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.

Mr. Nasser J. Kazeminy is a founding Chairman of the board of directors of the Nowruz Commission. He was born in Iran and educated in England where he met his wife.  After designing the worldwide logistics and management information system for Honeywell, Mr. Kazeminy was recruited away by Control Data Corporation.  Together with two small children and a salary advance of $250 from his new employer; Mr. Kazeminy relocated to the United States in 1969 to design and implement a worldwide logistics and management information system.

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.

An internationally recognized diplomat for the United States, he is a seasoned banker, business, civic and academic leader. He has served two presidents of the United States and has been confirmed twice by the Senate of the United States. He co-founded the Nowruz Commission together with His Excellency Ambassador Erlan Idrissov and Mr. Nasser Kazeminy in January 2010. In 2006, The Honorable Bijan R. Kian received the honor of becoming the highest ranking Iranian American in the United States Government. He served as a member of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and he is a former director of the State of California Office of Foreign Investment.

Reza Vaziri 2On September 12, 2013 Mr. Reza Vaziri, former NC Country Ambassador in Azerbaijan, was elected as a member of the Board of Directors and appointed as Vice Chairman of the Nowruz Commission.

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.

With 25 years of experience at America’s largest financial institutions, Gissou is a seasoned banker and risk manager. As the first President of the Nowruz Commission, she was instrumental in coordinating the participation of eight governments as well as the Iranian American Community in the United States. She lead the efforts on the inauguration of the commission in March 2010 at the Library of Congress, together with the Ambassadors of participating countries and members of the United States Congress. Throughout her life, Gissou has been dedicated to philanthropic causes and organizations.
Mr. Kamoludin Abdullaev is a member of the board of directors of Nowruz Commission. He  is an independent historian from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. From 2001 to 2010, as a visiting professor, Dr. Abdullaev regularly taught modern Central Asian subjects from multidisciplinary perspectives at Yale University , Allegheny College , and the Ohio State University . He has written and edited ten books in English and Russian. Among his recent publications is “Ot Sintsiana do Khorasana. Iz Istorii Sredneaziatskoy Emigratsii 20 veka (“From Xinjiang to Khorasan, From the History of the 20th Century Central Asian Emigration”). Dushanbe: Irfon, 2009. In addition, he published over 50 articles in English, Russian, Tajik, and translated into French, and Japanese.
His Excellency Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is a member of the board of directors of the Nowruz Commission, and the President of Afghanistan. He is a former Minister of Finance for Afghanistan. He is also a Co-founder of the Institute of State Effectiveness, an organization set up in January 2005 to promote the ability of states to serve their citizens. As  Afghanistan’s minister between July 2002 and December 2004, he set the path for Afghanistan’s economic recovery after the collapse of the  Taliban. Dr. Ghani is also a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an independent initiative hosted by the  UNDP.

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 inChinaIndia, 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.

Mr. Qubad Talabani is a member of the board of directors of The Nowruz Commission. Mr. Talabani is the  Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to the United States. In his role, he works closely with the U.S. Government, the media and research institutions providing critical analysis and up-to-date information on Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

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.

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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 previous capacities he has been First Deputy Minister of Defense (2007-2008), Deputy Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs (2006-2007) and Deputy Minister of State Security (2004).

From 2005-2006 he functioned as the Head of the Intelligence Service of Georgia. Before this he was the Head of the Foreign Intelligence Department of the Ministry of State Security of Georgia and Director of the Political Security Department of the National Security Council in 2004, also numerous pol.-mil. positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Before turning into his diplomatic and political career Mr. Kutelia studied physics and holds a PhD in physics. However, he also holds a master in Public Affairs Administration. Mr. Kutelia is fluent in English, Russian and Georgian languages.

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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.

Ganji_Bijan_DC_HRESMr. 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.

FullSizeRenderMrs. Galiya Umarova will remain in memoriam

May 17, 1964 -  January 4, 2016

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.