Bloomberg: Iran condemned the establishment of a scholarship by Queen’s College at the University of Oxford in memory of an Iranian woman who died in the country’s post- election protests. By Ladane Nasseri and Ali Sheikholeslami
Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — Iran condemned the establishment of a scholarship by Queen’s College at the University of Oxford in memory of an Iranian woman who died in the country’s post- election protests, calling it a “politically motivated move.”
The Iranian Embassy in London wrote to the chancellor of Oxford, deploring the institution’s decision to offer a scholarship in philosophy “in the name of a killed woman to attract Iranian students,” the state-run Press TV channel said.
The college received a letter from the embassy, though the chancellor of the university didn’t, Maria Coyle, a spokeswoman for Oxford, said today in an e-mail while declining to comment on Iran’s condemnation of the scholarship program.
Neda Agha-Soltan, a 27-year-old graduate who had studied Islamic theology and secular philosophy, was fatally shot on June 20 at the edge of a demonstration in Tehran against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election days earlier. She became the symbol of the protests that were violently put down by authorities after Ahmadinejad’s disputed election win.
“The involvement of the university in Iran’s internal affairs, particularly in the country’s post-election events, of which the British media played a leading role, would lead to the loss of the university’s scientific prestige and academic goals,” according to an extract of the letter on Press TV.
The Iranian leadership said the U.S., the U.K. and the countries’ media organizations had encouraged protests by Ahmadinejad opponents, who allege that his re-election was rigged. Iranian officials said 36 people were killed in the street clashes, while the opposition put the toll at 72 and said some of the deaths were the result of beatings during detention.
The donor-funded scholarship pays the college’s fee, Queen’s College said on its Web site without giving details of the gifts. All students accepted into the college’s degree programs in philosophy are eligible, though preference is given to those of Iranian nationality or descent, it said.
“Donors make their own decisions, within reason, on how to name scholarships that they fund,” the college’s provost, Professor Paul Madden, was quoted as saying in an e-mailed statement from the university. “The donor who was instrumental in establishing the scholarship is a British citizen and is well known to the college.”
Madden said, “Oxford is increasingly losing out to its competitors in the race to recruit top graduate students,” according to the college’s Web site. “Donations such as those that have enabled us to create the Neda Agha-Soltan Scholarship are absolutely vital for us to continue to attract and retain the best young minds,” he said.
The establishment of the scholarship “will not help Iran and Britain improve their relations,” Iran’s embassy wrote.