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In The Spotlight: International Awards and the Accomplished Iranians Who Have Earned Them

Source: PARSA Community Foundation


Prestigious international awards not only recognize the accomplishments of their winners, but encourage excellence in the fields they honor. Iranians around the world have frequently been the recipients of such awards recognizing leaders in a variety of fields. These awards signify not only the Iranian community's desire for excellence, but also its lasting contributions to science, arts and business.  The stories of these awards and awardees can inspire us all to reach the same levels of accomplishment.


Awards in Cinema

Boasting 300 international awards in the past 25 years, films from Iran and by Iranians continue to be celebrated worldwide.


Marjane SatrapiThe Cannes Film Festival, founded in 1946, is one of the world's oldest and prestigious film festivals. The private festival is held annually in the resort town of Cannes, France. Cannes' Special Jury Prize in 2007 was given to Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi's animated film Persepolis, which shared the prize with Still Light by Carlos Reygados. Persepolis is an adaptation of a comic book of the same title, which also won the Angoulême Coup de Coeur Award at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2003.


In 1997, Abbas Kiarostami won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry. In 1999, he directed The Wind Will Carry Us, which won the Grand Jury Prize (Silver Lion) at the Venice International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the world. Kiarostami has won more than 75 international awards and has been a jury member of film festivals, most notably the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, 2002 and 2005. He was also the president of the Camera d'Or Jury in Cannes Film Festival 2005.


Another Iranian winner at Cannes is Jafar Panahi, whose film The White Balloon won a Camera d'Or in 1995. Panahi's The Circle (2000), portraying the plight of women in today's Iran, won him the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. Panahi also directed Crimson Gold in 2003, which brought him the Un Certain Regard Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It went on to win a number of best film awards and opened to excellent critical response.

The Berlin International Film Festival is another one of the world's leading film festivals and has been celebrated annually in February since 1978. Panahi's Offside was nominated for competition in the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where he was awarded with the Silver Bear and the Jury Grand Prix. Berlin has also paid tribute to Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, whose Turtles Can Fly won the Glass Bear and Peace Film Award in 2004. Ghobadi's first feature film, A Time for Drunken Horses (2000), was the first Kurdish film produced in Iran. The film won Caméra d'Or at Cannes Film Festival. His second feature was Marooned in Iraq (2002), which earned him the Gold Plaque from the Chicago International Film Festival.


In 1999, the first Iranian film was nominated for an Academy Award. Majid Majidi's film Children of Heaven was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. Majidi also directed "The Color of Paradise," which was the Grand Prize Winner at the Montreal Film Festival. The Academy Awards got another a taste of Persian culture when Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo was nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She co-starred opposite Sir Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog.

Awards in Mathematics, Science and Medicine

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is an annual six-problem, 42-point mathematical Olympiad for pre-collegiate students and founded in 1959, is the oldest of the international science Olympiads. About 90 countries send teams of up to six students, plus one team leader, one deputy leader, and observers.

Maryam Mirzakhani is one of the few women of Iranian origin to have won international awards in mathematics. Recognized locally as a brilliant teenager, she found international recognition after receiving gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiads of Hong Kong in 1994 and Canada in 1995 with a perfect score.

In the field of robotics, students from Tehran's Sharif University and Qazvin's Azad University won the first and second prizes in one of the leagues of the 2007 World Robotics Competition, held in Atlanta, Georgia. In recent years, Iranian youth have steadily remained among the top 10 medal winners in international scientific Olympiads that are held in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, informatics and engineering. In 2006, they also won 3 first places in the World Robocup Championship held in Bremen, Germany.


Young talents such as these draw their inspirations from the likes of accomplished scientists such as Dr. Camran Nezhat, a pioneer and leading practitioner in the field of laparoscopic surgery. Dr. Nezhat has won several awards and honors from prestigious societies such as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, American College of Surgeons, and the Excel Award from the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons and American College.

Awards in Journalism


Christiane AmanpourChristiane Amanpour, an internationally-recognized name in journalism, is the winner of the Courage in Journalism award as well as the Excellence in Journalism award, among dozens of other prizes. It was her coverage of the Persian Gulf War that followed Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1990 that made her famous. Thereafter, she reported from the Bosnian war and many other conflict zones. From 1996-2005, she contracted with CBS to cover in-depth news reports as a special contributor on 60 Minutes. These reports garnered a Peabody Award in 1998, adding to the Peabody she was awarded in 1993. The Peabody Awards honor distinction and achievement in America within the fields of broadcast journalism, documentary film making, educational programming, children's programming, and entertainment. Amanpour was also named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine.

Awards in Business and Fashion


Omid KordestaniOmid Kordestani, Google's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Field Operations, was instrumential in turning the privately held company into an incredibly profitable outfit. He has gone on to become one of Time Magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World.  He was also selected as the Persian Person of the Year in 2007 by Persian Awards. Persian Awards is the first organization to select and award leading Iranians from around the world, based on the public vote.

