An Iranian refugee in search for asylum, Soolmaz grew up in the slums of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Now she’s a world champion in karate. With a PhD. And uses her knowledge to help refugees and athletes learn the skills to overcome conflict.
Soolmaz Abooali is an 12-time US National Champion, World Champion, and USA team member in Traditional Karate. In 2019, she received her PhD in conflict resolution from George Mason University, with a focus on how non-governmental organizations use sport to address conflict. Soolmaz is also a professor at the University, teaching about the intersections of sport, conflict resolution, and diplomacy.
As an Iranian refugee in search for asylum, Dr. Abooali grew up in the slums of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Experiencing the realities of violence, poverty, discrimination, and disempowerment, it is here that she developed a spirit to fight conflict; one that has ultimately shaped her identity and work as a scholar, a martial artist, and an Iranian-American Muslim woman.
Through leveraging her athlete platform, Dr. Abooali uses this unique set of experiences to change mainstream perceptions of marginalized groups and to foster their empowerment.
Using her expertise in sport and scholarship, she conducts sport diplomacy/conflict resolution workshops for cross-sectional audiences within and outside the United States, and specifically with marginalized groups such as immigrants and women and girls. Her initiatives include partners such as United States Institute of Peace (USIP), United States Department of State (USDOS), the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN), philanthropic figures, and non-governmental organizations.
In her efforts to pay it forward, Soolmaz serves as an Athlete Ambassador for the American Amateur Karate Federation (AAKF) and Shirzanan (SHEER’zah-non). Alongside the AAKF, Soolmaz increases public awareness of Traditional Karate in school systems and in immigrant communities through her speaking engagements and class instruction. As an Athlete Ambassador and Board of Advisory member at Shirzanan, she promotes equality for women in sport through sharing her story at lectures/events, contributing op-eds as well as her expertise of the Middle East, sport, and conflict resolution.
Her debut book chapter, Building a Foundation for Diplomacy through Sport: Iran and United States, was published in 2017 and speaks to the role that athletes can play in bringing together people from divided nations.
2018 – World Championship – Gold
2018 – National Championship – Gold
2017 – Pan American Championship – Gold
2016 – National Championship – Gold
2016 – World Championship – Silver
2015 – National Championship – Gold
2015 – Pan American Championship – Gold
2014 – National Championship – Gold
2014 – World Championship – Bronze
2013 – National Championship – Gold
2012 – National Championship – Gold
2011 – National Championship – Gold
2011 – Pan American Championship – Silver
2010 – National Championship – Gold
2009 – National Championship – Gold
2009 – Invitational World Cup – Silver
2008 – National Championship – Gold
2007 – National Championship – Gold
2006 – National Championship – Gold
2005 – National Championship – Silver
2004 – National Championship – Bronze
2003 – National Championship – Silver
2003 – Pan American Championship – Gold
2002 – National Championship – Bronze
2001 –National Championship – Bronze
“A ‘peaceful’ world can only be achieved if we make it a priority to understand our own goals, desires and needs, and use that knowledge to address broader social issues." - Soolmaz Abooali, Los Angeles youth workshop with Joaquin Phoenix, UN and River Phoenix Centre.
Engaging mental health: A conflict analysis guide for professional athletes School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution Newsletter
Stress is Good! Think like a martial artist The Perfect Game Foundation
On the Issues: Preventing Conflicts and Peacebuilding through Athletic Competition United States Institute of Peace
Athletes Pick A Side At The Women’s March Deadspin
Muslim Women Find Empowerment Through Competitive Sports Des Moines Register
Unclenched Fists The Washington Diplomat
In new class, students get lessons in karate kicks, world peace, diplomacy The Washington Post
High school students learn conflict resolution through karate Fairfax Times
Stuart High School Students Use Traditional Karate to Help With Conflict Resolution Fairfax Times
Doctoral Student Goes to Hollywood to Teach Peace Techniques George Mason News
Women-in-Combat Plaintiff to Present Keynote at Gender and Conflict Center Reception George Mason News
Featured Student: Soolmaz Abooali, Incoming S-CAR Ph.D. Student S-CAR News
TELEVISION / WEB / PODCAST
George Mason University website banner feature
Real Talk Sportz Mason Cable Network
Athlete Ambassador Calling for Support for Shirzanan 2016 Shirzanan
VOA News VOA Farsi
Sports Diplomacy, Martial Arts & Conflict Analysis Conflict Specialists Show with Dave Hilton
Work With Me
I am available for workshops, seminars, speaking events as well as consultations, publication and research projects.
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As an 12 time world and US karate champion and conflict-resolution scholar, I bring a unique perspective to my evolving research that will help chart a unique and dynamic course of action for athletes and young girls/women in conflict around the world. I am available for consultations, writing and publication inquiries, and research on sports as a tool to address conflict.
I bring my story as a refugee, a decorated amateur athlete, and my work as a scholar together to deliver conflict-resolution workshops, self-defense seminars, and talks that uplift, encourage, and stimulate participants.