In October 2020, a group of former political prisoners in Iran, families of executed political prisoners, human rights activists who work for justice and accountability, and international jurists who have examined Iran's gross human rights abuses began calling for the removal of Mohammad Jafar Mahallati from his post at Oberlin College.
Mahallati, who has been accused of crimes against humanity by Amnesty International , is serving as the Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in Middle East and North African Studies at Oberlin College.
Based on the information outlined in a letter dated Oct. 8, 2020 , Oberlin employs a human rights abuser in a tenured position. This is an insult to his victims and a grave injustice that contradicts Oberlin College's "enduring commitment to a sustainable and just society."
In the summer of 1988, thousands of political prisoners were sentenced to death by Iran's notorious "Death Commission," co-chaired by the Iranian regime's current president, Ebrahim Raisi, nicknamed "The Butcher of Tehran." The prisoners, who had already served several years after being sentenced in sham trials, were asked a series of arbitrary questions about their religious or political beliefs and then unilaterally sent to the gallows. Many of them endured gruesome torture before being murdered. Their bodies were dumped in unmarked mass graves.
One of the organizers of this atrocious scheme was Mohammad Jafar Mahallati. As the Islamic Republic of Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, he was a crucial player in the regime's efforts to minimize, obscure, and erase this mass slaughter.
According to the evidence in Amnesty International's report, " Blood-Soaked Secrets ," Mahallati, on multiple occasions, has denied the existence of the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. He has called U.N. reports on this "nothing but propaganda," misleading the international community with false and fabricated statements claiming that "many killings had, in fact, occurred on the battlefield." He also called the U.N. resolution on this issue "unjust" and "fake information." Mahallati's allegations have been proven categorically false again and again. While he claims no knowledge of the political killings, multiple statements from the U.N. and Amnesty International made between August and December 1988 indicate that he is lying.
Oberlin College gave Mahallati the title of "Professor of Peace." Not only is this "peace professor" implicated in the killing of thousands of Iranians, but he also called for the destruction of Israel and has a long record of antisemitic statements.
During a speech at the U .N. in 1989, Mahallati called Israel "an Islamic territory, an Islamic heritage," and "an Islamic point of identity." He concluded, "Its occupation by Zionist usurpers is a transgression against all Muslims of the world, and its liberation is therefore a great religious obligation and commitment."
Oberlin's professor of peace also complained about the condemnation of the Islamic Republic's persecution of its peaceful Baha'i community , drawing a moral equivalence between this and the fact that the "European Parliament had the right to retrain the activities of the followers of certain sects" and "the United States had the right to execute murderers."
Regrettably, despite a promise by Oberlin College President Carmen Ambar and David Hertz , Ambar's chief of staff, who investigated Mahallati's role in the 1988 massacre, no report was published of any such investigation. Rather than being transparent, Oberlin College Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo incredibly stated that, despite Amnesty International's findings , "The college could find no evidence to corroborate the allegations against professor Mahallati, including that he had specific knowledge of the murders taking place in Iran." Even worse, he claimed that Mahallati's "record at Oberlin includes no instances of the anti-Semitic or anti-Israel behavior of which he has been accused." That's a lot like giving war criminals a pass because they didn't commit any recent war crimes while in hiding.
In contrast to Oberlin's protection of Mahallati, Sweden is trying Hamid Noury , a former Iranian assistant deputy prosecutor, for war crimes in connection with the 1988 massacre.
According to Amnesty International, "direct perpetrators of the prison massacres are not the only people who must be subject to criminal investigations...all former and current officials who have contributed to the climate of secrecy and denial facilitating the continued enforced disappearances of thousands of victims must also be held to account."
President Ambar owes it to Oberlin and society to hold Mahallati to account. Do not let his inhumane deed stain Oberlin's reputation. Uphold the college's principles, and out of respect for the thousands of victims of the 1988 massacre and their long-suffering families, fire Mohammad Jafar Mahallati.