An Oberlin professor known as the professor of peace has been called out for his past in the Iranian government for concealing information about mass executions in 1988.
Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, the Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in Middle East and North African Studies at Oberlin College in Oberlin, has been targeted by letter writers for his role in the Iranian government at that time.
Amnesty International wrote about the Iranian government's role in the killings and the cover-up in December of 2018, after then-prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was interviewed on camera.
"He (Mahallati) unashamedly propagated the same false narrative, used by other Iranian authorities for decades, to hide the truth that they had forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed at least 5,000 political dissidents as part of a systematic effort to eliminate political opposition," Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, was quoted in Amnesty International's blog called "Iran: Top government officials distorted the truth about 1988 prison massacre."
The Amnesty International piece specifically named Mahallati, who was then Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations, as being one of several top-level officials involved in "denying the mass killings in media interviews and exchanges with the UN to shield those responsible from accountability."
Oberlin College has come under fire for its hiring of Mahallati, who has been at the college since 2007, and is tenured.
In October, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar received a letter signed by 626 people, including former political prisoners and family members, about those who were executed, according to The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria.
"Based on no more than a few questions about their political or religious beliefs, prisoners who had already faced (albeit inadequate) trials and sentencing, who had served several years in prison, and who had been subjected to gruesome torture were sent by the Death Commission to hang," the letter said.
A Fox News investigation revealed that Mahallati made a specifically anti-Zionist statement when he was at the U.N. He has also made anti-Baha'I statements, according to the Oberlin Review, Oberlin College's student newspaper.
"The adoption, by the General Assembly in 1947, of resolution 181 (II) on the partition of the land of Palestine and the establishment of the Zionist entity was itself in violation of provisions of the United Nations Charter, as well as of the rules of international law," according to the story published Feb. 23.
David Hertz, chief of staff at Oberlin College, told the Oberlin Review the college is investigating.
"We've been in touch with Professor Mahallati," Hertz said. "We're concerned whenever anyone raises allegations of this nature about a member of faculty. We want to support our faculty, but we also want to consider the allegations themselves. That is the basis on which we've been in touch with Professor Mahallati. We are looking forward to his addressing these issues. He's taking steps to defend his reputation."
The Jerusalem Post reported that Oberlin College is investigating Mahillati, based on the letter.
Scott Wargo, director of media relations at Oberlin College, said in a May 18 email to the Cleveland Jewish News, the college has been in contact with Mahallati.
"We are aware of media reports regarding statements he is alleged of making during his appointment as a United Nations representative more than 30 years ago," Wargo wrote. "We are in touch with him about those reports and his response to them. An advocate for peace, he has dedicated himself to his scholarly work during his time at Oberlin and throughout his academic career."
Gregg A. Levine, chairman of the Community Relations Committee for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood, told JPost, "The Jewish Federation of Cleveland appreciates Oberlin College taking immediate action to investigate the serious allegations against Prof. Mahallati. If these allegations prove to be accurate, we are hopeful that the college will move just as quickly to remove this individual from its faculty."
Levine added, "We stand with our partners at Hillel in ensuring there's no place on any college campus in northeast Ohio for anyone who embraces hatred against any community or encourages war against a country."