2018 Conference Speakers
IAAB ‘Banned Lives’ Conference
The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
New York University
50 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012
The program is free and open to the public; no pre-registration is required.
Bitta is a long time immigrant rights advocate and human rights organizer. After graduating law school from DePaul University in Chicago she practiced civil rights law with a particular focus on the discriminatory impact of immigration practices on Muslim or Middle Eastern immigrants. Shortly thereafter she joined Safe Horizon and continued her legal practice representing immigrant crime victims, asylees, and others in both affirmative and defensive petitions before the immigration court. Bitta led the organization’s advocacy work on behalf of immigrant crime victims seeking U visas, including before the City and Department of Homeland Security. Along the way Bitta has continued her community organizing, increasing awareness of global human rights injustices and the plight of refugees. Since joining the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in 2014, Bitta has advanced the rights and well-being of immigrant New Yorkers. After spearheading the IDNYC outreach campaign, Bitta helped design the ActionNYC legal services program and was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of MOIA in January of 2016. In May of 2018, Mayor de Blasio appointed Bitta to Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Nimra Azmi is a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates, where her work focuses on the Muslim Ban, religious liberty, the civil rights of immigrants and incarcerated peoples, and discrimination in the workplace. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Nimra was a litigation associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York. Her writing on American Muslims and the law has appeared in Slate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, TakeCare, and Colorlines. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Barnard College.
Rama Issa-Ibrahim is a Syrian American activist, community organizer and the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of NY. Rama is no stranger to non-profit management, community outreach, fundraising, and social justice. As someone who is impacted and represents a community of impacted folks from Syria, Yemen and other banned countries, Rama has been a leading voice in NYC in fighting back the racist and Islamophobic Muslim and refugee ban since the first EO. She kickstarted her career working with refugee youth at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Prior to joining AAANY, Rama was the Lead Advisor on Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Relations at the NYC Commission on Human Rights working to increase the Commission's efforts to engage the Arab and Muslim communities citywide. She was also the Programs and Policy Associate at the Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC, working closely with funders, government agencies and non-profit organizations to increase opportunities and equity for all NYC residents. She spent her first 4 years in NYC working for the Arab-American Family Support Center, a sister organization, in strengthening public-private partnership, and program design and implementation. Rama is fluent in English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.
Mohammad Khan is a campaigner and political organizer from Queens, NY. He’s currently the Campaign Director at MPower Change—the U.S.’s first digitally native grassroots Muslim organization—where he campaigns to organize Muslim communities and allies in the fight for justice for all people. His work focuses on transformative movement-based organizing and building the power of marginalized communities. Mohammad has worked across electoral, issue, and civic engagement campaigning and organizing in New York—from gubernatorial and City Council races to efforts including police reform, protecting public education, and exposing political corruption.
Thenjiwe has spent her entire political and professional career challenging the injustices that imprison people and their communities in a life of poverty and/or one behind bars. That commitment has led her to campaign on human rights issues in the United States and around the world. She honed her human rights campaign development and organizing skills while working for international organizations and has played key roles in helping lead high profile mobilizations around the country.
Thenjiwe began her political career calling for an end to policies and practices that contributed to acts of torture committed by law enforcement. She went on to help organize efforts that addressed the human rights violations that occurred during and after Hurricanes Katrina & Rita. She worked on a number of campaigns including those that addressed the illicit and illegal trafficking of small arms around the world, solitary confinement, capital punishment, maternal deaths, excessive use of force by law enforcement, and poverty. She has worked for a number of human rights organizations including Amnesty International. Most recently, Thenjiwe worked for the U.S. Human Rights Network where she helped coordinate efforts to hold the U.S.G accountable for its human rights violations when the United States was up for review by specific UN Mechanisms.
Thenjiwe currently works with a team called Blackbird, which is focused on movement building in this current historical moment. Blackbird provides communications, organizing as well as policy/advocacy support to a growing field committed to ending racism in the United States. She is also currently working with a number of social justice organizations and movements in the US and is helping to establish a collective for organizers engaged in movement building work around the world.
Mana currently serves as IAAB's Executive Director. Mana initially joined IAAB in 2006 as a counselor at Camp Ayandeh.Prior to leading IAAB, Mana was a Field Organizer at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), leading the organization's efforts in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Mana served as a member of the Southern Human Rights Network's steering committee, co-organizing the Youth Summit as part of 2010's Southern Human Rights Organizers' Conference. Mana was the Education Director of a volunteer Greek NGO created in response to the refugee crisis. As part of her volunteer role, Mana helped develop the first comprehensive educational program for refugee youth in Greek camps. Mana received her BA from Emory University in Middle Eastern Studies and International Studies, with a Minor in Persian. Mana also worked at The Carter Center, Careerbuilder.com, and Posse Foundation.
The 2018 IAAB Conference is organized in partnership with Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.