All Posts Tagged With: "Iran"
Universities receive funds from alleged Iran government front
A foundation that American authorities say is a front for the Iranian government continues to fund McGill University and a Toronto Farsi school, years after U.S. federal prosecutors went to court to seize the group’s assets and alleged it was channelling money to an Iranian state-owned bank sanctioned by Canada.
The Alavi Foundation is a New York-based non-profit that has given more than $300,000 to Canadian universities, and more than $200,000 to the private Toronto Farsi School, since 2004.
In November 2009, U.S. federal prosecutors filed an amended civil complaint seeking the forfeiture of the foundation’s interest in a lucrative Manhattan office tower, from where it derives most of its income. The property was built in the 1970s by the Pahlavi Foundation, which was controlled by the shah of Iran to run the country’s charitable activities in America.
The claim, which is not resolved, alleges that, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s new government took control of the property and the foundation, which it renamed, running them through Iran’s ambassadors to the United Nations.
Chiheb Esseghaier researched at University of Sherbrooke
More details may be revealed today about two men charged in what police are calling the first known al-Qaida directed plot in Canada.
A bail hearing is scheduled in a Toronto court for Montreal resident Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Toronto area resident Raed Jaser, 35.
The two men were arrested and charged yesterday for allegedly planning to attack a Via Rail passenger train.
The plot had “the direction and guidance” from al-Qaida elements in Iran, but there was “no imminent threat” to anyone, police said.
Iran has denied any link to the two suspects.
Prof. Pettigrew on why universities can’t divest
Here, Cape Breton University Professor Todd Pettigrew argues that divesting from “unethical” companies isn’t as easy as activists make it sound. After reading his commentary, check out Torrance Coste’s argument in favour of divestment.
I served, for a brief time, on the Board of Governors of Cape Breton University, and one thing I did during that period was speak in favour of looking into ethical investments. After all, we know from the proverbs that money talks. So if we are talking with our money, why not have it say something important?
Ethical investing, I argued at the time, seemed all the more urgent in the context of university education. If we are trying to teach our students to think critically, shouldn’t we ask tough questions about scholarship endowments and pension funds? Should we give scholarship funds to a student studying, let’s say, social justice, and then tell that student not to worry where that money came from?
A new monkey, Iran’s student club and new world rankings
1. Scientists say they’ve discovered a new species of monkey living in the remote forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s only the second new monkey discovered in nearly three decades. The researchers have published on Cercopithecus Lomamiensis in Plos One. The monkey is known to locals as “Lesula.” Okay, so in that way, it’s not an entirely new discovery.
2. The president of the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, a student group, solicited money for the club from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, reports Maclean’s Michael Petrou. The now-closed Iranian embassy obliged, providing financial support. Canada lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
A “white pride” club, Turkey Syndrome and dead dogs
1. Fourteen lifeguards in El Monte, Calif. were fired for a spoof video featuring Korean pop singer PSY’s signature horse-riding dance moves. Their “Lifeguard Style” video was an homage to the viral hit “Gangnam Style.” Officials say they were fired for using city property improperly, but one of the fired lifeguards says she was told by the city that they found the video “disgusting.”
2. An American student at Towson University is planning a “white-pride organization.” Matthew Heimbach, a U.S. history major, sparked controversy last year when his Youth for Western Civilization group criticized Islam and same-sex marriage. Heimbach says whites are discriminated against. Out of respect for free speech, university officials say the group will be tolerated.
3. About 2,000 people at the University of Guelph set a world record on Saturday by packaging 315,000 emergency relief meals in a single hour. The food help fight famine in Mauritania.
Women banned, Niki Minaj, “oversharing” and Jack Layton
1. Iran has banned women, who make up 60 per cent of its university students, from 77 subjects including accounting, engineering and pure chemistry. At the University of Tehran, forestry and mathematics are off limits too. Last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad considered segregating men and women entirely on campuses. Could this new ban be punishment for all the women who protested his apparent election fraud in 2009?
2. An Oklahoma high school valedictorian was denied her diploma because she said the word “hell” during her commencement speech and then refused to apologize. Kaitlin Nootbaar quoted a commencement speech from the Twilight series film Eclipse. “I quoted, ‘They ask us now what we want be and we say who the hell knows,’” she told The Toronto Star. She meant to say “heck.”
University defends controversial campus conference
This post first appeared on Michael Petrou’s The World Desk blog on Macleans.ca.
My article about a conference at Carleton University honouring Iran’s founding dictator Ayatollah Khomeini prompted a condemnatory letter from several prominent Iranian scholars to Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte, as well as responsive missives from O’Reilly Runte and from John Osborne, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
I’ve reprinted the exchanges below. Tracking the dates and salutations, it looks possible that I’m missing one of the letters. If so, its absence here is unintentional. I have also deleted email addresses and phone numbers that appeared in the email address lines, and have added the full name of recipients where they were otherwise abbreviated. Everything else is posted here verbatim.
