Feature > Interview > NAZLY MOHAJER MAKING A DIFFERENCE BY SHABNAM REZAEI
With Turquoise Bridges And More
A highly active and successful member of our community, Nazly Mohajer is busy at work and play. She is the founder and CEO of Minagratex Corporation, a manufacturer and importer of textiles and basic knit products. Recently, she was appointed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as the Human Rights Commission of the City. She has been an activist in the community at large for many years, bringing awareness and needed funds for various causes such as battered women, the Pro-choice movement and the Democratic Party. We are lucky to have such a leader making a difference with Turquoise Bridges.
Shabnam Rezaei: Tell us a little about Turquoise Bridges and why you decided to start this organization?
Nazly Mohajer: Turquoise Bridges mission is to foster cross-cultural understanding by providing a forum where arts and cultures are celebrated. I strongly believe that once people understand one another’s culture, they will embrace and celebrate it. This has a magical impact and subsequently creates a sense of harmony regardless of race, color, nationality or creed. As an Iranian-American witnessing the escalation of misunderstandings between the United States and the Middle East, I felt that it was necessary to create a forum where people have the opportunity to learn about each other, because at the end of the day prejudice is due to ignorance. At a time when many of our political leaders seem to be focused on what divides us, it is important to find a common ground to bring the communities together and create opportunities for common understanding. The most effective way to bring people together is to provide a common cultural experience. In these times of unprecedented challenge, it is incumbent upon us to renew our commitment to work together for awareness, tolerance and compassion around the globe. This is the raison d’être of Turquoise Bridges. Our ultimate goal is to create a Cultural Center in San Francisco where we can positively display cultures. Being the birth place of United Nations, San Francisco is the natural place to host such a center to celebrate unity and humanity.
SR: What are some of the programs your foundation has been involved in?
NM: The natural path was to start with our most universal and joyous celebration – Norooz. Norooz marks the New Year for many people from different countries in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union regardless of their religion or ethnic backgrounds. In conjunction with Mayor Newsom, we launched the annual Norooz celebration at City Hall here in San Francisco. I am happy to say that we are in the process of planning our third Norooz event as we speak. We are also developing a Rumi performance – which is a collaboration of Coleman Barks, Ostad Nejad and other performing artists.
SR: What types of projects do you look for to strengthen the Persian community?
NM: I look for projects that display the community in a positive light and create a sense of pride amongst the community. For ANY community to be strengthened, they have to be united. They must come together in spite of their differences and support their fellow community members.
SR: You have a background in Computer Science. How has your technical degree enabled you to succeed in business?
NM: It has allowed me to analyze situations logically, look at the big picture from various angles, and make informed decisions. During a one year sabbatical from the High Tech industry, I studied International Trade which perked my interest. The Globalization of the world’s economy is very fascinating to me.
SR: What are you passions? What do you dislike?
NM: My passion is to make a difference, and impact peoples lives in a positive way. I am very lucky to be able to do this as a Human Rights Commissioner. I dislike prejudice, ignorance, and negative energy.
SR: Have you been back to Iran and what are your thoughts?
NM: Yes, I have been back several times. Iran always has a special place in my heart. The last time I went to Iran, I felt a strong sense of love and passion for the country – feeling that it belongs to me, but at the same time I soberly realized that I did not belong there. I have lived most of my life in the United States. This is now my country, and San Francisco is my city, and I have a deep love for both of them.
SR: Where do you find inspiration?
NM: I find inspiration in children, and people in general.
SR: What drives you?
NM: Hope and possibilities. I am an optimist and always look for positives in any given situation.
SR: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
NM: Rumi’s Masnavi, a Nay album and my mother’s picture
Full Name: Nazly Mohajer
Born In: Mashad, Iran
Favorite Color: White
Favorite Dish: Khorest e Bademjan
Languages: English & Farsi
Currently Reading: Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards
For more, go to www.turquoisebridges.org
Norooz 2007 Full Video