Meet the New AHA Staff Member: Lily Bolourian

Please welcome the AHA’s new Legal & Policy Director, Lily Bolourian!

What is your educational and work background?

I have a background in advocacy, policy, and law with particular emphasis on abortion access, reproductive justice, immigration, and the environment.

I earned a Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy, Magna Cum Laude, from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and a Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Politics with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from George Mason University.

How did you first learn about humanism?

Lily Bolourian

I was first introduced to the concept of humanism through a political lens when reading Marx and later Frantz Fanon in an undergraduate political theory course. At the time, I was questioning my personal beliefs and found the concept of humanism to be fascinating.

Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith? How did it impact you?

My parents were asylees who immigrated to the United States from Iran to escape a theocratic fascist regime that has entirely usurped our ancestral country. I was raised with a belief in God but with an aversion toward organized religion generally.

What interested you most about working for the American Humanist Association?

My background as an Iranian woman whose ancestral nation has been taken hostage by a violent, fundamentalist, theocratic, fascist regime means that I’m keenly aware of the consequences of allowing for religion and the state to become one. There is no question that right-wing zealots in the United States have the full intention of usurping power to codify Christian nationalism into law—by any means necessary. AHA has stood in the gap for decades on issues of church and state separation and I’m excited to work directly on this issue which is a core threat to the entire progressive movement.

What book has influenced you the most?

The Divane of Hafez is a collection of poetry written by legendary Iranian poet Hafez. The way that he makes words dance on the page inspired me to become a poet, to consume as much poetry as I can in this lifetime, and to be truly proud of my Iranian identity. It’s fascinating to see that the work of a man who died several hundred years ago can still be so relevant to today.

If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?

It’s hard to choose three but I’ll go with Malcolm X, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, and Dolly Parton. I chose Malcolm X because his work heavily influenced my own political praxis. Malcolm was wise beyond his times, unapologetic in his quest for liberation, and wanted to ensure that the civil rights movement centered Black women. Dr. Mossadegh was a democratically-elected Iranian socialist politician who had nationalized the oil industry in Iran and was antagonistic to the British occupiers who were stealing the wealth of the Iranian people as they lived in abject poverty. He was beloved until he was taken out of power via a coup d’etat initiated by MI-6 and the CIA. Finally, I picked Dolly Parton because of her activism toward literacy, her extremely optimistic outlook on life, and how darling the conversation would be.