2023 Oak Fellow: Khosro Kalbasi Isfahani

Khosro Kalbasi Isfahani

He was based in Tehran during the bloody November 2019 protests in Iran, in which security forces were estimated to have murdered over 1,500 protesters.

During the Internet shutdown, not only was he able to give a voice to the people of Iran, but he did so at the risk of his own life.

His work includes articles on Iran’s violence against protestors, persecution of ethnic, religious, and LGBTQ minorities, response to COVID-19, and other health crises, like medicine shortages and the lack of medical care for minority groups. Isfahani, who identifies as queer and non-binary (using he or they), has focused most recently on LGBTQ+ issues in Iran. In the past and under different pen names, he has created materials for young LGBTQ adults on health, gender, and sexual orientation, and was involved in suicide prevention work for the LGBTQ community. Despite all the obstacles he has faced, he continues to be one of the main voices highlighting human rights issues in Iran.

During the recent and ongoing Iranian protests, Isfahani has played a crucial role not only reporting the protests, but also identifying Iranians killed in the demonstrations. He helped verify the identity of 75 slain Iranians for the BBC, a work that has been referenced by international human rights organizations. He still documents the continued repression and brutal execution of protesters. This scrupulous work is but one example of Isfahani’s intense commitment to journalism and human rights. As he has said: “To record human suffering, you need to wallow in a sea of pain and absorb the raw unfiltered emotions like a sponge, you have to weave pain into your soul and then carve your heart out and hold it before the eyes of the world.” This is exactly what Khosro does every day and has been doing for over a decade, and Colby College will provide him with the need of respite from the trauma he has lived and continues to live as a journalist in exile, away from his family, and always fearing for his life.