Vienna NGO blasts academic visits to Iranian university

By
November 20, 2014 15:14

Sharif University of Technology cooperation agreements with Iranian Government organizations which operate in military or military-related fields.

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Satellite images of Iranian nuclear facility (file)

Satellite images of Iranian nuclear facility (file). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Visits by Austrian academics to an EU-sanctioned Iranian university with connections to illicit nuclear-proliferation activities have drawn sharp criticism from a Vienna-based NGO.

Speaking from the Austrian capital, Stefan Schaden, a spokesperson for the NGO Stop the Bomb in Austria, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday the Iranian regime’s academic system discriminates against women and minorities.

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“According to Amnesty International, women were banned from a number of university degree courses or are facing discriminating quotas. Minorities and political dissidents are denied access to higher education,” he said.
“That is unlikely to be compatible with the goals of Austrian academic cooperation.”

Peter Moser, vice rector of the Montanuniversitat Leoben, along with Hubert Dürrstein, CEO of Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research, visited Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology on November 10.

According to EU sanctions, “Sharif University of Technology has a number of cooperation agreements with Iranian Government organizations which are designated by the UN and/or the EU and which operate in military or military-related fields, particularly in the field of ballistic missile production and procurement. This includes: an agreement with the EU-designated Aerospace Industries Organization for inter alia the production of satel­lites; cooperating with the Iranian Ministry of Defense and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on smart boat competitions; [and] a broader agreement with the IRGC Air Force which covers developing and strengthening the University’s relations, organizational and strategic cooperation.”

EU sanctions apply to Iranian gas and oil imports by the 28-member body.

“Prior to the visit, Montanuniversitat Leoben checked the legal situation and concluded that a meeting with researchers does not break the embargo,” Erhard Skupa, a spokesman for Montanuniversitat Leoben, told The Post in an emailed statement. “In addition, we want to emphasize that no cooperation agreement has been signed with Sharif University.”

He added that Montanuniversitat Leoben has been keeping contact with Iranian universities and researchers for decades before and after the Islamic revolution, noting that the revolution made the contacts more difficult but never stopped them. As a result, he said, Iranian students are among the biggest foreign group of students at the university.

“Typically Iranian students finish their studies at Montanuniversitat Leoben, return back to Iran afterwards and carry Montanuniversitat Leoben’s spirit of openness and internationality back to Iran.”

 Schaden, however, told The Post that Iranian media and officials are exploiting the Austrian academic visit “for their propaganda,” and pointed to Iran-regime controlled news outlet IRNA.

“ Iranian and Austrian sides explained their potentials and examined ways to cooperate,” an IRNA report said. “Besides the introduction of Sharif University of Technology, strategies to begin cooperation with Austrian universities were also discussed.”

IRNA added that “The Austrian delegation also visited the Sharif Upstream Petroleum Laboratory in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Superconductive Electronics Research Laboratory in Electronic Engineering Department,” and indicated that several professors from Montanuniversitat Leoben were present at the meetings.

Dürrstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment by The Post.
 


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