Academics, public figures, pen protest letter over Khomeini event

Prominent Iranian-Canadians upset event at Carleton didn’t highlight poor human rights record of Islamic Iran’s founder

Carleton University is taking heat from academics and high profile members of Canada’s Iranian community for hosting a conference earlier this month that celebrated Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution in the late 1970s.

As the Ottawa Citizen reports, 10 Iranian-Canadian academics penned a letter to Carleton president Roseann O’Reilly Runte, detailing why they object to the university playing host to the event. Chief among their concerns is that Khomeini’s human rights record—which includes mass executions of political opponents and the imprisonment of academics—was not discussed at the June 2 event, organized by a student group called the Iranian Culture Association of Carleton University.

“We think reputable academic institutions have a moral obligation not to turn a blind eye on atrocities committed against their colleagues in other countries,” the letter reads, quoted by the Citizen.

A separate letter expressing concern over Khomeini’s portrayal at the event was drafted and signed by 14 prominent Iranian-Canadians, including former Miss Canada and human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam, recently married to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, the newspaper reports. “Carleton University, one of the leading academic institutions in this country, negligently permitted its campus to become the site of a celebration of a human rights violations, gender inequality and anti-Semitism,” the second letter stated, according to the Citizen.

For its part, Carleton says the university administration did not “sponsor or act as host” the Khomeini event, the newspaper reports.