Board of Directors
The Commission is governed by a well diversified board of directors who set the policy and make the major decisions through regularly conducted board meetings. The board is charged with the responsibility to maintain the highest standard of governance. The day to day operation of the Commission takes place by an all volunteer team. The Commission has no paid staff.
Aside from the founding members, the Directors are nominated by their respective governments, and confirmed by the Board.
During his Control Data career, Mr. Kazeminy held executive positions in Field Logistic Services, the Education Group and the Peripherals Group. It was while working for the Peripherals Group that he saw an opportunity that Control Data was not providing for its customers—that of low cost, tax-leveraged leases for the peripheral products. With Control Data’s blessing, he left the company to form a leasing business focused initially on the peripheral market. It grew to be the largest privately-held computer leasing company in the United States. In 1978, Mr. Kazeminy became a United States Citizen.
Mr. Kazeminy is Chairman of NJK Holding Corporation, a privately held investment company founded and owned by him. Between 1980 and 2007, he started and acquired a number of privately held businesses. Many of these businesses have been merged or sold to public companies or remain part of his portfolio.
Mr. Kazeminy’s entrepreneurial leadership has led to the creation of more than 200,000 jobs in a number of industries worldwide. Over 20,000 employees have been directly employed by businesses under Mr. Kazeminy’s control.
Humanitarian issues of particular interest to Mr. Kazeminy are those affecting the health, education and welfare of children. He is a supporter of numerous foundations that benefit children with health concerns and supports orphanages around the world. In addition, he sponsors a number of undergraduate and graduate students, taking the time to counsel young people who need advice, jobs, or help in finding direction in their lives. He financially supports over 100 charities worldwide. He is also a supporter of democracy throughout the world as the major benefactor of the Foundation for Promotion of Democracy.
Mr. Kazeminy has assisted a number of distressed families in coming to the United States by helping them settle in homes, find jobs, and assist with the immigration process. These activities contributed to Mr. Kazeminy winning the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1995 and in 2002 the American Legend Award, being inducted with dignitaries including current President George Bush, New York Governor George Pataki and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Kazeminy was inducted into The Order of St. John. The knighthood of the Order of St. John Hospitaller of Jerusalem came into being in 1109 as a charity to serve the needs of poor and sick pilgrims. Priories in Europe, Asia and the United States have supported such work through the centuries. The Order of St. John is 1,100 men and women with credentials acceptable to Queen Elizabeth II, the Order’s sovereign. Mr. Kazeminy’s investment as a Muslim is recognized as exceptional distinction. The personal support of High Law Lord and Lord Prior Gordon Slynn of Hadley made it possible for him to be inducted.
In 2006 Mr. Kazeminy was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award. This award is the highest honor bestowed by the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) whose mission is to provide lifelong leadership development opportunities that empower individuals to achieve their highest potential. The Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award is named for the man who inspired and motivated Hugh O’Brian to establish the organization in 1958. This prestigious honor is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through service to mankind and who have contributed significantly through leading, educating and motivating youth.
Mr. Kazeminy was inducted into the Knights of Malta in 2006. Mr. Kazeminy is a Commander of Merit Promerito Melitense of the Knights of Malta. It was conferred by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta on June 18th, 2007. The Sovereign Order of Malta is a religious order of the Catholic Church and has diplomatic relations in 91 different countries. The decoration was given for Mr. Kazeminy’s support of the maternity hospital which the Order runs in Bethlehem and his continued support for work in the holy lands.
He is currently Chairman of the NECO Foundation, sponsor of the prestigious Ellis Island Medals of Honor, which celebrate American diversity and honors individuals who have made an indelible mark upon the nation. NECO partners with a variety of organizations working in the areas of health, education and community to fulfill its mission of Creating the World of the Future Today.
Ambassador Kutelia is the Vice President of the Atlantic Council of Georgia and the Next Generation Leader fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. He served as the Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia, since January 2011 till November 2013. From 2008 until 2011 he was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, Canada and Mexico.
In his recent job as the Deputy National Security Adviser, Batu Kutelia was responsible for developing and implementing Whole-of-the-Government approach for the National Security Review process.
In his previous capacities he also served in different diplomatic, political-military and security positions since 1997 and being a member of several major negotiation teams. Prior to his public service, Mr Kutelia studied physics and holds a PhD in physics. However, he also holds a Master in Public Administration.
Reza Vaziri held a number of high-ranking positions in the pre-revolutionary Iranian Government. He was the Head of Foreign Relations Office at the Ministry of the Imperial Court of Iran. At the time of the revolution, he was Chief of the Office of Political and International Affairs. Mr. Vaziri holds a Law Degree from the National University of Iran.
Reza Vaziri, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Anglo Asian Mining Plc a publicly listed company in London Stock Exchange AIM Market, has been actively involved in business with Azerbaijan since just after its independence.
