Sharansky urges Oberlin College to fire Iran’s alleged ‘war criminal’

NEW YORK – Internationally famous freedom and democracy activist Natan Sharansky on Wednesday urged Oberlin College in Ohio to fire its scandal-plagued religion professor, Mohammad Mahallati, for his alleged role in helping the Islamic Republic of Iran. in crimes against humanity as Tehran’s ambassador to the UNITED NATIONS.

“According to Amnesty International, in 1988 Mr. Mahallati knew that the Iranian regime was massacring thousands of innocent political prisoners and covered up the facts of the massacre, implicating him in a crime against humanity. Today, thousands of Iranians live in anguish, mourning the loss of their relatives, who were mercilessly buried in mass graves, unable to cry in their graves. Many of those family members have contacted President Ambar de Oberlin and requested a full investigation into Mahallati’s past, but have received no response, ”wrote Natan Sharansky, president of the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Global Policy ( ISGAP), Dr. Charles Asher. Small, Executive Director of ISGAP, and Haras Rafiq, Acting Managing Director of ISGAP and Trustee of UK Charity Muslims Against Antisemitism.

The joint letter was first obtained by The Jerusalem Post and addressed to the president of the university, Carmen Twillie Ambar, and the board of directors of the university. ISGAP is a non-partisan organization that engages in academic research on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism with a focus on education and public policy.

The letter’s signatories wrote that “It is time for Oberlin College to reconsider its defense of Mr. Mahallati and prioritize its students, as well as the victims and survivors of Mr. Mahallati’s crimes. It is time for Oberlin to remove Mr. Mahallati from his faculty. “

ISGAP’s letter added that “Oberlin College is an institution with a proud legacy of promoting human rights and social justice and where students value global awareness. Oberlin College now has the opportunity to provide its students with tangible lessons in civic and ethical responsibility, political and historical awareness, and empathy. “

Natan Sharansky. (credit: BYHMC)

Sharansky urges Oberlin College to fire Iran’s alleged ‘war criminal’

In a statement to the Mail In October 2020, Mahallati flatly denied that he was involved in the 1988 massacre in Iran.

Yet Oberlin students, alumni, Iranian-Americans, and legal experts have claimed that Mahallati’s excuses are a collection of lies.

Marta Braiterman Tanenbaum, a 1972 Oberlin graduate, told the Mail: ”How could I not know? I cannot believe that a senior diplomatic representative, working for a despotic regime, gleefully ignored a mass execution of political prisoners. Oberlin College, where I and 4 family members attend, has always employed professors who recognized and aligned with human rights causes for two centuries, from Wellington Rescue in Ohio to the anti-Vietnam War era to current concern. for inclusion “.

He added that “I am surprised that our current university president did not meet with the Iranian refugees and families, who raised their concern from the beginning and now require a public outcry to get a simple answer. The recent blank statement, given by the school, contradicts Amnesty International and the testimony of these relatives, whose loved ones were thrown into unidentified graves. My alma mater Oberlin wants to distinguish itself as a place for people of conscience. This cover-up statement rather than investigating his own professor, who is accused of covering up such heinous crimes, is the opposite of everything I learned at Oberlin: critical thinking, protecting those whose rights were violated, and hiring professors whose close relationships with students teach. decent values. “

The Oberlin College student newspaper, the Oberlin Review, published a scathing editorial on November 5 entitled “Irrefutable Evidence Against Mahallati,” and criticized the university leadership for its factually challenged defense of the former Iranian regime envoy.

Journalism students wrote that “The bottom line from all of this is that Oberlin College, an institution we hold dear, is employing and defending someone who is likely responsible for covering up crimes against humanity. The College claims it exonerated Mahallati in an internal investigation, but refuses to disclose any details of the investigation, including who the investigating party was, what materials they examined, and what would constitute a “guilty” verdict. The College also refuses to speak to activists and family members denouncing Mahallati’s employment at the College. Many activists claim that they have been blocked by President Carmen Twillie Ambar on Twitter after trying to draw their attention to this issue by tagging her. “

Oberlin College declined to provide the Post with a copy of its Mahallati compensation report. The Oberlin Review criticized the university administration for a “flagrant omission of many other groups that were, and continue to be, persecuted in Iran, including leftists, LGBTQ + people and Baha’is.”

According to the student editorial, “Iran has so successfully concealed its crimes against humanity – through spokesmen like Mahallati and many others – that it has been able to continue to perpetrate such crimes to this day. Most egregiously, Mahallati’s rhetoric about Bahá’ís laid the groundwork for Iran to commit genocide against the Bahá’í community. To this day, Bahá’ís are systematically persecuted, tortured and murdered in Iran. “

In a direct story about the November 2 protest against Mahallati at the university, the Oberlin Review reported that Iranian-American student Sophie Bernstein said that “I think it is very unreasonable that the administration did not see the organizers of this event and I believe that [it] he’s trying to cover up something that is undoubtedly true, adding: “I think it’s not right for him to specifically teach ethics and morals as a teacher here, especially when he covered up mass killings of political activists. I think a lot of Oberlin students here take for granted the freedoms that we have, for example, questioning authority, questioning the government, being gay, being a communist, … but our people were killed for that. “

Student Max Stuart told the Review that he was aware of the allegations against Mahallati before starting his freshman year at Oberlin in 2021. “I hope he not only gets fired, but gets to jail,” Stuart told the newspaper.

The entry of Sharanksy, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons for his human rights activism, in the Oberlin dispute ups the ante in a controversy that the university’s leadership seeks to overlook, according to its critics. Sharansky and his co-authors accused the university of also tolerating Mahallati’s genocidal anti-Semitism and incitement to jihadist violence against Jews and Israel.

“It has come to our attention that a member of the Oberlin College faculty, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, participated in war crimes and called for a global jihad against the Jews of Israel during his tenure as Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1990s. 80’s. We are also aware that Mr. Mahallati has perpetuated his vicious persecutions on the Oberlin campus, assigning anti-Israel readings to his students and demanding that they portray the terrorist organization, Hamas, in a positive light, ”the letter noted.

The US and EU governments designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The Post contacted members of the university’s board of directors. The only member who responded was Ted Brandt, CEO of Marathon Capital, LLC, who wrote: “Your note is the first I have heard of this issue. I am traveling in the US today / tomorrow, but I hope to be informed of the situation later this week. “

Board chair Chris Canavan, a partner at Lion’s Head Global Partners, declined to respond. Mail Media inquiries to the board’s vice chairman, Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, chief executive officer of A Wonder Media Company, went unanswered. President Amber did not reply Mail query.

Lawdan Bazargan, the Iranian-American human rights activist, who organized the protest against Mahallati in November, told the Post that she sent letters to the trustees but they did not respond.

Bazargan, whose brother Bijan was assassinated by the regime for his leftist views in 1988, said: “We want Oberlin College to fire him. [Mahallati] because Amnesty International accused him of crimes against humanity ”.

An online petition on calling for Mahallati to be dismissed has accumulated more than 500 new signatures in the past two weeks, bringing the current signature level to 2,571.

Sam Kermanian, senior adviser to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, told the Post that “Mahallati is someone who used his ‘diplomatic’ cloak to lie, deceive and cover up the atrocities of a terrorist regime for decades. The last person we should want to instruct. to our youth. “

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