Elham Yaghoubian – writer, translator, and political and human rights activist – was born in Tehran, Iran.
She wrote her first novel, Daryāye Khamūsh (“Silent Darya”), at the age of sixteen, and is recognized as the first Iranian Jewish woman novelist in Iran. She received her Bachelor degree in Foreign Language Translation from Tehran Azad University in 1994 and published her second book, Tondbāde Sarnevesht (“Storm of Destiny”), in 1996, after which it was republished four times. She was later approached by an Iranian producer who wished to adapt her novel into a screenplay, but after the government censored her books without permission, she decided to decline this request.
Elham was one of the founding members and head editors of the Jewish journal Bina, later renamed Ofoghe-Bina. Ofoghe-Bina’s mission is to present and clarify the Iranian Jewish community’s standpoint through articles, reports, diaries, and discussions on Judeo-Persian rituals and customs. Elham collaborated with this journal as one of the head editors and writers until her migration to the United States.
In 1998, Elham, along with some of her journalist peers, founded a group, the “Marz-e Por Gohar”, (Iranians for a Secular Republic)s. This group was one of the first peaceful underground organizations in Iran, which also led to the student uprising in July 1999. After the pro-democracy movement of July 1999 and the arrest of her peers, she was forced to leave Iran. She has since lived in Los Angeles. Her third novel, Ashk-Sham “Tears of the Candle”), was published in 1999 right before she left her homeland, but it never received permission from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance to be republished. In her novels, Elham focuses on Persian women caught between tradition and modernity, their rights being violated predominantly by their family members, and the lack of equality in social life.
Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, she started working as a counselor at the JVS, one of the Jewish Federation’s agencies tasked with helping immigrants and refugees to build a new life in the United States. At the same time, Elham with a few colleagues from Iran, who also fled to Los Angeles opened Marze Por Gohar office in Los Angeles to continue her pro-democracy activism. For more than a decade, she has been tirelessly working and meeting with policymakers to advocate for people in Iran while using the pseudonym “Elham Aryana”. Her activities inspired Kenneth Timmerman, a political writer and activist and the 2012 Republican U.S. Representative nominee for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, to base one of the main characters in his book Honor Killing on her activities.
Elham’s publications and activist endeavors dealing with the abuses of human rights in Iran, the Iranian leadership’s denial of the Holocaust, and her struggle against anti-Semitic resentment among Iranian politicians incited harsh verbal attacks from various radical Iranian newspapers and state-financed broadcasts, which identified her as a Zionist and an anti-revolutionary individual.
In 2007, Elham was asked by the California Army National Guard to help them improve one of their projects. For the next two years, she partnered with their Sacramento base as Cultural and Community Outreach Advisor, the only consultant based in Los Angeles.
In 2008, while still working for the California Army National Guard, she pursued her Masters at the International Relations Department of California State University. In the same year, with several of her like-minded friends, she started a group, which four years later became the Iran-Israel Alliance of Nations, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help the two nations recognize one another and form an alliance in order to try to solve the challenges presented by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other political and social unrests through compassionate and peaceful discussion.
Elham also translated the Global Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples. While the book never received a permit to be published in Iran, it was nonetheless widely published and distributed underground in Tehran and a few other cities in 2011. Since then, she has published numerous articles concerning human rights as well as the rights of women and minorities, both in English and Farsi, in publications such as Front Page Magazine, Gooya, Bina, and Shofar.
Her love and passion for serving the community and promoting Iranian and Jewish culture led her to serve as a board member for several non-profit organizations, such as the West LA Chamber of Commerce, the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, B’nai B’rith Fariborz Fred Matloob, 7dorim (Iranian Jewish Oral History, and Friends of Westwood Library. Because of her dedication, she has received multiple certificates of recognition and appreciation from councilmembers, congresswomen and state senators, such as the Certificate of Recognition from Herb j Wesson, the President of Los Angeles City Council, Councilmember Paul Koretz, and Councilmember Mike Bonin; the Certificate of Recognition from the State Board of Equalization, Presented by Fiona MA; and the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman Karen Bass.
Today, Elham works as a research analyst for several non-profit organizations, while also managing Tower of Babel, the language service company she co-founded, which provides translations and tutoring services in over 35 languages. Her forthcoming novel, Be Range Banafsh (“Purple”), focuses on minorities in Iran..
In her personal life, Elham is adventurous and loves traveling to unknown destinations to learn more about different cultures and histories. She enjoys horseback riding, hiking in the nature, and reading.
She is married to Dr. Farshid Delshad and they currently reside in Los Angeles.
Recipient of the Shamsi Hekmat Achievement Award 2019