Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the last 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.
In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema... And so the list goes on.
This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. These articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.
IranWire readers are invited to send in suggestions for how we might expand the series. Contact IranWire via email ([email protected]), on Facebook, or by tweeting us.
Tehran-born Goli Ameri is among countless women of Iranian origin to have made a name for themselves in the United States, in this case as a senior diplomat, humanitarian and successful businesswoman. A former politician and US representative to the United Nation, Ameri won praise during the presidency of George W. Bush for her work developing the UN and strengthening the US's cultural ties with countries overseas.
Born Goli Yazdi on September 26, 1956, she moved to the US at the age of 17 five years before the Islamic Revolution in order to continue her studies at Stamford University, receiving both her BA and MA in Communications from the same institution. It was there that she met her husband, Jamshid Ameri, who was studying civil engineering at the time. They have two sons together and Goli Ameri became a US citizen in 1989.
Ameri is the founder and president of a telecommunication consulting firm, eTinium inc, based in Portland, Oregon. She was the author of more than 50 market studies published in several prestigious journals, and has been invited as a speaker and moderator to worldwide industry conferences.
Taking US Politics by Storm
For several years after her marriage to Jamshid, Ameri worked in real estate. Then in 2004 she decided to test her luck in politics: a move that would mark a turning point in her life. She stood in the US House of Representatives elections that year and became the Oregon Republican Party’s nominee to challenge Democrat David Wu.
The campaign received a great deal of attention. In the heat of the stand-off, allegations surfaced about Wu having sexually assaulted a female classmate during his university years. Ameri did not initially dwell on the case for long, but pushed the issue extensively in the closing days of the campaign.
In the end Ameri was still defeated by her Democrat rival, who won 58 percent of the vote. But her fast-paced fundraising skills were noted inside the Republican party. She was ranked by the Federal Elections Commission as the number-one congressional challenger candidate in total dollars raised for the 2004 primary and general elections cycles. Then in 2011, Wu was forced to resign over allegations that he had sexually assaulted the daughter of a campaign donor.
Important Achievements Representing the US Abroad
In 2004, then-US President George W. Bush appointed Ameri as a member of the US delegation to the 61st United Nations General Assembly. The following year, in 2005, she was made head of the delegation. She worked on reforms to the UN’s management system and the creation of the UN Human Rights Council, and with her knowledge of innovative technologies, also effectively managed the UN’s Internet Governance portfolio. She also spoke at nationwide events on Iran and the Middle East, democracy promotion and UN reform.
Ameri’s brilliant performance working for the UN led Bush to appoint her Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs in November 2007. After a series of hearings to assess her competency she was accepted by the Senate in March 2008 and was sworn in later that month. As part of her duties she traveled to several countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Brazil and Ajerbaijan, facilitating cross-cultural understanding and signing important agreements with culture ministries overseas.
In October 2007, Ameri had been named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women of the NorthWest by NW Women’s Journal. The following year she won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in New York, which is presented annually to 100 recipients to pay tribute to the experiences and achievements of immigrants to the US.
In 2010, Ameri appointed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as the Underecretary General for Humanitarian Values and Diplomacy. Ameri was tasked with increasing Red Cross and Red Crescent influence with governments and legislative bodies worldwide. She remained in this position until 2012.
Helping New Businesses Thrive
In 2017, Ameri co-founded StartltUP, a mobile technology platform together with Israeli and American partner companies. The founders, Ameri said, “spent a great of time talking to the owners of small businesses” and identified ways to help them succeed with the help of psychologists and specialists at Stanford. The firm provides opportunities to small businesses such as assessment, training and mentorship as well as a social network for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Ameri has not stepped out of political life entirely. She serves on the board of trustees of the international NGO Freedom House and sits on the Center for Middle East Public Policy advisory board of RAND Corporation, a nonprofit global policy think tank. She also recently took to the streets following George Floyd’s murder and tweeted her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Affairs in Iran continue to draw criticism from her, most recently the arrest of Masih Alinejad’s brother.
Read other articles in this series:
Shahindokht Sanati: Lady of the Roses
Saeedeh Qods, Founder of Middle East's Biggest Children's Cancer Hospital
Fakhri Malekpour, Traditional Iranian Piano Practitioner
Fakhr ol-Doleh, Figurehead and Political Agitator
Sardar Maryam Bakhtiari: Decorated Revolutionary and Tribal Military Commander
Ashraf Bahador-Zadeh, Iran’s Mother Teresa