Activist Masih Alinejad to Address First Democracy Summit

News subtitle

The Iranian American writer opens a student-created series on contemporary democracy.

Masih Alinejad will speak on campus.
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American journalist and women’s rights activist, will be on campus Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Masih Alinejad) 

A yearlong series of public events on the endurance of democracy in the United States and around the world, started by students and known as The Democracy Summit, begins Wednesday with a public program by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American journalist and women’s rights activist.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 in Filene Auditorium, Alinejad will be speaking on her My Stealthy Freedom social media campaign against compulsory hijab wearing, which has become a major civil disobedience movement in Iran. Her talk, Ending Gender Apartheid in Iran, is open to the public and also will be livestreamed. Registration is required.

Alinejad, who has been living in exile since 2009, gained worldwide attention in 2014 when she removed her hijab and posted a photo on her Facebook page with her hair blowing in the wind. From that, My Stealthy Freedom was born, making her a lightning rod in the women’s rights movement in Iran and around the world.

In the last two years the Justice Department has brought charges in two alleged attempts to take her life. Federal prosecutors last year filed murder-for hire charges against three foreign nationals in an alleged assassination plot, and in 2021 prosecutors in New York filed kidnapping conspiracy charges against four Iranians who allegedly planned to “forcibly render her to Iran, for likely execution,” The New York Times reported last month.

The Democracy Summit was conceived by the nonpartisan, student-run Dartmouth Political Union and jointly convened by the DPU, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, and the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

Victoria K. Holt, the Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Director of the Dickey Center, calls Alinejad’s visit to Dartmouth an important event and an outstanding way to kick off the ongoing Democracy Summit series.

“We’re delighted to work with the DPU to welcome Masih Alinejad to Dartmouth, a prominent, vibrant voice of dissent and courage. We are pleased she is both kicking off the Democracy Summit and continuing the Dissent and Democracy series we launched last fall with Garry Kasparov and Evan Mawarire,” Holt says.

Kavya Nivarthy '25, DPU treasurer; Jessica Chiriboga '24, DPU president; and Dylan Griffith '25, DPU vice president.
From left are Dartmouth Political Union Treasurer Kavya Nivarthy ’25, DPU President Jessica Chiriboga ’24, and DPU Vice President Dylan Griffith ’25. (Photo by Julia Levine ’23)

Jessica Chiriboga ’24, DPU president, and Dylan Griffith ’25, vice president, began developing the series in the late fall in response to student discussions about the state of democracy in the U.S. and around the world, Chiriboga says.

“With increasing political polarization, issues regarding election security, and threats to democracy around the world, the DPU feels that we are at a crossroads where we can play an outsized role in having conversations surrounding democracy,” Griffith says, “especially as a nonpartisan student organization of an esteemed academic institution.”

Holt also hailed the students’ efforts to organize the series.

“We’ve been impressed by the DPU’s ambitious plans for the Democracy Summit; their topics and speakers are sure to strengthen informed debate about critical issues of concern to us all,” Holt says.

“It’s inspiring that Dartmouth students have taken the initiative, and the Dickey Center, along with the Rockefeller Center, is excited to partner with the DPU to make this a success, as it brings a broad range of viewpoints—nationally and internationally focused—to our community.” 

In addition to Alinejad’s public event on Wednesday evening, she will also be attending an informal lunch with faculty and the Dickey Center; visiting a Women in Journalism course taught by lecturer Alexis Jetter; and meeting with undergraduate students in a private reception Wednesday afternoon. 

Democracy Summit events during the winter also include a Feb. 22 student debate, American Dream: Dead or Alive?, at 7 p.m. in Filene Auditorium. Additional events into the fall, some of which could complement the New Hampshire presidential primary, will be sequentially announced and feature academics, governors, journalists, and members of Congress. Events will require advance registration and will be livestreamed.

Bill Platt