Homa Sarshar, journalist, socio-cultural activist, writer and editor of various books, as well as the producer and host of several radio and television programs, was born in 1946 C.E., 1325 of the Persian calendar, in Shiraz, Iran. She received her high school Diploma from Razi High School of Shiraz, a Bachelor of the Arts in French Literature from University of Tehran, and a Masters Degree in Communication Management from University of Southern California, U.S.C. She further received an Honorary Doctorate in Journalism from American World University. Her father, Meir Raphael-Zadeh, and her grandfather Masha-Allah Raphael-Zadeh were among the trusted figures and businessmen of the Bazaars of Shiraz and Tehran, while her grandmother’s father, Mullah Es-hagh “Isaac” was one of the founding fathers of Shiraz Jewish Association.
Homa Sarshar’s career in journalism began in 1964, when at the age of 18, she joined the authors’ board of the newly-founded weekly, Zan-e Rouz (Modern Woman). In 1970, she joined the Kayhan Institution, where she continued to collaborate with the Kayhan Daily until 1979, as a reporter and columnist. In retrospect, Homa Sarshar considers working with Majid Davami, the founder and chief editor of Zan-e Rouz, among the periods with the most influence on shaping her career as a journalist.
Her many efforts and accomplishments in those years also included two research projects, namely A Study of the Results of the Family Control Plan in Low-Income Families, which she conducted for the Iranian Women’s Organization and Zan-e Rouz Magazine (1969); and Iranian Women in the Job Market, which she carried out for the Kayhan Daily (1975). During that time, she received a Gold Medal for “defending women’s rights” from Iranian Women’s Organization (1969), the Best Prize in Reporting and the News Coverage of the famed 2500-Year Anniversary Festival of the Persian Empire, from Zan-e Rouz Magazine (1971), and a Scholarship and Cash Prize as an Outstanding Student from the University of Tehran (1971-72).
In mid-1970’s, Homa Sarshar began to appear in the visual media. The Iranian National TV welcomed her first television program entitled Chahar-Divari (The Small Room, 1972). The program which dealt with women and family issues, also demonstrated Homa Sarshar as a capable producer, director and host of a TV program.
In 1978, shortly before the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Homa Sarshar, her husband and their two children, immigrated to the United States. There she continued her work as a journalist on this side of the world, focusing on three major fields, namely, the Human Rights, women’s issues, and minorities. During that period, her relentless and prolific career included acting as the chief editor of the monthly Shofar, which was published by the Iranian American Jewish Federation of Los Angeles (1981-1983); collaborating with the LA-based Omid Radio (Hope) and the Radio and TV channels of Omid-e Iran (Iran’s Hope) both as the producer and the host (1982-1990); organizing and directing various seminars and conferences; lecture presentations and participation in news conferences both in America and Europe. Concurrently, she maintained her presence in the press as a freelance journalist by writing for various Persian publications, besides her work in the radio and television programs of the Iranian diaspora.
Homa Sarshar’s background also includes working for five years as a certified translator with the high Federal courts of immigration, as well as with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Homa Sarshar’s first book, Dar Koocheh Pas-Kooche-ha-ye Ghorbat (In the Back-Alleys of Exile), grew out of the deep concerns, hopes, and struggles that pervaded the early years of an immigration. Published in two volumes, the book was the first memoir written in Persian by a woman outside Iran. The work recorded the hardship and challenges that faced attempts at reconstructing one’s individual and family life away from the homeland. It also spoke of the struggles that faced the first generation of immigrants who tried to build the fabric of the Iranian community in a land outside Iran. The book was also published a few years later as an audio-book by the Ketab-e Gouya “Audio-Books” Publishing, Los Angeles.
In 1989, Homa Sarshar joined the director’s board of the nascent Iranian Women’s Research Foundation, where until 1996, she continued her endeavors in regards to the Iranian women’s issues by organizing an annual international seminar. She was also the chief editor of five issues of the research journal of this foundation.
In 1993, she was selected as an adviser to the Human Rights Watch, an opportunity which she used to recommend a large number of people for the Hellman-Hammett Grants.
In 1995, Homa Sarshar founded the Los Angeles-based Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, CIJOH. Pertaining to the mission of Center, over the course of 10 years, she collected 1600 documents and historical images, along with 125 extended interviews that included the prominent figures and leaders of the Iranian Jewish community. Under Sarshar’s management, CIJOH created one of the largest Iranian Jewish archives of remembrances in the world. For CIJOH, she organized five international conferences, oversaw the publication of the documents and memoirs in five volumes, and produced 8 documentaries to review 25 centuries of Iranian Jewish history.
In 2006, Homa Sarshar donated the entire collection of documents at CIJOH to the Library of Congress and University of California, Los Angeles.
