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Durham and their Iran conference controversy 22, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, UK.
Tags: , ,

At the end of January the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, UK (both my department and my University) held a conference attended by relatively hard-line Iranian academics and diplomats. The two keynote speakers pulled out at the last-minute to avoid the controversy kicked up by students angry at the University hosting such an event. Thus, in the words of the conference organiser Dr.Colin Turner it was “monopolised by pro-regime speakers.”

Aside from the notion of giving a detestable regime a platform to discuss their points, Durham’s Iranian students were specifically angry about a few things. First, on the day of the conference Iranian authorities announced the execution of two young men condemned as terrorists. Second, there is a Durham PhD student in Iran who has had his passport taken away preventing him from leaving the country.

Turner, the organiser, defended the conference with rather injudicious gusto.

These same people who denigrate us have absolutely no problem in accepting scholarships from the British government – which has turned the slaughter of innocent teenagers in Iraq and Afghanistan into an art form. Before they accuse us of receiving what they term ‘blood money’ from our Iranian funders, maybe they should look a little more closely at the source of their own funding.

Whilst his intrinsic point may be true about differing sources of funding, by using such crude hyperbole he comes across as something of a partisan zealot.

This issue is certainly difficult. Dialogue is just about always the best thing. Peace, reconciliation and other such positives cannot come about if there is no interaction at all. Yet, in practice, this is obviously distasteful. Talking to the IRA was clearly the best thing to do, for now there is an absence of their terrorism. Setting free IRA prisoners as part of the bargain was also the right thing to do in exchange for peace. Yet, many of these steps can just feel so wrong. Setting free unrepentant killers years or decades early in particular grates profoundly. Notions of ‘the greater good’, I suppose, must take over personal, human emotions at this point. Perhaps this difficulty is as simple as a macro versus a micro point of view; easy to understand on the grand scale, but when they are speaking in your department, it’s more difficult to accept.


1. Juha - 23, February 2010

Just out of pure curiosity, was Anoush Ehteshami involved at all with the conference?

davidbroberts - 23, February 2010

Sorry, but I’ve no idea. I’m in Doha not Durham at the moment. Though Anoush is no longer Head of Department and so would not, I’d guess, have had a hand in organizing the conference.

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