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Middle East Expert Mansour Farhang, Ph.D., to Speak at Landmark College

By Solvegi Shmulsky

Putney, Vt. - Why has the Arab Spring—the pro-democracy movement in the Arab world—led to friction and political unrest? On Monday, October 7th, Mansour Farhang, Ph.D., will answer that question at a public talk at Landmark College in Putney, Vt. A captivating speaker, 30-year Bennington College professor, and renowned expert on Middle Eastern Studies, Farhang will explore how the beliefs and practices of everyday people have affected the growth of democracy. Co-sponsored by Landmark College and the Windham World Affairs Council, this free event will be held at 7 p.m. in the O’Brien Auditorium at Landmark College.

Mansour Farhang In his October 7th talk, Farhang will address what can get in the way of “an inclusive and tolerant political order” in Iran and its neighbors. Pointing out that the removal of autocratic rulers has not led to stable, representative governance, Farhang will explain the “cultural impediments to democracy.” Understanding why democratic movements have failed, and what may lead to success, are crucial—not only for foreign policy decisions but also for open-mindedness at home. 

“The transition from authoritarianism to, hopefully, democracy has proceeded in fits and starts and has even been accompanied, in the eyes of some observers, by backsliding,” said Jim Cabral, assistant professor of political science at Landmark College. “Knowing the cultural reasons for this—which Dr. Farhang will discuss—will leave us better informed and better prepared to apprehend and respond to the foreign policy challenges presented by a resource-rich, volatile region experiencing profound transformation.”

With a Ph.D. in political science from the Claremont Graduate School, Farhang served posts in Iran in the late 20th Century. Following the 1979 revolution in Iran, he served as an adviser to the Iranian foreign ministry and as ambassador to the United Nations. He resigned his ambassadorship in protest when his efforts to negotiate the release of the American hostages in Tehran failed. In the early months of the Iran-Iraq war he worked with international mediators to settle the war. During this period he wrote and spoke about the threat of religious extremists who had come to dominate the course of the Iranian revolution. In June 1981, following the violent suppression of political dissidents, he was forced to leave the country.

Since leaving Iran, Farhang has been an active writer and professor in the United States. Since 1983 he has been teaching international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Bennington College in Vermont. He is the author of two books and dozens of articles, in English and Persian, published in both academic journals and popular periodicals. He has been a human rights activist and a member of Amnesty International since his undergraduate days in California. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Middle East and is a member of the Columbia University Middle Eastern Seminar. He is also a designated speaker for the Vermont Council on the Humanities. Farhang has appeared on Democracy Now, PBS News Hour, ABC's Nightline, Bill Moyers Journal, 60 Minutes, and CBS's Face the Nation.

The public is invited to attend this free event, hosted by Landmark College with special thanks to the Windham World Affairs Council. Farhang’s talk begins at 7 p.m. Monday, October 7th, at Landmark College’s O’Brien Auditorium, located in the East Academic Building. 

Landmark College was the first institution of higher learning to pioneer college-level studies for students with dyslexia. Today Landmark College, offering two and four-year degree options, a graduate level certificate in universal design with technology integration, and summer programs for students who learn differently, is a global leader in integrated teaching methods for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, ADHD, and ASD. Students, faculty, and other professionals from all over the world are drawn to Landmark College for its innovative educational model—designed through research and practice to help all students who learn differently become confident, self-empowered, and independently successful learners.

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