In 2005, even as she was bringing the efforts of the Center for Iranian Jewish History, CIJOH, to their conclusion, Homa Sarshar founded the non-profit Center for Iranian Creative Arts, CICA, intended to support and collaborate with talented Iranian immigrants. Her 35 years of close contact and friendship with literary and artistic activists provided Sarshar with the necessary background to organize numerous cultural events as lectures, book signing events, artistic exhibitions, and stage plays outside Iran. The participation of some of the most influential contemporary artists, such as Shohreh Aghdashlou (actress), Jalali Sousan-Abadi (Persian miniature master), Nader Naderpour (poet), Mahshid Amirshahi (novelist), Shahrnoush Parsipour (novelist), Moniro Ravanipour (novelist), Simin Behbahani (poet), Shahrokh Meshkin-Ghalam (choreographer and dancer), Sadreddin Elahi (journalist), Hadi Khorsandi (satirist), and Fereydoun Moshiri (poet), in these programs demonstrates the high reputation of Homa Sarshar, her trusted professional character, and the worth of her cultural endeavors throughout these years.
For the past three decades Homa Sarshar has also been a member of the Middle Eastern Arts Council at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, an opportunity that has allowed her to introduce works by contemporary Iranian artists to the world.
Homa Sarshar’s cultural achievements also include producing documentary films about contemporary immigrant artists, literary figures and social activists. This series, under the general title of Dami Ba… (A Moment With…), collected the synopses of personal and professional lives of numerous prominent figures, such as Nader Naderpour, Mahshid Amrishahi, Nasser Oveysi, Samin Bagh-cheh-ban, Simin Behbahani, Sulayman Haim, Yona Dardashti, Iran Darroudi, Moniro Ravanipour, Jalali Sousan-Abadi, Farangis Kay-Khosrow, Shahrokh Yeganegi, Malek Nafissi, Morteza-Khan Nay-Davoud, Moshfegh Hamedani, Bersabeh Houspian, Rabbi Yedidia Shofet, Dr. Habib Levy, Moshe Katzav, Jamshid Kashfi, Sha’ban Jafari, Sadreddin Elahi, Mahin Amid, and many others. The series is currently preserved in the Library of Congress.
Besides the above, Homa Sarshar conducted numerous research projects, such as three communication studies, entitled Man Facing Automated Machines for Bank of America, Adult Schools for Los Angeles Schools District, and Cable and Communication for HBO. She also undertook Evaluating Children’s Norms in Front of Television Programs for NBC (1981), Advertisement Programming for the Queen Mary Cruise Ship (1980), and Iranian Immigrants: Ten Years After the Revolution for Omid Radio (1989). Together, these achievements have further established Homa Sarshar as a socio-cultural activist, besides earning her numerous invaluable awards, including: The Sepas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism (1994, Los Angeles), The America-Israel Friendship Media Award (1996), The Journalism Award of the Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation (2003), The B’nai Brith Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), The Iranian American Parents Association Humanitarian Award (2007, Beverly Hills), The Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2013), and The American Heritage Award of American Immigration Council (2016).
Since 2006, alongside her numerous socio-cultural activities, Homa Sarshar has written, , produced and hosted two radio programs, Khaney-e Doust (The Friend’s Home) (2006-2009) and Sobhaneh Ba Homa Sarshar (Breakfast With Homa Sarshar) (2013-) for the KIRN, 670 A.M. Radio Station, Los Angeles.
Among her latest endeavors in Los Angeles, Homa Sarshar has established the Honar Foundation aim at supporting Iranian American artists.
Selected Works by Homa Sarshar
As of 2016, the following books by Homa Sarshar have been published, all in Los Angeles:
Daftar-e Nourooz (The Book of Nourooz); 2 vols., 1988 & 1989.
Dar Koocheh Pas-Kooche-ha-ye Ghorbat (In the Back Alleys of Exile); 2 vols., 1993.
Pazhouhesh-ha va Honar-ha (Researches and the Arts); ed., 1993.
Chehre-ye Zan dar Farhang-e Irani (The Face of Woman in the Iranian Culture); ed., 1993.
Zan va Khanevadeh dar Iran va dar Mohajerat (Woman and Family in Iran and in Exile); ed., 1994.
Zan va Siasat dar Iran-e Mo’aser (Women and Politics in Contemporary Iran); ed., 1995.
Zan, Eslam, and Jensiat (Women, Sexuality and Islam); ed., 1996.
Yahoudian dar Tarikh-e Mo’aser-e Iran (Jews in Contemporary Iranian History); ed., 4 vols. 1996-2000.
Sha’ban Jafari; 2002. (The 2003 best-selling book inside and outside Iran.)
Homa Sarshar married Nejat Sarshar, an engineer, in 1966 C.E., 1345 of the Persian calendar. The couple brought two sons to the world. Sepehr Sarshar holds a Doctorate in Chemistry from Harvard, Boston; and Houman Sarshar received his Doctorate in Comparative Literature from Columbia University, New York.