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Niloufar Mobasser ’81

February 2012, in Caversham, England, of heart failure.

Softly spoken and intensely private, Nilou was “freedom’s translator.” “Translating was more than a job for her,” said her brother, Bahman. “It was her passion.”

Translating the works of censored Iranians, Nilou gave voice to a complex culture—particularly in the United States, where some of the authors she translated were published in English for the first time. She translated work of Persian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush and dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, as well as Ghazi Rabihavi’s Look Europe, a play based on a 16-page fax smuggled out of Iran by detained journalist Faraj Sarkohi.

From 1988, Nilou worked for the BBC Monitoring Service, and, as a Persian media monitor, translated the official pronouncements of the Iran regime. She served as an editor for the Arabic monitoring team during the Arab Spring, and her work was highly regarded by news agencies and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the CIA, now the Open Source Center. She translated Ehsan Naraghi’s memoirs, From Palace to Prison: Inside the Iranian Revolution, from the French (1994) and until her death was a translator for the Index on Censorship.

Born in Tehran, she attended an international school, became fluent in English and French, and, in 1977, moved to Portland, where she earned a bachelor’s in political science from Reed. She wrote her thesis, “Liberty: A ‘Good’ or a ‘Right’? A Critical Study of a Theory of Justice by John Rawls,” with Prof. Stefan Kapsch [political science 1974–2005] advising, and went on to earn an MA in economics from Manchester University. Soon after, she published the essay “Marx and Self-Realization” in the New Left Review. She met Abdolkarim Soroush in 2002, when he lectured at Oxford University, and translated his interviews, his lectures, and his 2009 book, The Expansion of Prophetic Experience: Essays on Historicity, Contingency and Plurality in Religion. At the time of her death she was working with him on his autobiography.

Nilou was found at her home in Caversham on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 after having failed to return to work on Monday, February 13, following a period of annual leave. When police entered the home on Wednesday, they found her “passed away on the floor.” A subsequent postmortem examination noted that Nilou’s small coronary arteries were a possible cause of heart failure. She is survived by her brother, Bahman, and her sister, Soussa

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2017

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