A good chunk of the debate centres on free speech. Osborne casts himself as a defender of the principle. “It is my duty as a scholar to vehemently oppose any attempts to restrict freedom of speech, and I shall do so until my dying breath,” he writes.
As it happens, I’m a free speech fundamentalist. If Carleton students want to hold a conference praising a murderous advocate of child rape, and if the university is content to host and promote the event, that’s their right. (Under Khomeini, Iran lowered the age when a girl could be “married” to nine; and the old man himself wrote that it was permissible to receive sexual pleasure from babies.)
Prominent Iranian-Canadians upset event at Carleton didn’t highlight poor human rights record of Islamic Iran’s founder
Carleton University is taking heat from academics and high profile members of Canada’s Iranian community for hosting a conference earlier this month that celebrated Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution in the late 1970s.
As the Ottawa Citizen reports, 10 Iranian-Canadian academics penned a letter to Carleton president Roseann O’Reilly Runte, detailing why they object to the university playing host to the event. Chief among their concerns is that Khomeini’s human rights record—which includes mass executions of political opponents and the imprisonment of academics—was not discussed at the June 2 event, organized by a student group called the Iranian Culture Association of Carleton University.
“We think reputable academic institutions have a moral obligation not to turn a blind eye on atrocities committed against their colleagues in other countries,” the letter reads, quoted by the Citizen.
A separate letter expressing concern over Khomeini’s portrayal at the event was drafted and signed by 14 prominent Iranian-Canadians, including former Miss Canada and human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam, recently married to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, the newspaper reports. “Carleton University, one of the leading academic institutions in this country, negligently permitted its campus to become the site of a celebration of a human rights violations, gender inequality and anti-Semitism,” the second letter stated, according to the Citizen.
For its part, Carleton says the university administration did not “sponsor or act as host” the Khomeini event, the newspaper reports.
Ayatolla Khomeini love-in offends
This post is republished from Michael Petrou’s The World Desk blog on Macleans.ca.
Ten Iranian-Canadian academics have written a letter to Carleton University President Roseann O’Reilly Runte to criticize the university for hosting a conference honouring Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding dictator of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The conference, titled “The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini’s Thoughts,” was organized by the Iranian embassy in Ottawa and the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, a student group headed by Ehsan Mohammadi, son of Hamid Mohammadi, who is the cultural counselor at the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.
Those wishing to attend the conference were asked to email the “Cultural Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which is run out of the Iranian embassy. Continue reading Iranian-Canadian academics slam Carleton U.
Conference featured controversial speaker
Republished from Michael Petrou’s The World Desk blog on Macleans.ca
Carleton University in Ottawa last weekend hosted a pro-Islamic Republic of Iran propaganda event sponsored in part by the Iranian embassy.
The conference, “The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini’s Thoughts,” was held to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founding dictator, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It was presented by the Cultural Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is run out of Iran’s embassy on Metcalfe Street, and the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University. Iranian students at Carleton in the past have contacted me to complain about attempts by the Iranian embassy to influence their student group at the university.
The conference featured a talk by Moulana Sayyid Muhhamad Rizvi, the “Guidance Alim” of a Toronto Islamic school whose teaching materials—some of which which were written in Iran or by a foundation believed by the FBI to be controlled by the Iranian government—refer to “crafty” and “treacherous” Jews. Continue reading Carleton hosts event honouring Ayatollah Khomeini
Mingling of sexes “thwarts scientific achievement”: leader
Iran’s higher education minister is studying the feasibility of separating men and women in university classes, labs and cafeterias, starting as early as September, reports The National, a newspaper from the United Arab Emirates.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, men and women have often segregated themselves in universities by sitting in separate rows.
That’s because many religious conservatives believe it’s immoral for men and women to mix in public. Ayatollah Safi Golpaigani, one of the country’s top religious figures, decreed in June that: “mingling of male and female [students] thwarts scientific achievements and causes great corruption.”
Shadi Sadr, a London-based lawyer and expert in Iran, told The National that the move is an attempt by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to rally his socially-conservative voter base ahead of the February 2012 elections.
Some students will surely be opposed. Tehran University students protested the requirement that men and women ride separately to class by boarding buses together in April. The university was also an important gathering place during the failed Green Revolution protests of June 2009.
As they chanted “death to the dictator,” riot police fired tear gas
Security forces and militiamen clashed with thousands of protesters shouting “death to the dictator” outside Tehran University on Monday. National Students Day is met with baton beatings and tear gas, witnesses said.
The protests were the largest in months, as university students—a bedrock of support for the pro-reform movement—sought to energize the opposition with rallies at campuses across the country. The opposition has been reeling under a fierce crackdown since turmoil erupted over the disputed presidential election in June.
