An Iranian Refugee Speaks On Professor Mahallati

Undoubtedly, you have not heard of me. I am just one of hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens who were forced by the terrorist regime under Ruhollah Khomeni and Ali Khameni to leave their beloved homeland in the past decades. Unlike you, I don’t get to study at one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the U.S. I live a much simpler life in a developing country in Latin America: the only place I could run away to after the Iranian regime began to investigate my political cartoons and activities. While you know nothing of me, I and many other young people from Iran have heard all about your college. Specifically, we have been shocked to hear you employ a former Iranian regime diplomat, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, as a professor of Religion and Islamic Studies. We have been stunned to hear that this official is involved with interdisciplinary courses in the field of “friendship and forgiveness studies.”

Much of the debate about Professor Mahallati’s position at your college seems to focus on the question of whether he knew about certain mass executions of dissidents by the regime, and whether, as an Iranian diplomat at the United Nations, he knowingly misled the world about them. But debating this question is a waste of time. We will never know whether Professor Mahallati knew about the specific crimes committed by the regime, and was periodically parroting the denialist propaganda coming from his superiors in Tehran merely as a part of his job, or whether he really believed what he was saying, unaware of his colleagues’ crimes.

Let’s look at it in the light most favorable to him: that he didn’t know about these massacres, and that he presented Tehran’s excuses and denials at the U.N. with sincerity and credulity. The point here is not what exactly Professor Mahallati did, said, or believed while employed by the terrorist regime in Tehran. The point is that he voluntarily worked for this regime as an international representative and diplomat. People like him — soft-spoken, well-mannered, bureaucratic drones — are exactly the reason why the regime apparatus exists, and why it continues to oppress my people. Individually, such people do nothing of note. In fact, they might well be incapable of killing a fly, let alone planning a crime. Together, as part of the bureaucratic apparatus working for the usurper’s regime in Tehran, such people are the trivial face of unspeakable evil. They are the cogs and bolts in the apparatus of a regime that represents true depravity and sadism like almost no other.

Islam does not know national chauvinism. But the regime viciously promotes Persian language and toxic Persian ethnic supremacism at the cost of the many other Indigenous peoples of Iran, their languages, or cultures: Baluchs, Arabs, Armenians, Lurs, Jews, Georgians, Kurds, Turkmen, Azerbaijanis, and many others. One of the very first acts of the so-called “Islamic Republic” in 1979 was ethnocidal mass murder against rebellious Kurds; countless other non-Persian Indigenous ethnic groups have been targeted since then by discrimination, land theft, and forced assimilation. Shia Islamic thought emphasizes social justice and compassion, but the regime emphasizes social-Darwinist capitalism with no limits. The rich live in huge villas filled with the latest imported luxury goods, while the poor literally starve. The regime consciously chooses to spend the money on terrorism, bombs, and war, rather than on helping Iranian citizens put bread on the table. This is the reality of the regime Professor Mahallati chose to work for.

I do not wish to tell you to sack Professor Mahallati. America has academic freedom, and this principle is more valuable than a trivial villain like Professor Mahallati. Instead, I ask your students to stand up for the less privileged; for those who were murdered, tortured or robbed of their home by the regime which Professor Mahallati worked for. Raise your voice for them. Every time you attend a class with this professor, bring one of the flags of the oppressed Indigenous peoples of Iran to class and stick it to your desk. Fly the free colors of Kurdistan, of South Azerbaijan, of Balochistan, of Turkmen Sahra, of Arab Ahwaz, and all the other cultures and identities the tyrants in Tehran are trying to destroy and assimilate into oblivion. Wear a t-shirt with a photo of a dissenter murdered by the regime, like Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, who was killed in 1989 by regime agents in the conference room while trying to negotiate peace. If there is an empty chair in your classroom, dedicate it to all the young, poor men in Balochistan who won’t be able to sit in any university classroom because they have been hanged by the racist regime on false drug charges, scapegoats to hide the fact that the regime’s so-called “revolutionary guards” are the biggest narco-mafia in Middle Eastern history. Make sure Professor Mahallati sees the reality of the regime every day, so he cannot hide behind ignorance about what system he served in his own past role.

The classroom should not be a venue for the ex-servants of tyranny to posture as intellectuals. If you want real education at your college, turn the tables, use your right to non-violent dissent. Give Professor Mahallati a peaceful but vivid lesson in what freedom and democracy really mean.