On May 12, 2020, the Iranians of Berlin, like other compatriots in various cities in the United States and Europe, intend to take part in a demonstration against the presence of Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, professor of Islam and peace studies at the Oberlin College. Mahallati is the former ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, representing the Iranian government during the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988. While at the UN, Mahallati called the massacre a lie and "political propaganda against the Islamic Republic." In addition, his statements against the Baháʼí Faith and Baha'is of Iranat the United Nations in the early 1980s and his relentless defense of the Islamic Republic's anti-Israel doctrine and policies, its support for Hamas, and its encouragement of students to propagate the BDS campaign (The Boycott, Divestment, Sanction of Israel) further highlight the specific role of this key player of the Iranian government.
Despite the protests of the victims' families and disapproval of the Iranians about the presence of a justifier of a massacre, who had a specific governmental responsibility during the bloodbath of 1988, the University of Oberlin and its president refuse to offer any specific response and even ignore the request to meet the families of the victims of the 1988 Massacre.
It is very disappointing that the authorities of Oberlin College, a role model of culture and art in the United States, support the agent of an anti-cultural Islamic regime that suppresses and executes dissident Iranian artists, writers, and scientists or forces them into exile. Also, Mahallati was representing a regime that has repeatedly held Holocaust cartoon festivals in denial of this historic crime against humanity, and the university administration must condemn these acts.
When the case of Mahallati was brought to attention by the "Justice for Mahallati Victims" campaign in the United States, and the freedom-loving Iranians protested his employment at Oberlin, this story attracted the attention of the Iranian community on the Internet. Some have called the university too liberal, and some called it too conservative.
Oberlin College is one of the oldest universities in the United States and has a unique history. The university was founded in 1833 in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1835, the university officially changed its policy, enrolling a black man as a student for the first time in the United States. The university also awarded a woman a bachelor's degree in 1841, which was unprecedented. From the outset, the University of Oberlin shifted its political stance toward the abolition of slavery and opposition to other racist laws.
The policies of the Oberlin College have always been a point of contention between liberals and conservatives in the United States for more than 170 years. After the election of former US President Donald Trump, the controversy over the socio-political aspects of this college escalated significantly. During Trump's presidency, the far-right media practically portrayed the college as a producer of " Social Justice Warrior", a hint to the university's radical liberal views, and on the other hand, students with leftist and sometimes extremist views challenged the ideas and actions of conservatives with their social activities in the urban space.
This confrontation between the two groups and perspectives, especially in the tense period of the presidency of Donald Trump, given the position of Ohio State and its importance as one of the determining states in the presidential election, intensified to the extent that the Oberlin College became the center of events and this even caused problems in the city. The Gibson Bakery incident, in which a black student fought with the white son of the owner, made headlines in local, state, and even national media. The white son of the owner of the Gibson Bakery chased a black student for stealing two bottles of wine, and the court's case escalated to the point where the social supporters of both sides practically used it for electoral and political purposes.
In addition to the contentious issues between the two campaigns, such as racism, the arrival of immigrants in general, and Latin American immigrants in particular, Islamophobia is one of the issues on which the two sides have always had a dispute over it. To intimidate voters and advance their aims, extremist right-wingers in the United States use the issue of immigrants, especially crimes committed by ISIS or the Iranian clerical rulers, to sensitize society to a danger that is not so real in American society (in comparison with Europe). On the other hand, left-wing radicals go so far that they even downplay the Islamist's crimes in Iran and in the Middle East.
The Islamic Republic's lobby in Washington has always taken advantage of the conflict between these two political poles to whitewash the faces of criminals such as Mahallati, Hossein Mousavian, and Khamenei's fundamentalist representative, Mohammad Ali Elahi, the head of the Iranian Regime's Islamic mosque in Chicago.
The history of NIAC, which is recognized by Iranians living in the United States as the lobby of the Islamic Republic, confirms this tactic of the regime. NIAC's use of left-wing, anti-war groups such as the Code Pink is one example of these tactics. The Iranian government's lobby in the United States has even taken many activists of these left-wing and anti-war groups to Iran by launching travel tours and even publishing their books.
Now, regarding these points, it is noticeable that most Iranians living in the United States, whose main enemy is the Islamic Republic, are inclined toward the right and, sometimes regardless of the consequences of actions and statements by rightist groups, take their side.
Therefore, liberal figures and activists who have a particularly influential position in the management of prestigious universities, seeing the right-wing supporters in Iranian campaigns, are no longer even willing to listen and examine the explanations of the opponents of the Islamic Republic. With their reactionary and one-sided approach, they ignore credible evidence of crimes committed by Iranian government agents who have penetrated their educational institutions. This negligence of universities' liberal officials is pushing Iranians, who have only the support of the far-right media, further to the right, and this vicious circle practically leads to the ineffectiveness of the activities and campaigns of the freedom-loving Iranians. The main winner, of course, is the Islamic Republic and to some extent, the far right, which, takes advantage of sympathies among Iranians to show that liberals don't care about human rights violation in Iran.
Therefore, in the gathering which takes place in Berlin on May 12, 2022, we will ask highlight the request of the family members of the victims of the 1988 massacre to meet with the President of the Oberlin College, Mrs. Carmen Twillie Ambar.
The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Iran International