Iran General NewsKhatami lecture attracts protesters

Khatami lecture attracts protesters


The Guardian: Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami will face protests from students and human rights groups as he delivers a keynote lecture at the University of St Andrews later this month. The Guardian

Alexandra Smith

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami will face protests from students and human rights groups as he delivers a keynote lecture at the University of St Andrews later this month.

The former premier, who ruled the Middle Eastern state until last year, will open a new Institute of Iranian Studies at St Andrews on October 31 and will also be made an honorary doctor of laws by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader and the university’s chancellor.

Mr Khatami will open the university’s institute, which will house 12,000 books donated by Sadegh Kharazi, Iran’s former ambassador to France. The collection of Iranian texts, the largest of its kind in Europe, is estimated to be worth more than £100,000.

The decision to honour Mr Khatami has provoked criticism from human rights groups who claim that thousands of Iranian citizens were jailed and tortured for their political beliefs during his eight-year term that ended last year with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The National Union of Students also wants his invitation withdrawn unless Ahmad Batebi, a student jailed in 1999 during a pro-democracy protest, is freed.

However, despite the protests from the national body, the St Andrews Students’ Association said it supported the university’s decision to host Mr Khatami.

A statement from the association said: “After informed discussion and debate with senior academics and authorities on the matter, the students’ association fully backs the decision by the University of St Andrews to award Mr Khatami an honorary doctorate of laws.

“While it would be easy to oppose Mr Khatami’s award on the basis of the tensions which existed within Iran during his presidency, the students’ association believes that Khatami himself predominantly adopted a brave stance to promote liberal values in the face of great adversity.”

Ali Ansari, who will head up the new department at the university, told the Scotsman: “He [Khatami”> is the ideal person to open the institute given his combination of academic and political experience. It is the first time a former Iranian president has visited Britain and the biggest visit since the Shah in 1972.”

Mr Khatami’s lecture is expected to focus on academic matters, but it also understood that he will discuss the current political situation in Iran.

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