Iranian envoy prompts removal of Finnish university report highly critical of Tehran

Study highlights Islamic Republic’s anti-Israel, anti-women, anti-minority policies.

Tehran 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Tehran 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – Iran’s ambassador to Finland, Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, intervened at the Finnish National Defense University to compel the removal of a research paper from the university’s website, because the document critically examined Iran’s nuclear program and its treatment of Israel, women and minorities.
The research paper was removed on Saturday.
The Iran expert and researcher Alan Salehzadeh wrote in his 42- page study, entitled “Iran’s Domestic and Foreign Policies,” that “ Iran does not approve of the existence of Israel and wishes to see it destroyed.”
He told the Finnish public broadcasting news outlet Yle: “If this is a question of censorship in Finland, that’s a real pity.”
He asked, “Why was the research taken down right after Mousavi’s visit?” Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday from Helsinki via telephone, Pekka Sivonen, a strategic studies professor at the Defense University, said he is “unhappy about this” and it is “pretty obvious this meeting [with Iran’s ambassador] had an influence.”
Though Sivonen did not participate in the meeting with Iran’s ambassador, he told the Post that he is confident that the university “shall correct the decision.”
Yle reported that the rector of the university, Veijo Taipalus, met with Defense Minister Carl Haglund on Monday to discuss the removal of the report.
The news outlet wrote that Haglund said Iran’s embassy triggered the decision to reassess the report.
Yle noted that “Haglund added that it is a matter of interpretation whether or not Iran brought pressure to bear on the university.”
Haglund told Yle, “It is good that Iran itself doesn’t feel this was a matter of pressure. On the other hand, the fact that the ambassador himself demanded a meeting with the rector shows that this is an important issue for Iran.”
Speaking by telephone with the Post on Wednesday, the university’s research director Hannu Kari said that the article is being examined to see if “the references and argumentation can be followed.”
Kari said he was present at the meeting with Iran’s ambassador, who did not agree with statements in the report about Iran’s “foreign and domestic” policies.
Kari claimed that the university removed the research paper independent of any Iranian government pressure.
“It is, of course, good that the rector wants to play it safe, but it is undeniable that the picture created is not good, and it is certain that the university should give consideration to how such matters are handled in future,” Haglund said.
“In my research I wrote about Iran’s nuclear program and women’s and minorities’ position. Every claim has a source; I didn’t invent anything,” said Salehzadeh.
He wrote, “[A woman] must wear the Islamic hijab when outside; otherwise, she will be strictly punished.
Women cannot run for presidency.
Women cannot be the head of the justice department. Their access to most of the key positions in the country is restricted.”
Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told the Post, “Universities have a fundamental obligation to be entirely apolitical, and to demonstrate the absence of any Iranian influence in this case.
Claims by university officials, without documentation and transparency, are insufficient. Indeed, the recent report on extensive UK university funding from totalitarian regimes highlights the need for transparency. The Iranian regime clearly has an incentive to press Finnish university officials to suppress this material.”
Salehzadeh’s report noted: “Now Iran is widely thought to pose a threat to its surrounding countries, Israel, and the rest of the world. Iran is known to support terrorist organizations and causes great concern with its urge to build a nuclear weapon.”
He cited Iran’s support for Hezbollah.
The EU designated Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist entity in July.
With respect to resolving the nuclear crisis in Iran, Salehzadeh, wrote, “One of the reasons President Hassan Rouhani was elected was that he should find through negotiations a common path with the West and thus the international community would lighten or cease the sanctions. However, a common path is likely to be found only when Iran stops enriching uranium. Iran is not likely to do that. It remains to be seen whether Rouhani, an experienced diplomat and negotiator, is able to persuade the West to abolish the sanctions.”
The university administration is slated to meet on Friday to discuss the reposting of Salehzadeh’s paper