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No Academic Boycott of Iran

You may have heard that Haleh Esfandiari, an American academic affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, was arrested last week in Tehran for play[ing] key roles in intrigues that have led to colourful revolutions in former Soviet republics … Read More

By / May 22, 2007

You may have heard that Haleh Esfandiari, an American academic affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, was arrested last week in Tehran for

play[ing] key roles in intrigues that have led to colourful revolutions in former Soviet republics in recent years" and now aim[ing] to overthrow Iran's government. In primary interrogations, she reiterated that the Soros Foundation has established an unofficial network with the potential of future broader expansion, whose main objective is overthrowing the system…

Or that's the spiel according to state-controlled Iranian media. Everyone from Juan Cole to Noam Chomsky has deplored Esfandiari's detention, which they fear will exacerbate U.S.-Iranian hostilities and give the febrile Bomb Iran quarter yet another excuse. (Funny how it always seems to take the involuntary presence of Westerners in Iran for the alarmists to warn of the imminent Western bombing of Iran.)

Anyway, there have been a few calls for an academic boycott of all universities technically under the purview of the mad mullahs, as if denying scholarship, however vetted or regulated it may be, ever advanced the cause of human rights anywhere.

A few good lefties of my acquaintance — most notably Norman Geras — roundly dismiss the idea both for its moral and utilitarian hollowness.

I'm quite tempted to leave it at that, but since today is shaping up to be Double Standards Day, I'm wondering if Tom Hickey of Britain's University and College Union, which calls for an academic boycott of Israel for its numerous human rights violations, likewise demands the same cold shoulder be given to all Persian scholarship until Esfandiari's release? Just wondering.

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