- Former executive director of the Agape Foundation Fund for Nonviolent Social Change
- Views the United States as a nation rife with bigotry and injustice against people of Middle Eastern extraction
- Opposed the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq
- Longtime associate and official with Greenpeace
Born and raised in Rhode Island, Karen Topakian graduated with a BA in Sociology and Theater from Clark University in 1976, and then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. After completing her education, she worked from 1978-80 as a community organizer with the Providence-based group, People Acting Through Community Effort. From 1981-83, she managed a food co-op in Wakefield, Rhode Island and directed the University of Rhode Island’s Women’s Center.
A passionate advocate of nonviolent direct actions for peace and nuclear abolition, Topakian in 1982 traveled to New York City to participate in the largest anti-nuclear demonstration ever held; one of the event’s key organizers was Cora Weiss of the Institute for Policy Studies. Also in the early 1980s, Topakian organized with the famous peace activists Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan through the Plowshares Movement.
From 1987-91, Topakian served as a disarmament campaigner for Greenpeace‘s Nuclear-Free Seas campaign, whose mission was to help rid the world of naval nuclear weapons and to ban below-ground nuclear-weapons testing. She was also a member of Greenpeace’s national and international policy and strategic-planning groups.
From 1991-2001, Topakian was a board member with the Western States Legal Foundation. From 1993-96, she sat on the board of the Women’s AIDS Network. From July 1993 to March 2009, she served as executive director of the Agape Foundation Fund for Nonviolent Social Change. And from 1994-2010, she was a part-time member of the Greenpeace Fund board.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Topakian characterized the United States as a nation rife with bigotry and injustice against people of Middle Eastern extraction. She complained, for instance, that Muslims and Arabs who had “worked hard and played by the rules” were now being unjustifiably “suspected of all kinds of nefarious acts just because of the religion [they] practice, the country where [they] were born, or the kind of company that [they] keep.”
Strongly opposed to the post-9/11 U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Topakian traced the origins of those conflicts to America’s allegedly unquenchable “addiction to oil,” which she blamed, in turn, for leading to unacceptable levels of “air pollution,” massive numbers car accidents, and an unsustainable “dependence on fossil fuels.”
Also during the early 2000s, Topakian was a supporter of a Berkeley, California tax-resistance movement whose participants withheld portions of their income taxes from the U.S. government as a means of registering their opposition to what they viewed as America’s excessive military spending.
Since November 2010, she also has served as board chairwoman of Greenpeace, Inc.
For additional information on Karen Topakian, click here.