Mr. Vaziri is the initial founder of the US Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (‘USACC’) since 1995, and has been appointed Co-Chairman for life. In his role with the USACC, he has arranged and participated in a number of economic delegations to Azerbaijan and played a key role in bringing US investment to the country. His former co-chairmen include James Baker, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage and Terry Koonce.
Mr. Vaziri was awarded the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2012 along with General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of US Army, and Admiral Robert Harward, the then-Deputy Commander of US Central Command. Other recipients of this important medal are former US presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and also Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.
Akram R. Elias has 30+ years of professional experience in the field of international relations and is the co-founder and President of Capital Communications Group, Inc. (“CCG”) an international consulting firm offering a variety of services to government and private clients in the areas of public diplomacy, cultural intelligence, strategic language services, communication strategies, and orientations to Washington, DC.
In the area of Public Diplomacy, Mr. Elias provides briefings on American government, politics, culture and society to dignitaries from around the world visiting the United States under a variety of exchange programs sponsored primarily by the U.S. Department of State. Over the years, Mr. Elias has briefed thousands of visitors on a variety of topics including, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law and independent judiciary, U.S. foreign policy process, counterterrorism and international security, democratic capitalism, U.S. economic and trade policies, democracy and civil society, lobbying, role of media in a free society, intellectual property rights, women in business and politics, first amendment freedoms and civil liberties.
In the area of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), Mr. Elias conducts seminars to promote the importance of this field in today’s global, interconnected, and asymmetrical environments. He founded the cultural intelligence division at CCG focusing on North Africa, the Near East, South Asia and Central Asia regions. His most recent workshops/studies in the cultural intelligence arena focused on Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Mr. Elias also provides workshop training and briefings on the subject of cultural intelligence.
In the area of Cross-Cultural Training, Mr. Elias conducts briefings, seminars, and workshops on a variety of key topics, including cross-cultural communication, cultural adjustment, cultural integration, and negotiation.
Mr. Elias who is also fluent in Arabic and French has traveled overseas as a Public Speaker/Trainer on topics such as American government and politics, foreign policy in a global environment, civil liberties and democracy building, civil society and good governance. A representative list of countries where he has been invited to speak/train includes Armenia, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Congo (Brazzaville), France, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Morocco, Peru, Russia, Serbia, and Uruguay.
In the area of Leadership Training, Mr. Elias conducts seminars and workshops for young political leaders and social activists from around the world, especially the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) and Central/South America regions. Themes include effective leadership, coalition-building, youth engagement, grassroots campaigns, communication strategies, social entrepreneurship, and good governance. At the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Mr. Elias, a former Senior Associate at the center’s Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy (AILA), conducts workshops on cultural intelligence and public diplomacy for military officers, diplomats, business and civic leaders from around the world.
In the area of Advisory Leadership, Mr. Elias serves on the following:
- Dean’s Council of the School of International Service (SIS) at American University in Washington, DC
- Advisory Council of Global Ties U.S., a national network of 96 communities across the United States promoting excellence in citizen diplomacy and global engagement
- Chair of the International Committee at the University Club, a private club in Washington, DC established in 1904 by William Howard Taft under the theme: “Enter all of ye who have a degree of good fellowship and learning.”
- Trustee of the American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan
Mr. Elias is also an advocate of Citizen Diplomacy and travels around the United States speaking to community leaders and citizen groups to the need for American citizens to become more engaged in foreign affairs and promote international understanding.
Mr. Elias is also a film producer. He has written the original treatment for a documentary by the History Channel entitled, “Mr. Dreyfuss Goes to Washington” and co-produced it with Academy Awards winner Richard Dreyfuss in 2001, and has since appeared in numerous documentaries produced for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the Public Broadcasting System in addition to international British, Canadian and German productions.
Prior to establishing CCG in 1998, Mr. Elias was a Program Officer and International Trade Consultant at Meridian International Center (1997 – 1998); Program Officer at the Institute of International Education (1996 – 1998) working on professional international exchange programs; and, a Contractor with the U.S. Department of State (1985 – 1995), accompanying delegations of foreign dignitaries from the Near East and North Africa.
Mr. Elias, a Lebanese-born American citizen, has been a resident of the Washington, DC area since 1982. He holds a Masters in International Service from American University, a Graduate Certificate in International Finance from Georgetown University, and a BA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. He also received specialized training in International Conflict Management at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. He and his wife Lourdes live in College Park, Maryland.
