Iran General NewsIranian minister flaunts bogus Oxford degree

Iranian minister flaunts bogus Oxford degree

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ImageThe Guardian: When sceptical MPs questioned the eligibility of Ali Kordan to be Iran's interior minister, he believed he had the perfect riposte; a law degree obtained from one of the world's most elite institutions, the University of Oxford.

The Guardian

Robert Tait

ImageWhen sceptical MPs questioned the eligibility of Ali Kordan to be Iran's interior minister, he believed he had the perfect riposte; a law degree obtained from one of the world's most elite institutions, the University of Oxford.

He even flaunted a graduation certificate on university-headed paper purporting to award him an "honorary doctorate of law" for "opening a new chapter" in comparative legal studies.

Now Kordan's extravagant claims have landed him in hot water and severely embarrassed the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the university denied ever having awarded him a degree.

Less than a week after being confirmed in his post, he is facing calls to resign after Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's parliament, the Majlis, ordered a committee to investigate the authenticity of his academic qualifications.

Kordan, a former revolutionary guard and university lecturer, was approved against strong opposition in a parliamentary vote after Ahmadinejad, in a highly unusual step, told MPs that his nomination had the personal backing of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But pressure on him grew after media outlets followed up allegations by some MPs that his claims to Oxford alma mater status were fantasy and that his academic qualifications amounted to no more than a mid-level college diploma.

Amid a flurry of speculation, Kordan released a copy of his Oxford "certificate" in an attempt to lay the matter to rest.

Dated June 2000, the certificate said Kordan had "shown great effort in preparing educational materials" and bore the signatures of three professors, Edmund Rolls, Alan Cowey and PE Bryant in a awarding him a degree from the university's "faculty of the college of law".

Rather than quell the controversy, however, the document only fuelled it further after the news website, Alef – linked to Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the parliament's research centre and a critic of Ahmadinejad – passed it to the University of Oxford, which disavowed it.

In a statement, the university said: "The University of Oxford has no record of Mr Ali Kordan receiving an honorary doctorate or any other degree from the university.

"Professor Edmund Rolls, Professor Peter Bryant and Professor Alan Cowey have all at some stage held posts at the University of Oxford. However, none of them work in the field of law, and none of them would sign degree certificates."

A spokesperson said the university generally awarded honorary degrees to distinguished scholars.

Alef posted the statement on its site alongside Kordan's "certificate", in which it gleefully pointed out several grammatical and spelling errors, including a misspelling of the word entitle as "intitle".

The government hit back yesterday by blocking internet access to Alef, a tactic it has used against other critical sites.

Ahmadinejad – who is not considered close to Kordan and only nominated him as a compromise candidate – has publicly defended him by saying he should not be judged on a "piece of torn paper", a phrase he has often used to dismiss UN security council resolutions against Iran's nuclear programme.

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