Azadeh N. Shahshahani

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By Jonathan Banks, Journey Brave Photography

Azadeh N. Shahshahani is an American human rights attorney based in Atlanta. She is legal and advocacy director for Project South. She previously served as president of the National Lawyers Guild and director of the National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia.

Early life and education[edit]

Shahshahani was born in Tehran a few days after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.[1] She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where she served as article editor for the Michigan Journal of International Law. Shahshahani also has a master's degree in modern Middle Eastern and North African studies from the University of Michigan.


Shahshahani has worked for a number of years in the U.S. South to protect the human rights of immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities.[2][3][4]

She is the author or editor of several human rights reports, including the report Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Immigrant Detention Centers in Georgia;[5] the report Inside Atlanta's Immigration Cages,[6] which helped persuade the City of Atlanta to stop detaining immigrants for ICE at the city jail; as well as the 2020 Project South complaint[7] that brought national and international attention to medical abuses against women's bodies at the Irwin County Detention Center.

Shahshahani has also served as counsel in lawsuits on behalf of a deported U.S. citizen, a Muslim woman forced to remove her headcovering at a courthouse, detained immigrants subjected to forced labor at the corporate-run Stewart Detention Center, immigrant women survivors of medical abuse at the Irwin County Detention Center, and many others who have suffered human rights violations.[8][9][10][11]

Shahshahani has served as a trial monitor in Turkey, an election monitor in Venezuela and Honduras, and as a member of the jury in people's tribunals on Mexico, the Philippines, and Brazil. She has also participated in international fact-finding delegations to post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt as well as a delegation focused on the situation of Palestinian political prisoners.

Shahshahani serves on the advisory council of the American Association of Jurists and as a board member of Defending Rights & Dissent.[12]

She speaks frequently at law school and colleges campuses on topics ranging from movement lawyering to roots of forced migration, U.S. foreign policy, abolition of ICE prisons, and countering state surveillance and repression against Muslim communities, among others.

Shahshahani has appeared on Democracy Now! and BBC; has been interviewed by NPR and The World; and has been quoted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Guardian, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and other outlets.


Shahshahani writes frequently for various national and international publications such as the Nation, the Guardian, Al Jazeera, HuffPost,, Slate, and Time on a range of issues pertaining to immigrants' rights, discrimination and state surveillance targeting Muslim communities, and foreign policy.

Awards and honors[edit]

Shahshahani is the recipient of the Shanara M. Gilbert Human Rights Award from the Society of American Law Teachers, the National Lawyers Guild Ernie Goodman Award, the Emory Law School Outstanding Leadership in the Public Interest Award, the Emory University MLK Jr. Community Service Award, the US Human Rights Network Human Rights Movement Builder Award, the American Immigration Lawyers Association Advocacy Award, the Fulton County Daily Report Distinguished Leader Award, and the University of Georgia School of Law Equal Justice Foundation Public Interest Practitioner Award, among others. She has also been recognized as an abolitionist by the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University & the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, and as one of Atlanta's 500 Most Powerful Leaders by Atlanta magazine. In 2016, she was chosen by the Mundo Hispanico newspaper as a Personaje Destacado del Año (Outstanding Person of the Year) for defending the rights of immigrants in Georgia.[13] In 2017, she was chosen by Georgia Trend magazine as one of the 40 under 40 notable Georgians.