Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Iranian University Chancellors Ask Bollinger 10 Questions

Posted by vmsalama on September 27, 2007

The letter below is a brilliant rebuttal from the Iranian academic community in response to the blistering introductory remarks by Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger to a talk given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on Monday afternoon.  Below this, I posted my remarks following the forum with regard to Bollinger and the controversy surrounding the invitation to Columbia’s World Leaders’ Forum. 
For anyone who is interested, you can also refer to the following links to read my coverage of the event:
Newsweek: President Ahmedinejad Goes to Columbia
Washington Post/PostGlobal: Ahmedinejad Provokes Important Discussions
[exerpts from Bollinger’s introduction]
Iranian University Chancellors Ask Bollinger 10 Questions
TEHRAN – Seven chancellors and presidents of Iranian universities and research centers, in a letter addressed to their counterpart in the US Colombia University, denounced Lee Bollinger’s insulting words against the Iranian nation and president and invited him to provide responses for 10 questions of the Iranian academicians and intellectuals.The following is the full text of the letter.
* * * *
Mr. Lee Bollinger
Columbia University PresidentWe, the professors and heads of universities and research institutions in
Tehran , hereby announce our displeasure and protest at your impolite remarks
prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at Columbia
University.
We would like to inform you that President Ahmadinejad was elected directly by
the Iranian people through an enthusiastic two-round poll in which almost all
of the country’s political parties and groups participated. To assess the
quality and nature of these elections you may refer to US news reports on the
poll dated June 2005.
Your insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with a
population of 72 million and a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization
and culture is deeply shameful.
Your comments, filled with hate and disgust, may well have been influenced by
extreme pressure from the media, but it is regrettable that media policy-makers
can determine the stance a university president adopts in his speech.
Your remarks about our country included unsubstantiated accusations that were
the product of guesswork as well as media propaganda. Some of your claims
result from misunderstandings that can be clarified through dialogue and
further research.
During his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad answered a number of your questions and
those of students. We are prepared to answer any remaining questions in a
scientific, open and direct debate.
You asked the president approximately ten questions. Allow us to ask you ten of
our own questions in the hope that your response will help clear the atmosphere
of misunderstanding and distrust between our two countries and reveal the
truth.
Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad
from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV
networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while
refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the
principle of freedom of speech?
Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran’s national
government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah’s
dictatorship?
Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the
1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical
weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own
people?
Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of
Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it
oppose Iran ‘s proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a
general referendum?
Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even
with all its advanced equipment? How do you justify the old friendship between
the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals? How can you
justify the Bush administration’s efforts to disrupt investigations concerning
the September 11 attacks?
Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO)
despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the
responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq? Why
does the US refuse to allow Iran ‘s current government to act against the MKO’s
main base in Iraq?
Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did
international institutions support it? What was the real purpose behind the
invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives? Where are the
weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?
Why do America’s closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely
undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?
Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons
in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of
Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than
Israel?
Why is the US displeased with Iran’s agreement with the IAEA and why does it
openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the
nuclear issue under international law?
Finally, we would like to express our readiness to invite you and other
scientific delegations to our country. A trip to Iran would allow you and your
colleagues to speak directly with Iranians from all walks of life including
intellectuals and university scholars. You could then assess the realities of
Iranian society without media censorship before making judgments about the
Iranian nation and government.
You can be assured that Iranians are very polite and hospitable toward their
guests.
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2 Responses to “Iranian University Chancellors Ask Bollinger 10 Questions”

  1. Rita said

    The hawks among the American politicians and their desperate dependents among the academicians won’t allow any bridges for meaningful exchange between the American Iranian. The spotlight on M.Ahmadinejad is to stir up the atmosphere
    so emotions get more charged for a heavy-handed approach towards Teheran.

    Columbia Alumnus Crawford Kilian advises us to think very carefully whenever anyone suggests war as a solution to a political problem, or uses semantically loaded terms to stampede people to a desired position.

    There could be some possible reasons as to why the Iranian leader is used as a punching bag by some to release their pent up feelings :

    Aggravating the nuisance value of what he has to say, discredits his views and thus undermines his position.

    The more an image of the “lurking enemy” is reinforced, the more you can promote your role as the “saviour”. The “imminent danger” scenario helps bring supporter rally around a cause to align and identify with. So little wonders why Ahmadinejad
    is an all-time favourite for war-mongers.

    There are many American academics who speak of strategies to get along peaceably with the leadership of Iran, Syria and the likes. Why we do not get to hear such alternate opinions may not be a mystery if the spotlight on M. Ahmedinejad is in fact aimed at bulldozing any meaningful exchange about American- Iranian relations.

    When seeking any analysis on Iran, some TV shows can do better if they could ideally invite those who are acclaimed for their knowledge about the country, know the way the Iranian society think and works and those who know at least the basics of Persian language. More often than not the media obliges comments by those who know little of Iran, its language, society and people.

  2. KM said

    As a person born in America, I personally agree with the chancellors of the Iranian universities in their displeasure with the Columbia University President. If America is a country that stands for “free speech”, shouldn’t the President of Iran be able to voice his opinions as honestly as he wished? It was outright disrespectful for the Columbia’s president to basically degrade the character of President Ahmedinejad. And as a person born in America, I am VERY displeased as well. America claims to be a some kind of role model for the rest of the world, however, this incident really contradicts that notion. As a leader and as someone that many people look up to, Columbia University President, Lee Bolinger, should have never uttered those degrading words out of his mouth to another leader. And this situation should prove to him and many others that President Lee Bolinger is no better that President Ahmedinejad. It may be true that Pres. Ahmedinejad have probably done some things wrong, like every other person and leader in this world. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to blatantly disrespect him like that. Give honor and respect where honor and respect is due….

    In addition to my response, when seeking any analysis on Iran, I believe there has to be some kind of first-hand experience when it comes to knowing the Iranian culture, language, mannerisms, and reasoning. Obviously, you cannot trust the American government to relay this information honestly because they truly cannot be trusted, especially upon the onset and duration of the Iraq war (also known as the “war on terror”). And although people tend to trust the media more than they do the government, the question of whether or not you can really trust American media is becoming a more frequent question in the minds of American people. Also another issue with the American media is that it is full of stereotypes and misconceptions of what is actually truth. And this is due to the restrictions and pressure that the American government puts on the media. Even when it comes to the educated people of America, I believe that even they can’t really give a good analysis on Iran or any other country for that matter simply because many intellectuals and scholars get their information solely from books while the experiential part of their study is not relied upon as heavily as it needs to be. I rather look to sources outside this country on the truth about issues regarding other countries. They seem to be more trustworthy when it comes to knowing the truth about the world.

    -KM-

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