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Centre for Media Studies

Dr Massoumeh Torfeh

MA(London Metropolitan University), PHD(LONDON)


Massoumeh Torfeh
Centre for Media Studies

Research Associate

Centre for Iranian Studies

Associate Member

Dr Massoumeh Torfeh
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Dr Massoumeh Torfeh has been appointed UN Director of Strategic Communication and Spokesperson for Afghanistan.  She will be based at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Kabul and will be the spokesperson to the newly appointed UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, who is the former Foreign Minister of Slovakia and former Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Massoumeh is a former senior producer in BBC World Service, specializes on the politics and media of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Her PhD in Political Science is from the London School of Economics and Political Science and on “The Causes of the Failure of Democracy in Iran”. She has worked as a spokesperson for the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan and as a public information consultant in the office of President Karzai of Afghanistan. She also had a couple of years as the director of the Tajik Service and editor of Asia Desk at the Central Newsroom of Radio Free Europe in Prague. Since 2008 based at SOAS Massoumeh has been a regular commentator on the politics of Iran and Afghanistan in the media including the Guardian, BBC News programs, Aljazeera, ITV, Sky, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).  

Massoumeh has just completed several chapters of a book due to be published by IB Taurus in June 2012 on the history of the BBC Persian broadcasts to Iran and the effect of these broadcasts on the Iran/UK relations. She also has a chapter in a new book "Partners for Stability" to be published December 2011, by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin about the role that Iran plays in the politics of Afghanistan. This is part of the Transatlantic Relations program at the DGAP addressing the issue of Afghanistan’s reconstruction and its neighbors’ roles.

She has written several articles in conjunction with Professor Annabelle Sreberny, the Director of the Center for Media and Film Studies at SOAS, on the role that the BBC Persian and Pashto Services have played at critical political conjunctures in Iran and Afghanistan. These were published in academic journals such as Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication (June 2010), in the Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television (October 2008) and in the Journal of Geopolitics of Middle East  (April-June 2008). She presented the research results in two international conferences in London and Barcelona.

Massoumeh has done extensive research into the archives of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the US State Department, including the Military and Intelligence reports, as well as archives of Iran's Parliament to investigate the causes of the failure of democracy in Iran.  She focuses on three important episodes: the Constitutional Revolution 1906, Mossadeq's era 1940-53, and the Iranian revolution of 1979, arguing that in all three an overwhelming demand for democratization was voiced, a certain level of success was achieved, and yet dictatorial regimes were re-instated, every time more brutal than before. She searches for the correlations in these movements to discover the weaknesses within the political structure and society that lead to these failures. She believes that the quest for democratization process is ongoing in Iran as illustrated in the 2009 protest that followed the presidential elections. She argues that despite the most brutal crackdown by the Islamic Republic the movement for justice and freedom has not died down in Iran. 

Massoumeh has also conducted a smaller research into the history of Iranian women's movement and peaceful mobilization by both youth and women in Iran through the new media, the Internet, citizen journalism, blogging, Facebook and Twitter for strategy and coordination. She has given a paper on the subject in an international conference by Humanity in Action in Copenhagen (October 2011) and is due to present the same at the Sorbonne in Paris (January 2012).

Politics of Afghanistan and Central Asia and their inter-relations with Iran are never out of sight. Regional cooperation and rivalry is the subject of two analytical reports for Japan Export Trading Organization (JETRO): one on “Iran, Central Asia & the Caspian Sea: An analysis of the regional political developments” and another about “The Changing Balance of Power in Central Asia and Middle East” published in both Japanese and English.

Massoumeh believes passionately that development and democratization in post war societies should go hand in hand with supporting the local media to play a key role in changing attitudes and creating debate and discussion. Specially designed media campaigns are in her view a unique tool for enhancing good governance and democratization. Her analysis for the Broadcasting Board of Governors of the US comprised recommendations for a media strategy for Afghanistan focused in the southern borders with Pakistan where Taliban have been intensifying their attacks. A separate analysis was completed for WACC special edition for Media Development in the January 2009.   Additionally she presented a paper in KABUL at the international conference “Media is Development” about the role of BBC and RFE/RL in Afghanistan. She organized two conferences at SOAS Center for Media and Film Studies as a forum for discussing these ideas. The first was “Communicating with the Persian Speaking World” (2008) bringing journalists and academics from Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and the second “Media and Good Governance in Afghanistan” (2011).



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