Thousands of riot police, Revolutionary Guard forces and pro-government Basij militiamen flooded the area around Tehran University since the morning, vowing to prevent any unrest from spilling out into the streets.
Banners and signs bearing slogans from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blanketed the tall campus fence, hiding whatever took place inside. Cell phone networks around the universities were shut down, and police and members of the elite Revolutionary Guard surrounded all the university entrances and were checking IDs of anyone entering to prevent opposition activists from joining the students, witnesses said.
The heavy clampdown raised fears of an escalation of violence during Monday’s clashes. “There’s anxiety that there will be violence and shooting. I shout slogans and demonstrate but try not to provoke any clash with the security,” one Tehran University student, Kouhyar Goudarzi, told The Associated Press in Beirut by telephone. “We are worried.”
Clashes erupted when thousands of protesters massed in the streets outside Tehran in support of the students. As they chanted “death to the dictator,” riot police fired tear gas and Basij militiamen charged the crowds, the witnesses said.
The plainclothes Basijis beat protesters on the head and shoulders as the crowd scattered, then regrouped on nearby street corners. Nearby, protesters and Basijis pelted each other with stones, the witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Inside the university, thousands of students marched through the campus, many of them wearing surgical masks or scarves over their faces to protect against tear gas. Some wore green wristbands and waved green balloons, the colour of the opposition movement of Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Numbers tripled between 2002 and 2006, says university association
When the University of Alberta totalled up its applications from international graduate students wanting to study in Edmonton this September, the school noticed something it hadn’t seen before.
Typically, the largest group of students comes from China, followed by the United States and France. But this year, Iran led the way with 618 master’s and PhD applicants, a jump of 60 per cent over 2008.
The Islamic republic erupted in turmoil this summer, when a disputed election led to mass protests both inside the country and around the world.
“This year there is a very dramatic increase, and in all likelihood the political reason may play a role,” said Britta Baron, provost and vice-president international at the University of Alberta.
“They are well-trained by Iranian universities, the language barrier is not very serious and they seem to integrate very well.”
It’s a trend that has been noticed at other schools across the country and was happening even before this summer’s events.
The number of graduate students from Iran tripled between 2002 and 2006, according to figures from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Iran ranked sixth among countries sending graduate students to Canada in 2006, the association said.
At McGill in Montreal, Iran ranked 14th in 2003. It is now eighth, with 149 grad students accepted in 2008.
Lissa Matyas, recruitment director at McGill, said the jump is, in part, a result of a targeted marketing campaign. McGill advertises fellowship opportunities to students in specific faculties at prestigious Iranian schools.
“The admission in engineering has skyrocketed due to this proactive approach,” said Matyas, who added the difficulty Iranians have applying for visas to study in the United States has also been a boon for Canadian universities.
The brain drain from Iran to Alberta is good for both the University of Alberta, which is trying to recruit more researchers, and for the students, who are looking for more opportunities, said professor Alidad Amirfazli, who is originally from Iran.
“In Iran, education is also a praised value and Canada needs a knowledge-based workforce,” Amirfazli said.
Whether it’s Darfur, Iran or Afghanistan: how far is too far?
Last week, Jeff Rybak had a long, insightful post on this site about student politicians and the sticky situations they can get into when speaking on behalf of students on non-campus affairs. The question is generally the same regardless of the whether the topic is Darfur or Afghanistan: Should students’ unions advocate on social causes completely out of their area of influence? Do they need to have a foreign policy?
It can become awkward. Take last night at UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) council meeting, where in response to the Iranian crisis, a motion was put forward expressing “that the AMS condemn the invasion of a learning space, and… support Iranian students and their right to academic freedom.”
A small group of Iranian students was in attendance, told their personal stories, and asked their student union to support them. The motion was specifically restricted to the brutalities that occurred at universities. At UBC, Iranian students make up the third largest group of international graduate students. A slam dunk, right?
Erm, no. Perhaps spurred by a passionate blog post by a fellow councillor, student after student sheepishly stood up and explained that they couldn’t support the motion as it was written, in fears of setting a bad precedent.
“I think everyone supports supporting finding a better way to support the students in Iran,” said one councillor, displaying the sort of verbosity one gets when trying to argue against condemning the deaths of hundreds of innocent students.
The consensus was that a symbolic motion carried no weight, but if there was something tangible that the student union could be done, it should be. For example, following the Tiananmen Square massacre, UBC’s student union in conjunction with a Chinese student group sponsored the creation of a “Goddess of Democracy” statue, which sits outside the Student Union Building and has been a rallying point for protests over the years. Of course, the problem with this approach is that giant marble statues are not exactly cheap.
But for now, the motion has been sent back down to committee level to find a compromise. If all goes according to plan, a meeting in the near future will have a new motion on Iran. And around in circles we go…