Today’s guest is Lamar Zala Gran, an Afghan activist and founder of the nonprofit organization Empowering Afghan Women, which provides online courses for high school girls in Afghanistan. She is currently a student at Berea College in Kentucky, continuing her educational journey from the American University of Afghanistan after escaping the country in 2022. In this episode, Alon and Lamar discuss her firsthand experience of the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, the status of women and young Afghans currently under Taliban rule, and what role the international community can play in alleviating the terrible human rights situation in the country.

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Lamar Zala Gran is the founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Empowering Afghan Women, which she led for a year in Kabul, Afghanistan. The organization offers online courses, and formerly offered in-person classes for high school girls in Afghanistan for three years. Empowering Afghan Women has also developed internet campaigns to raise awareness of women’s rights issues, and conducted workshops on various topics. Over the past four years, she has actively advocated for women’s rights, sharing her voice and experiences on various global platforms, including BBC News, Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera English, La Repubblica, and Tagesspiegel.

She has been featured on global media outlets, including an interview with Secretary Hillary Clinton on BBC World News, discussing the challenges faced by Afghan women. Gran was also a columnist for the German daily Tagesspiegel, where she contributed 20 weekly diaries from Kabul over the course of six months. Her activism extends to speaking with German Parliament members and EU Parliament members.

Previously, Gran participated as a delegate in the UN Least Developed Countries conference in Doha and spoke at the UN on the refugee forum in 2022, and at the 2023 UN International Youth Conference about the human rights and women’s rights situation in Afghanistan. She is a youth advocate for Silatech and Education Above All foundation in Doha, and has participated in an advocacy video group with the HÁWAR.help organization in Berlin regarding the situation of Afghan women. She also spoke with Ambassador of US for Afghanistan in Doha and US special envoy for Afghanistan in Doha about the situation of Afghan women, and on an Australian embassy panel discussion about Afghan women, together with international donor and its ambassador as well.

Despite facing challenges and mental health struggles, she recently moved to the US from Doha after escaping Afghanistan in 2022. She is currently a student at Berea College in Kentucky, following her educational journey from the American University of Afghanistan in Doha, a summer school program at the American University of Central Asia, and Bard College in New York. She is determined to continue her activism, using her voice to bring about positive changes in her country.

Today’s guest is Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. She is a journalist and press freedom advocate, and at CPJ, she has conducted several missions to Europe and Central Asia, and advocated for greater press freedom and the release of jailed journalists. In this episode, we discuss the state of press freedom across the world in 2023, what work CPJ does to protect journalists and advocate for press freedom, and the impact that global conflicts such as in Ukraine and Gaza have had on journalists operating on the ground.

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Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, is a journalist and press freedom advocate with over 20 years of experience in New York, Prague, Bratislava, and Tashkent. At CPJ, she has conducted several missions to countries in Europe and Central Asia, and advocated for greater press freedom and the release of jailed journalists at forums including the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and the OSCE. Before joining CPJ in 2016, she was a journalist and covered issues including elections, politics, media, religion, and human rights with a focus on Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey. She also worked in communications for the United Nations Secretariat and the UNDP. Her op-eds, reports, and comments have appeared in CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, PBS, NBC, Voice of America, RFE/RL, Fergana, Eurasianet, and other outlets, and she authored the Uzbekistan chapter in a book on the study of social entrepreneurship.

Today’s guest is Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former senior advisor on Iran at the State Department. In this episode, Alon and Ray discuss the mindset of the Iranian regime and what the US’ understanding of it may be, the so-called ‘axis of resistance’ and Iran’s use of proxies in various regional conflicts, and how that regional involvement is impacting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current war in Gaza.

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Ray Takeyh is Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His area of specialization are Iran, U.S. foreign policy, and modern Middle East.

Takeyh is, most recently, the author of The Last Shah: America, Iran and the Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty. He is the coauthor of The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East and Revolution & Aftermath: Forging a New Strategy toward Iran. He is author of three previous books, Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, and The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine: The US, Britain and Nasser’s Egypt, 1952-1957. He has written more than three hundred articles and opinion pieces in many news outlets including Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs. Takeyh has testified more than twenty times in various Congressional committees.

Prior to joining CFR he has served as a senior advisor on Iran at the State Department, fellow at the Yale University, Washington Institute of Near East Policy and Middle East Center at University of California, Berkeley. Takeyh has a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University.

Today’s guest is Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at Carnegie and former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan. In this episode, Alon and Marwan discuss the Israel-Hamas war – what exit strategy that can be envisioned at this time and what parameters will need to be established, what changes are needed among the Israeli, Palestinian, and American governments to enable a conducive negotiating process, and the current conflagration’s impact on Jordan.

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Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East. Muasher served as foreign minister (2002–2004) and deputy prime minister (2004–2005) of Jordan, and his career has spanned the areas of diplomacy, development, civil society, and communications.

Muasher began his career as a journalist for the Jordan Times. He then served at the Ministry of Planning, at the prime minister’s office as press adviser, and as director of the Jordan Information Bureau in Washington.

In 1995, Muasher opened Jordan’s first embassy in Israel, and in 1996 he became minister of information and the government spokesperson. From 1997 to 2002, he served in Washington again as ambassador, negotiating the first free-trade agreement between the United States and an Arab nation. He then returned to Jordan to serve as foreign minister, where he played a central role in developing the Arab Peace Initiative and the Middle East roadmap.

In 2004, he became deputy prime minister responsible for reform and government performance and led the effort to produce a ten-year plan for political, economic, and social reform. From 2006 to 2007, he was a member of the Jordanian Senate.

From 2007 to 2010, he was senior vice president of external affairs at the World Bank.

He is the author of The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation (Yale University Press, 2008) and The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism (Yale University Press, 2014).