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Persian Language and Culture Program Hosts Symposium on Abdolhossein Sardari

April 22, 2019 — This Friday, the Persian Language and Culture Program at Georgetown College will host a daylong symposium titled Shelter and Shield: the Persian Schindler, the Polish Refugees, and the Story of Jewish and Christian Refuge in Iran during WWII.

Shelter and Shield, organized in conjunction with the Jalinous Endowed Fund for Persian Culture and Language Studies, examines the life of Abdolhossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat living in Paris in 1942 who saved hundreds of non-Iranian Jewish refugees from the Nazis by issuing them Iranian passports. The discussion will also highlight the story of hundreds of thousands of Christian and Jewish Polish refugees who were welcomed to Iran in 1942 and there found refuge and aid from the Iranian people.

“Friendship and hospitality have been a part of the Persian culture’s key values, especially in times of crisis, for 3000 years,” said Professor Farima Mostowfi, Founder and Director of the Persian Language and Culture Program. “This symposium is a significant proof.”

The symposium will begin with a screening of the 2017 Iranian film Sardari’s Enigma, a documentary on Sardari’s activity during the Holocaust by Iranian-British director Mahdieh Zardiny. Following lunch, a panel will discuss the film, Sardari’s place in the history of the Holocaust, and the story of the Christian and Jewish Polish refugees who found refuge in Iran.

NPR’s Tom Gjelten will serve as panel moderator. Panelists include Zardiny, who directed the film; Professor Atina Grosman of the Cooper Union; Professor Abbas Milani of Stanford University; Professor Fariborz Mokhtari of the University of Vermont; and Professor Nahid Pirnazar of the University of California-Los Angeles.

“This program, featuring the selflessness and bravery of a single Iranian — as well as the welcoming, open and inclusive attitude of the Iranian people during a time of war and cruelty — will hopefully lead to a greater conversation about how people do step forward to help one another, freely and without reserve, and to remembering our shared history and shared humanity,” said Shahrzad Jalinous (C’92, L’95) of the Jalinous Endowed Fund for Persian Culture and Language Studies. “My hope is that the program will continue to build these bridges and to demonstrate that Persian culture and traditions are historically rich in friendship and connectedness to their fellow human beings.”

The Shelter and Shield symposium will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 26, in the ICC Auditorium. It is open to the Georgetown community, the public, and the media. Guests can register on Eventbrite, and press are encouraged to contact for more information.

Humanities Initiative