EU politician urges Oberlin College to fire Iran regime ‘criminal’

'It employs a man with blood on his hands while serving for the largest terror sponsoring government' 

Mohammad Jafar Mahallati at TEDxTehran. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Mohammad Jafar Mahallati at TEDxTehran.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Charlie Weimers, a prominent Swedish member of the European parliament demanded on Thursday that the Ohio-based Oberlin College summarily fire its professor, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, for his alleged role in covering up the mass murder of at least 5,000 innocent Iranian prisoners during the summer of 1988 in Iran.

When asked by the Post if Oberlin College’s president Carmen Twillie Ambar should dismiss Mahallati, Weimers told The Jerusalem Post: “Absolutely! Not today or tomorrow, it should have been yesterday.”

He added: “Any person serving for the world’s largest terror sponsoring regime should be sanctioned, especially those at the top and those who seek to cover up the crimes against humanity by that regime, like Mr. Mahallati.”

The United States, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, have classified Iran’s regime as the top international state-sponsor of terrorism.

Ambar has refused to meet with the families of the victims of 1988 massacre. 

 Protest for the removal of Oberlin College professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati (credit: MELISSA LANDA) Protest for the removal of Oberlin College professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati (credit: MELISSA LANDA)

Weimers told the Post that “it is an absolute disgrace that Oberlin College President Ambar refuses to meet with the families of over 5,000 innocent victims of crimes against humanity.

"For a college that states that it seeks a ‘respectful exchange of ideas and shares an enduring commitment to a sustainable and just society,’ the last thing one would expect is  that it employs a man with blood on his hands while serving for the largest terror sponsoring government in the world and that its President snubs victims and their families of that terrorist regime, who seek to ensure a just society.”

Weimers is widely regarded as one of the leading champions within the European Parliament of the victims of the theocratic state in Tehran, Iranian dissidents and for the promotion of Iranian democracy and civil rights.

The Swedish lawmaker said: “President Ambar must choose to stand on the right side of history, otherwise her position and that of her college are an absolute disgrace and a slap in the face to all victims of cruel, terrorist and immoral regimes.”

Mahallati denied to the Post in 2020 that he covered up the mass murder in 1988 However, Amnesty International issued a highly detailed report in 2018, determining that Mahallati played a key role in covering up the 1988  massacre while serving as the Iranian regime’s ambassador to the UN.

Raising the stakes

Weimer's entry into the row over Mahallati has raised the stakes for Oberlin College, as he is the first major politician to weigh in on Mahallati and has now turned the intense dispute over Mahallati’s employment into a wider global controversy.

The 1988 massacre is currently front-and-center in the Swedish judiciary. Former Iranian judicial official Hamid Noury is currently on trial in Sweden for war crimes and for murder in connection with his alleged role in the mass execution of Iranian political prisoners in 1988 in Iran.

Noury is on trial in Stockholm  for the mass murder of 136 Iranians in Gohardasht prison in Karaj, near Tehran, while he allegedly worked as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor.

The Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists (AAIRIA) announced a protest against Mahallati and Ambar during the first week of June at Oberlin during the graduation ceremony week.

The Post has learned that the AAIRIA plans protests against multiple businesses of Oberlin College trustees, including the global  law firm Greenberg Traurig

Oberlin College trustee Charles S. Birenbaum, who is a shareholder of the Greenberg Traurig where he serves as its chair of its northern California branch, declined to respond to multiple Post queries on the matter. 

When asked about Greenberg Traurig’s legal representation of Mahallati, Jill Perry, the managing director and  chief marketing officer of Greenberg Traurig, told the Post: “We are in receipt of your message. Our firm never represented Oberlin College in the investigation or otherwise on the matter, and whomever advised you of this is incorrect.”

The Post asked Greenberg Traurig: How much did Oberlin College pay your law firm to represent Mr. Mahallati? Or was the legal work done pro bono?

When the Post pressed Perry about a factsheet on Oberlin College’s website that states Greenberg Traurig’s Gregory W. Kehoe represents Mahallati, Perry said: ”As we told you, our firm did not represent Oberlin College in the investigation or otherwise on this matter. We cannot comment of the specifics of any client representation, but one of our lawyers did briefly represent the Professor in late 2020. He is no longer a client of our firm. We will look into what Oberlin College may have put into its website; but we will not have or make further comment for your story.”

After the Post queries, Oberlin College scrubbed Greenberg Traurig and Kehoe’s names from its factsheet.

The only reference to legal representation is the statement “ From the attorney” with respect to the document that claims to exonerate Mahallati of the allegations he was complicit in a cover up of crimes against humanity, his documented calls to abolish Israel and promote jihadi violence against the Jewish state, and his role in the incitement of persecution against the Baha'i community in Iran.

The Post secured a screenshot of the original factsheet that lists Greenberg Traurig and Kehoe as Mahallati’s legal representation.

Perry declined to answer if there is a conflict of interest.

In a November, 2021, Jason Hawk, a journalist for the Chronicle-Telegram in Oberlin, reported that Mahallati’s “lawyer, Gregory Kehoe of the firm Greenberg Traurig, said criticisms leveled against Mahallati are ‘completely unjustified.”’

When the Post asked Oberlin College spokesman Scott Wargo about Greenberg Traurig, Wargo said: “The College has prepared a fact sheet about Professor Mahallati that also includes a statement from the College… The College doesn't have any further comment.” 

It is unclear why Oberlin College wiped Greenberg Traurig and Kehoe off its factsheet. 

The AAIRIA plans to protest at the businesses and employment locations of Oberlin College trustees, Amy Chen Chief Investment Officer, Office of Investments at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.; Chris Canavan, from Lion's Head Global Partners; Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer at American Urban Radio Networks, as well as additional trustees.

Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American human rights activist who leading the campaign to oust Mahallati, published an open letter to Oberlin's faculty in April, stating that The AAIRIA expresses " our support for your recent efforts to demand from the college administrators better work conditions, health benefits, and adequate remuneration. In view of your recent activism, we ask that you also view our own cause in a sympathetic light."

The letter added that "We are a group of Oberlin alumni, human rights activists, and Iranian Americans who are seeking justice for the more than 5000 victims of Iran’s 1988 prison massacres. These victims were similar to many of your students — young idealists who sought a better future for their country. They were also fighting for equal rights, justice, and decent life for everyone. Unfortunately, a fatwa issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, condemned them to death. "

The clerical regime executed Bazargan's brother Bijan  in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj during the massacre of 1988.