Three prominent critics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the first Nobel Prize laureate from the Muslim world, wrote a public letter addressed to Oberlin College’s president Carmen Twillie Ambar accusing the college of “whitewashing” the alleged crimes against humanity carried out by its professor Mohammed Jafar Mahallati.
The stinging letter was released on Monday and stated that “the process by which the [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 Azar Nafisi, and Ladan Boroumand, a historian and co-founder of Abdurrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran.
Amnesty International determined in an exhaustive 2017 report that Mahallati covered up the mass murder of at least 5,000 innocent Iranian dissidents in 1988. In a statement to the Jerusalem Post in 2020, Mahallati denied the Amnesty International allegation that he was complicit in the 1988 massacre.
Mahallati, who teaches Islam in the religious studies department at Oberlin, 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, depend on it.”
The letter added that “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.”