Marjan Seirafi-Pour

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A Persian language Instructor at OU,
she has advocated for human rights
in Oklahoma for over two decades.

In recognition of her contributions to interfaith understanding, Marjan Seirafi-Pour has been selected as one of the 2016 winners of the Oklahoma Human Rights Award.

Here is a short bio from the Garrett Duty blog:

Seirafi-Pour was born in Tehran, Iran in the 1960s. As a child she attended schools mixed with boys and girls, but that all changed in 1979 when she was about 13. The shah of Iran was overthrown and Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran. Many reforms were implemented, including the segregation of schools by gender.

Her family decided to stay in Iran after the revolution, but the next year Iraq invaded Iran and began the nearly decade-long Iran-Iraq war. After realizing that there was no end in sight, Seirafi-Pour’s family decided to move to Oklahoma where her brothers and sisters had already been in school.

One would think that leaving a war-torn country for Oklahoma would be tough in many ways. From dealing with a new language, to the cultural changes seen from the Islamic Republic to Oklahoma. However, Seirafi-Pour said the most difficult part of moving was, “Just like every 15 or 16 year old girl, leaving the friends and people you have gone to school with for years.”

Seirafi-Pour went on to graduate from Carl Albert High School in Midwest City and then got a Respiratory degree from Rose State College in Midwest City. Following that, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Education from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Today, Ms. Seirafi-Pour works in the field of Iranian Studies — after having earned post-graduate degrees in Educational Psychology and Global Studies with focus on the Middle East and Iran. She stays busy as the Middle East Program Coordinator for the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Still she finds time to volunteer in her community. Since 2009, Seirafi-Pour has served on the board of directors for ACLU-Oklahoma. In 2011, she was appointed by Mayor Cindy Rosenthal to serve on the Norman Human Rights Commission.

More from Garrett Duty:

Her toughest moment as a Muslim in OK came during what was supposed to be a celebration for the state.

Seirafi-Pour was the chairperson of the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council in 2007, when the council decided to give Oklahoma politicians a Centennial Qur’an to commemorate Oklahoma’s 100th birthday. A Baptist group had given Bibles to the politicians, so the council thought it would be acceptable with Qur’ans as well.

They were wrong. The gift was seen by some politicians as offensive. Some denied the Qur’ans, while the media created a firestorm over this issue. Suddenly Seirafi-Pour and her council were the subject of international outcry regarding their decision.

Despite the negative outlook by some, Seirafi-Pour saw many good things come from the controversy. The Muslim community in Oklahoma remained united and provided a strong support group, which gave Seirafi-Pour a distinct sense of pride in the Muslim leadership.

Though some politicians were rude to her, there were many that were very kind.


The public is invited to attend the presentation of the 2016 Human Rights Awards on Saturday, December 10th, in the House Chamber of the Oklahoma State Capitol. The program will begin at 10am. It will be emcee’d by former State Representative Seneca Scott. There is no charge to attend. Following the awards program, you are invited to enjoy a Free Speech Forum in the Senate Assembly Room from 12 Noon to 2pm.

Every year, the Oklahoma Human Rights Awards are co-sponsored by the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association and the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance.

Previous winners of the award include educators, physicians, students, and community volunteers from many different communities and all walks of life. They are united by their enduring commitment to the values and principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For more information about the awards program, please contact Wilfredo Santosrivera, 405-631-3027.

Marjan Seirafi-Pour’s experiences in the Muslim community of Oklahoma have left her with a distinct sense of pride and optimism about the future.

“I think here in Oklahoma and in general in America that Muslims are being able to achieve what they want and be successful and work hand in hand with others to make America a better place,” Seirafi-Pour said.


From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

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