s 33rd Anniversary Dinner, where Lauren Bush Lauren will be honored for her outstanding humanitarian initiatives. We hope to see you all there.

For a selection of photos from the event, please click here.