Dr. Ghani received his Master’s and PhD degrees in anthropology from Columbia University and has also attended Harvard –Insead and Stanford Busines schools leadership training program for the World Bank. He served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77), Aarhus University in Denmark (1977), University of California, Berkeley (1983), and Johns Hopkins University (1983–1991). His academic research was on state-building and social transformations. In 1985 he undertook a year of fieldwork researching PakistaniMadrasas as a Fulbright Scholar. He has also studied comparative religion. He joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East Asia and South Asia until the mid 1990s. In 1996, he pioneered the application of institutional and organizational analysis to macro processes of change and reform, working directly on the adjustment program of the Russian coal industry and carrying out reviews of the Bank’s country assistance strategies and structural adjustment programs globally. He spent five years each inChina, India, and Russia managing large-scale development and institutional transformation projects. He had worked intensively with the media during the first Gulf War, commenting on major radio and television programs and being interviewed by newspapers.
After Operation Iraqi Freedom (Spring 2003), he served a year as Senior Foreign Relations officer for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) (one of the leading Kurdish political parties in Iraq), operating mainly out of Baghdad and Sulaimania. There, he worked closely with the U.S-led Coalition Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), and was PUK’s top liaison to the Coalition after it became the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and to US forces in Iraq. Mr. Talabani was also a key negotiator in drafting the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Iraq’s first post-Saddam constitution.
During the period 2001 – 2003, Mr. Talabani served first as a Special Assistant to the then PUK Representative in Washington and then later he served as the Deputy PUK Representative in Washington D.C.
Mr. Talabani is frequently interviewed by the popular press and other publications. He has appeared numerous times to discuss Kurdish and Iraqi issues on major television networks including: CNN, BBC, FOX News, and other American and international networks.
Mr. Talabani’s family has been involved in Kurdish politics for decades. His father, Jalal Talabani, is the President of the Republic of Iraq and Secretary General of the PUK. Mr. Talabani studied in London and holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.
General Secretary Dussanbay Kasseinov of TURKSOY serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Nowruz Commission. A former member of the Nowruz Commission Advisory Council, Kasseinov has a long and distinguished record as a diplomat and scholar. Most recently, he served as Ambassador-at-Large of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan – Special Representative of Kazakhstan on issues of cultural and social CIS.
Educated at Kurmangazy State Conservatory, Kasseinov has worked extensively in the fields of culture and music. He served as Minister of Culture of Kazakhstan, chairman of the Committee of Culture, Ministry of Education, Culture and Health and as Rector of Almaty State Conservatory.
Kasseinov has achieved numerous honors including the Kazakh National “Tarlan” Award, and won numerous medals including the Astana Medal of 10th Year in 2008, Medal of the 100th Anniversary of Kazan in 2005 and the Medal of Astana in 1998.
Mr. Bijan Ganji is a practicing attorney based in Washington, D.C. As an associate at an international law firm, Mr. Ganji advises clients on U.S. international trade and foreign direct investment regulatory matters, including economic sanctions, export controls, corrupt practices and other legal issues pertaining to U.S. foreign policy and national security.
Mr. Ganji also represents clients involved in the aerospace and communications industries in negotiating project contracts, financings, mergers & acquisitions, financial restructurings and reorganizations and strategic ventures. His clients include investment banks, private equity firms, commercial banks and various corporate and institutional actors, such as satellite operators, aerospace manufacturers and launch services providers.
Mr. Ganji has spoken at international trade symposia and published articles on international trade regulatory matters in the aerospace industry. He earned his Juris Doctor, with honors, from The George Washington University Law School and his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, cum laude, from Georgetown University. Mr. Ganji is fluent in English and Persian.
It is with great sadness and sorrow that our friend and colleague, Galiya Umarova, wife of Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan passed away in Washington, D. C. on January 4, 2016. Galiya was an active supporter of Nowruz Commission, committed to education and improvement in the lives of families and children, not only in the country of her birth, but in countries beyond its borders.
Galiya was born and raised in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and cultural center. She met Kairat Umarov when they were both students in an English language class and shared married life with him for thirty years. Their son, Gaini, works for an international consulting group in Astana, Kazakhstan’s modern new capitol.
Ambassador Umarov and Galiya have been posted to the United States on three separate occasions during his diplomatic career, which has also included assignments in India and Sri Lanka as well as various positions within the foreign ministry of Kazakhstan. Together they have traveled the world sharing the story of a 3,000 year-old culture and its important role in the historic Silk Road trade route which for centuries linked the East with the West.
Galiya was known for her elegance, grace and dedication to sharing the culture, heritage and development of her native country, once noting that “Kazakhstan is much like the United States, with multiple cultures of 140 nationalities living together in peace.” She embraced the mission of Nowruz Commission to protect and preserve the ancient celebration of Nowruz and bring together under its umbrella people from all ethnicities, nations and religions in friendship, sharing and caring. Her passion for education and the care of children was evident in her contributions to Nowruz Commission.
Galiya was taken from us too soon, but she will be remembered as the loveliest of a wife, mother, friend and example of how to live a life dedicated to her country and humanity. Nowruz Commission is proud to dedicate its 2016 Gift of Life program in her memory.