Nobel laureate calls out Oberlin College for ‘whitewashing’ role of professor in purge of Iranian dissidents

Oberlin professor of religion was Iran’s UN ambassador in the late 1980s

By Benjamin Weinthal | Fox News

Published December 20, 2022 9:52am EST

In a new blow against embattled Oberlin College in Ohio, Iranian Noble Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi blasted the liberal arts college for whitewashing the crimes against humanity leveled against its Islamic studies professor, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati.

Fox News Digital obtained the Dec. 12 letter addressed to Oberlin College’s President Carmen Twillie Ambar. 

“The process by which this [Oberlin College] investigation was conducted, and its bizarre finding that Mr. Mahallati had no knowledge of the killings, leads us to conclude that the investigation was an exercise in whitewashing a controversy rather than an attempt to arrive the truth,” wrote Ebadi, along with the popular author and former professor of English, Azar Nafisi, and Ladan Boroumand, a historian and co-founder of Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Amnesty International and leading international legal experts determined that Mahallati covered up the Islamic Republic of Iran’s mass murder of political prisoners and dissidents in 1988. One estimate notes that the clerical regime, including its current President Ebrahim Raisi, executed at least 5,000 innocent Iranian prisoners.

Mahallati served as the Iranian regime’s ambassador to the United Nations between 1987 and 1989. 

The authors of the letter requested, “that Oberlin authorize a third party to conduct a transparent investigation of the allegations against Mr. Mahallati. Your university’s reputation, and your commitment to justice and fairness, depends on it.”

The letter lambasted Oberlin College’s previous inquiry into Mahallati as a sham process that contradicts the values of the college.

“The cumulative weight of the evidence is why we were so disappointed to learn that, aside from hiring Mr. Mahllati and granting him tenure, Oberlin conducted a secretive investigation that arrived at his wholly implausible exoneration. To our knowledge, Oberlin spoke to no experts or victims about this issue in its investigation.”

The authors of the letter wrote to Ambar that, “We have also learned that several hundred families of victims of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran brought Mr. Mahallati’s background to your attention in an October 2020 open letter and subsequent correspondences, but that you have taken no credible action in this regard. We write to add our voice to theirs, seeking an impartial and independent investigation.” 

The letter also stated that, “As the United Nations and Amnesty International both note, Mr. Mahallati exerted great effort in denying the killings and portraying them as foreign propaganda.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital about Mahallati that, “We’re not going to comment on reports regarding a private citizen’s specific views, but we continue to vocally defend respect for human rights in Iran and around the world and to promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses.”

The letter to Oberlin concluded that, “It is our collective expert opinion that Mr. Mahallati knew, or should have known, about the killings taking place in 1988. Even if he did not know (which is a highly unlikely scenario), a reasonable person in his position would have investigated and learned of the killings. Thus, Mahallati’s lies to the United Nations about the killings reveal an intent to mislead the world about the killings in an effort to assist in their cover-up. “

Fox News Digital exclusively reported in 2021 that Mahallati called for the destruction of Israel and a global jihad against the Jewish state. Fox News Digital also first disclosed that Mahallati waged a high-intensity campaign at the U.N. to persecute the peaceful religious minority community, the Bahai’s, in Iran.

The presence of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ebadi behind the letter will likely ratchet up the pressure on Oberlin College’s administration to confront the growing scandal surrounding Mahallati.

According to the website of the Nobel Prize, Ebadi won the award, “for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.” 

Oberlin College sources told Fox News Digital that Mahallati has stayed tight-lipped about the ongoing protests in Iran against the theocratic state due to the regime’s alleged murder of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini

Amini was arrested in September for failing to properly wear her hijab and was tortured in the custody of the regime’s notorious morality police.

In September, congressional representatives, Jim Banks (R-Indiana) and Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) launched in an inquiry into Mahallati’s links to Iran’s regime.

Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American human rights activist who has been leading a grassroots campaign to secure Mahallati’s discharge as a professor, told Fox News Digital, “Iran’s Islamic regime has started a new wave of suppression and executions, similar to the ones in the 1980s, dubbed the bloody decade. The Islamic Republic of Iran uses the same playbook used by Mahallati to accuse disgruntled citizens of being Mohareb (one who wages war against God).”

Bazargan, whose brother Bijan was murdered during the 1988 massacre, said “By protecting Mahallati, an Islamic regime apologist, Oberlin College is acting as an accomplice in the oppression of a new generation of Iranians and is responsible for their torture, rape, and public hanging. Oberlin’s message to Iranian officials is that there are no consequences for tyranny and injustice, and they can reinvent themselves as professors of peace and friendship.”

Fox News Digital sent multiple written press queries to Oberlin’s President Ambar and Mahallati, including messages on voice mails. In response to the Fox News report and an article in the Oberlin student paper Oberlin Review, Oberlin College issued a fact sheet about the Mahallati affair on its website in October 2021. 

Mahallati retained a lawyer at the time and said, “The official positions I formally took at the United Nations during the time I served do not portray my personal views…It is important to note that my accusers have not found a single statement from me that is remotely consistent with the unfounded accusations.” 

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