NGOs slam Marriott for hosting German-Iranian event

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the German chapter of Stop the Bomb protest hotel chain's decision to host "Iran Business Forum."

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
November 23, 2010 01:33
3 minute read.
PROTESTERS DEMONSTRATE against the ‘Iran Business

Marriot Iran Protest 311. (photo credit: Private)

BERLIN – A Hamburg hotel’s decision on Monday to hold a controversial conference with an alleged violator of human rights to promote German-Iranian trade prompted protest by New York–based United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and the German chapter of Stop the Bomb. The “Iran Business Forum,” which was organized by Berlin-based company IPCGmbH, was held at the Marriott Airport Hotel, sparking the two NGOs to call for a boycott of Marriott’s global properties.

The day-long event addressed “investment possibilities in the northwestern provinces of Iran” and the program listed Iran’s ambassador to Germany, Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, as the keynote speaker.

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Iranian Kurds and human rights groups say Attar sanctioned a massacre of Iranian Kurds during his tenure as governor of the Kurdistan and West Azarbaijan provinces from 1980 to 1985.

In a letter faxed to Marriott’s CEO, J.W. Marriott Jr., UANI President Mark D. Wallace wrote, “Ambassador Attar represents a criminal regime that flouts international law in developing an illegal nuclear weapon, brutally represses its own people, and is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

UANI called on Marriott to cancel the pro-Iran trade event.

“If the Marriott continues with its plans to serve as a host to the Iran Business Forum and Ambassador Attar, UANI will take action against the Marriott hotel chain worldwide. UANI will call on its activists to peacefully protest your properties, and will call for a general public boycott of all Marriott properties, “ wrote Wallace.

Wallace noted in his letter, “Rest assured we do not seek to harm any business gratuitously, but understand that the danger that a nuclear-armed Iran poses to national and international security is too great to ignore.

“Your decision to facilitate an event dedicated to increasing the level of economic cooperation between Germany and Iran runs directly counter to the efforts of the international community to isolate the Iranian regime,” he wrote.

Speaking from Hamburg, Andreas Benl, a Stop the Bomb activist who coordinated the protest at the Marriott against the Iran Business Forum, told The Jerusalem Post that roughly 20 people demonstrated against the pro-Iranian trade event. According to Benl, Marriott went ahead with the forum, and approximately 50 Germans and 50 Iranians attended the business conference.

Benl said the event “shows the brashness and barbarism of the regime” in Iran because two German journalists are currently imprisoned in a northwestern province in Iran for interviewing of the family of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who was sentenced to stoning for alleged adultery.

A similar campaign in February, driven by the German chapter of Stop the Bomb, succeeded in causing the Kempinski Hotel in Hamburg to pull the plug on an event with Iranian Ambassador Attar.

In a letter issued to the Marriott Hotel, Stop the Bomb wrote that by holding the event, the “hotel will support promotion of trade with a regime that brutally suppresses its own people, supports global terror, denies the Holocaust and threatens Israel with annihilation.

Events like this weaken international pressure on the Iranian regime in a dangerous way.” Stop the Bomb termed the business forum a “propaganda event for the Iranian regime.”

When asked about UANI and Stop the Bomb’s criticisms of Marriott, Elizabeth Caminiti, public relations director for Marriott’s European hotels, told the Post that “Regarding this event, we are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space. Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual.”

Diba Parnian Fard, the head of IPC-GmbH, which organized the event, could not be reached for comment. A family member said she was in Hamburg at the forum and could not be reached. In a telephone interview with the Post, Nils Drescher, a manager at the hotel, expressed “concerns” about the pro-Iran event.


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