Iranian-Americans on Saturday slammed Oberlin College for whitewashing the alleged “crimes against humanity” carried out by the college’s religion professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati during a 1988 massacre of innocent Iranian political prisoners.
Amnesty International declared in its widely praised 2018 report, which examined Mahallati’s role as the former Iranian regime ambassador to the UN in the 1988 mass murder, that Mahallati was “actively involved in denying the mass killings in media interviews and exchanges with the UN to shield those responsible from accountability.”
Amnesty implicated Mahallati in the mass executions of at least 5,000 Iranians.
Leading human rights experts and international jurists have concurred with Amnesty’s findings. Despite what Iran human rights experts and Amnesty say is overwhelming evidence against Mahallati, Oberlin College cleared Mahallati of the accusations against him.
Oberlin College Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo told the Oberlin Chronicle-Telegram that last week that “Oberlin deeply empathizes with the pain and suffering caused by the executions in Iran. After becoming aware of the allegations against Prof. Mahallati, Oberlin initiated its own process to determine their validity. After consulting a number of sources, and evaluating the public record, the college could find no evidence to corroborate the allegations against Prof. Mahallati, including that he had specific knowledge of the murders taking place in Iran.”
Bosworth Hall at Oberlin College (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In an opinion article titled “The Butcher of Oberlin” on the news website of The Washington Examiner, Len Khodorkovsky, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and senior advisor to the US tepresentative for Iran, and Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American human rights activist and the sister of one of the victims of the 1988 massacre, Bijan Bazargan, blasted Oberlin College’s inquiry into Mahallati for its severe deficiencies.
The authors stressed that ”no report was published of any such investigation” and the college has not been “transparent.”
Bazargan told The Jerusalem Post “In light of the claims of Oberlin College that they found ‘no evidence of wrongdoing,’ we call on president [Carmen Twillie] Ambar to allow an international delegation to conduct a fact-finding mission and probe into the 1988 Massacre and the role of Mahallati in it.”
She added that “Unfortunately, since day one of the publication of our letter in October 2020, the school only ignored us, tried to silence the media coverage around this story… and now say we did not find any evidence without explaining who did the investigation, what methods were used, who they talked to, and why the family members and the accusers, in this case, were not contacted to be interviewed and allowed to submit their evidence. We want justice and accountability and we want it now.”
Bazargan is part of a broad-based organization called Oberlin Committee for Justice for Mahallati’s Victims that plans to protest against Mahallat’s continued employment at Oberlin College on November, 2 in front of the college’s Cox administration building.
The New York Times reported in November 1988 that Galindo Pohl, the special rapporteur for Iran at the time, “accused Iran of serious human rights violations, including a wave of political executions last summer when Iraq got the upper hand in the war in the Persian Gulf.”
The political executions refer to the massacre of Iranians in the summer of 1988. The Times report is another piece of evidence that Mahallati had knowledge of the massacre and covered it up, according to his critics.
The Post sent press queries to Wargo and David Hertz, chief of staff to Oberlin College president Ambar, and David Kamitsuka, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College. The Post asked for a copy of the investigation report and for the sources for the college’s report, as well as whether the college will permit an independent inquiry into the allegations against Mahallati.
The Post has learned that Kamitsuka has gone to great lengths to insulate Mahallati from the devastating allegation of crimes against humanity against the former Iranian regime envoy. Kamitsuka refused to respond to a Post query.
In an October 2020 email to the Post, Mahallati denied the allegations that he aided Iran’s regime in its crimes against humanity. However, the Post has reached out to Mahallati a number of times since February to answer queries about his UN speeches opposing Israel’s existence, promoting genocidal antisemitism, encouraging violent jihad against the Jewish state and denigrating the Baha’i faith. He has refused to answer.
The student newspaper Oberlin Review reported on Friday that “the College has not contacted Baha’i faculty or students regarding either the allegations against Mahallati or the subsequent investigation.”
The paper noted that “the Chair of the Geology Department Amanda Schmidt was the Baha’i affiliate with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life when the accusations were initially made.”
Schmidt said, “I was not reached out to by anyone in the administration to follow up on or provide support for the Baha’i students on campus [or] Baha’i faculty and staff members related to these accusations.”
Mahallati delivered slashing attacks against the persecuted Baha’i community while he served at the UN.
Melissa Landa, a graduate of Oberlin College and the founding director of Alliance for Israel, said that “Either Oberlin College did not do its homework on Mahallati when it hired him or it didn’t care about his criminal history. Finding against him in their internal investigation would have meant admitting to one of the two. That wasn’t going to happen.”
She added that “On a campus that specializes in anti-Israel forms of antisemitism, from the silence of its Hillel director and the abdication of its administration to the relentless attacks of JVP [Jewish Voice for Peace] and SFP [Students for a Free Palestine], Oberlin College was never going to object to Mahallati’s praise for violence against innocent Israelis.”
The US Education Department Office of Civil Rights confirmed in an email to Landa in October that it is evaluating her complaint against Oberlin College, alleging the college created an environment hostile for Jewish students and tolerated Mahallati’s glorification of terrorism and pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel) activities. Oberlin College declined to comment on the complaint.
Khodorkovsky and Bazargan also took Oberlin College and its spokesman Wargo to task for ignoring Mahallati’s alleged genocidal antisemitism. “Even worse, he claimed that Mahallati’s ‘record at Oberlin includes no instances of the antisemitic 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,” they wrote.
Mahallati, who sports the title of “Professor of Peace” at Oberlin, defended the Islamic Republic’s attacks on US military personnel in 1988. According to a New York Times article, Iran’s regime attacked an American guided-missile cruiser Wainwright, resulting in the killings of two US crew members Capt. Stephen C. Leslie of New Bern, North Carolina, and Capt. Kenneth W. Hill of Thomasville, North Carolina
Mahallati said ”The American administration has miserably failed both politically and militarily,” with respect to a report that Tehran had destroyed three American ships, adding this will ”show the United States the lesson no one learned in Vietnam.”
After critics unleashed questions and criticism at Oberlin College for clearing Mahallati, the college’s president blocked the Chinese-American scholar of Iran, Xiyue Wang, on Twitter.
I was blocked by Oberlin president when I tagged her asking why she is blocking people who are questioning Oberlin’s employment of an ex Iran regime official. Do you want to spend $70k to send your kids to schools like this that just cancel the unpleasant questioning?? pic.twitter.com/ll3TXGooVo
— Xiyue Wang (@XiyueWang9) October 15, 2021
He tweeted: ”I was blocked by Oberlin president when I tagged her asking why she is blocking people who are questioning Oberlin’s employment of an ex Iran regime official. Do you want to spend $70k to send your kids to schools like this that just cancel the unpleasant questioning??”
Iran’s regime held Wang as a hostage in Iran from 2016 to 2019 on allegedly trumped-up charges of espionage.
.@oberlincollege parents are paying $80,000+ for their kids to be educated by an anti-Semitic, anti-Baha’i “Professor of Peace” complicit in a massacre. Why is Oberlin President Carmen Ambar blocking everyone drawing her attention to this obvious problem? https://t.co/W9bRY8YcKM pic.twitter.com/1UdLa5XsXq
— Len Khodorkovsky (@MessageFromLen) October 16, 2021
Khodorkovsky tweeted that “Oberlin College parents are paying $80,000+ for their kids to be educated by an [antisemitic], anti-Baha’i ‘Professor of Peace’ complicit in a massacre. Why is Oberlin President Carmen Ambar blocking everyone drawing her attention to this obvious problem?”