Persians have also taken world of fashion by storm. Iranian-born, New York-based designer Behnaz Safarpour introduced a line of women's apparel bearing her name in 2001. At the Parsons School of Design, she was honored with the Golden Thimble Award, given annually in recognition of a major contribution to the fashion industry. Sarafpour is a member of the CFDA, through which a close relationship began after her nomination for the Swarovski Perry Ellis Award for ready to wear.


Awards in Music

Shahram NazeriShahram Nazeri is one of Iran's most popular singers and a master of the Persian classical and Sufi repertoires. His concerts in Europe, the Middle East, and North America have been acclaimed for their poetry and virtuosity and he has dozens of recordings to his credit. In September 2007, Nazeri became the first Iranian to be awarded France's highest state award in arts and literature, the order of Chevalier des Arts et Letters, for lifetime artistic achievement. In 2007, Asia Society awarded him by Lifetime Cultural Heritage Award at their annual dinner, attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Deep Dish, a duo of DJ and house music producers consisting of Iranian-American members Ali Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi, have also been the recipients of leading music awards. They were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 for "Best Remixer of the Year" and nominated in 2005 "Best Dance Recording" for Deep Dish's "Say Hello." In 2002, they won a Grammy Award for "Best Remixed Recording" of Dido's "Thank You."


Nobel Prize and Awards in Human Rights

Nobel Prizes are arguably the most important prizes in their field, due to the rigorous and lengthy selection process, starting with a nomination process that includes and ending with final selection by a selection committee of experts in their field.


On October 10, 2003, Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts for democracy and human rights, in particular those of women and children. The selection committee praised her as a "courageous person" who "has never heeded the threat to her own safety." Her award has since become an inspiration to the Iranian community and a message to the world that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

Ebadi has received several honorary doctorates and international awards, including UCI Citizen Peace Building Award, the Golden Plate Award by the Academy of Achievement, Legion of Honor Award, International Democracy Award, and the 2004 Lawyer of the Year Award.

Awards in Humanities

As Iranians around the world have established themselves in their adopted countries, they have begun to give back to their respective communities in large numbers. As the President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, Vartan Gregorian stands out as a trailblazer in this area. In 1986, Gregorian was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  Established in the same year, the award pays tribute to the immigrant experience and individual achievement, and is awarded to U.S. citizens from various ethnic backgrounds. The honorees are awarded for exhibiting excellent qualities in their personal and professional lives and for maintaining the richness of their heritage. The Ellis Island Medal of Honor is recognized by the United States House of Representatives and the Senate, and the names of all recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.

In 1989, Dr. Gregorian was awarded the American Academy of the Institute of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Service to the Arts. In 1998, President Clinton awarded him the National Humanities Medal. In 2004, President Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award. He has been honored numerous cultural and professional associations, including the Urban League, the League of Women Voters, the Players Club and PEN-American Center. He has been honored by the city and state of New York, the states of Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, and the cities of Fresno, Austin, Providence and San Francisco.

Many other Iranian-Americans have won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor as well. 2008's Iranian-American honorees were Goli Ameri, Noosheen Hashemi, Laya Khadjavi, Darioush Khaledi, Parisa Khosravi and Avid Modjtabai. Almost 30 Iranian-Americans have won the award since its inception.

The Ansari X Prize


While Iranians have been the recipients of numerous honors in the fields described above, Iranians are also establishing themselves as trailblazers in award-giving as well.

Anousheh AnsariEstablished by Anousheh Ansari, the Ansari X Prize was the first X Prize to be awarded. An X Prize is a $10 million+ award given to the first team to achieve a specific goal, set by the X PRIZE Foundation, which has the potential to benefit humanity. The Ansari X Prize was given to Scaled Composites for their craft SpaceShipOne. The spacecraft is capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks. 

The Ansari X Prize created a whole new paradigm of prizes that seek to drive the rapid development of new technologies and industries. Subsequent X Prizes which are yet to be awarded include: the Archon X Prize for Genomics, Google Lunar X Prize and Progressive Automotive X Prize. Through promoting excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship, there are no limits as to what can be achieved by not only in the field of technology, but all fields in which the Iranian community sets its sights on.


Awards by PARSA Community Foundation

Ashraf Ghandehari BahadorzadehThis article has focused on the range of awards that Iranians have received and given. PARSA CF invites to you to also learn about the two awards that are given annually by our organization: the Philanthropist of the Year Award, awarded to Paul Merage in 2008, and the Volunteerism and Action Award, awarded to Ashraf Ghandehari Bahadorzadeh in 2008. Learn more about the awards here.


Contact PARSA CF About Other Awards

Do you know of other Iranians who have received awards? Email us at and tell us about them. PARSA Community Foundation hopes to repeat this article in the future.

... Payvand News - 12/19/08 ... --

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