About Us: The Soudavar Memorial Foundation

In the service of culture, Est. 2001

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation’s mission is to preserve and promote the rich and diverse cultural and artistic heritage of the Greater Iranian world in all its diverse aspects, with a particular emphasis on continuities, areas of neglect, and on interaction with other cultures.

Old Nisa
Old NisaThe dynastic capital of the Parthians; it is 5 KM from Ashkabad, where the Soudavar brothers were born under the name Kashanski
The first four volumes of the 'Idea of Iran' series
The first four volumes of the 'Idea of Iran' series
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ounded by a family with a long history of philanthropy, the Soudavar Memorial Foundation was formally established in 2001 and follows on the lifelong commitment to the arts, culture and heritage of Iran by Fereidoun Soudavar (1908-1997) and his wife, Massoumeh Amir-Alai.

Established in London since before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, they were amongst the first Iranian expatriates to commit themselves to the preservation of the long tradition of Persian studies in the West. In 1987, they endowed the Massoumeh and Fereidoun Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies at Wadham College, University of Oxford, the first and still the UK’s only endowed Chair in the field, which was complemented in 2001 with the posthumously created Ali Reza and Mohammad Soudavar Senior Lectureship in Persian Studies at the University of Cambridge in dedication to the memory of their sons. Further endowments support Iranian students at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Brunel in Britain, as well as at Princeton University in the United States. After Fereidoun Soudavar passed away, his appointees established the Soudavar Memorial Foundation to pursue the same path of devotion to Persian culture that he had so well served. In 2011, the Foundation celebrated 10 years of supporting Iranian and Persian studies.

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation is managed by a group of trustees, who provide leadership, inspiration and support as the Foundation moves forward to engage the next generations of the family in its mission. Without resorting to external contributions, the Foundation has already accumulated an impressive rostrum of accomplishments; its flagship initiative is an annual symposium that has spawned six substantial volumes to-date on the ‘Idea of Iran’. The aim is to explore the empires that have shaped Persianate culture in Iran and its periphery and emphasize cultural continuity from before the Achaemenids to modern times.

The Foundation also awards grants towards a diverse range of cultural and academic projects which have included postgraduate scholarships; special study grants; contributions to seminars and conferences; support for exhibitions of art from ancient to modern; musical and multimedia performances; archaeological excavations as well as the study of excavated material; and a decade-long commitment to Encyclopaedia Iranica. The Foundation emphasises the importance of books and has a substantial portfolio of publications to its credit. In addition to the six volumes to date as part of the Idea of Iran series, these include pioneering works such as the award winning Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi’ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran by Sussan Babaie (Edinburgh University Press, 2008) and Eskandar Firouz’s The Complete Fauna of Iran (I.B.Tauris, 2005), another prize-winning book that is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive work to-date on the fauna of Iran, with details of more than 1,000 species. In the last year, the Soudavar Memorial Foundation has expanded its field of activities to include Iran’s cultural heritage and natural environment in collaboration  with Iran Heritage Foundation and other partners.

The Trustees of the Soudavar Memorial Foundation are:

Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian
Layla Soudavar Diba
Salman Farmanfarmaian
Saadi Soudavar
Ahmad Reza Diba

Latest Initiatives

From Persepolis to Isfahan: Safeguarding Cultural Heritage, 2015

In partnership with Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and with the support of the British Institute of Persian Studies (BIPS), the Soudavar Memorial Foundation is collaborating on the first international symposium ever held on the cultural heritage of Iran held in the UK, taking place 16-18 January 2015 with specialist contributors drawn from Europe and Iran. Read more →

Symposium Showcase
at Asia House

Welcome Address
Vahid Alaghband, Fatema Soudavar & Ali M. Ansari

International Seminar Series on Iran’s Environmental Sustainability, 2014-15

These seminars held at SOAS in collaboration with the London Middle East Institute (LMEI) seek to raise awareness of Iran’s environmental challenges in a regional context; to create an academic and policy network for collaborative work over these problems; to create a forum for discussing and exchanging ideas and seeking solutions; and to encourage best practice in formulating and implementing sustainable environmental policies in national and regional contexts. It builds on the success of the international symposium ‘Iran’s Natural Heritage: A Catalyst Symposium to Spark Measurable Change‘. Read more →

Iran’s Natural Heritage: A Catalyst Symposium to Spark Measurable Change, 2014

In partnership with Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF), the Persian Wildlife Foundation (PWF) and in association with the London Middle East Institute (SOAS), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), I.B.Tauris Publishers and the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), the Soudavar Memorial Foundation sponsored and coordinated a pioneering international symposium on the challenges facing Iran’s natural heritage in London on the 18th and 19th of January 2014. The purpose of the symposium was to bring public attention to this matter and suggest measures which could spark measurable and positive change. The Soudavar Memorial Foundation is delighted to announce that it will also sponsor a series of environmental seminars at the London Middle East Institute at SOAS, University of London. Read more →

Symposium Showcase
at the Royal Geographical Society

Keynote given by Gary Lewis
UNDP Resident Representative in Iran