The University of Trier in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate is facing allegations that it is mainstreaming Iranian regime-sponsored antisemitism and terrorism by accepting an academic award from the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his nation’s “World Award for Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran” to the University of Trier philosopher Andreas Lammer. The academic was honored for his dissertation on the Islamic philosopher Avicenna, who died in 1037 in Hamedan, Iran.
A commentary in the weekly left-wing publication Jungle World cited Rouhani’s “antisemitic anti-Zionism, adding “after all, it is Rouhani who calls Israel a ‘cancerous ulcer,’ interprets Iranian protests as a conspiracy, and during his reign the number of executions increased and the human rights situation even worsened.” The Jungle World commentary was authored by the following groups: Rosa Salon Trier, the Initiative of Interdisciplinary Antisemitism Research and Shalom Israel.
Dr. Susanne Schröter, an expert on Islamism and Gender at Goethe University Frankfurt, told The Jerusalem Post that “The award was not given by a dissident academic association, but by the leading elite in the form of their president. This has nothing to do with educational openness, but only with a clever move by the regime to restore its crumbling international legitimacy. Academics should not take part in this game.”
She said that currently the “Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the worst dictatorships” and is listed on Amnesty International’s 2018 ranking as the nation with the most second most number of execution, including children. She noted that the executions target members of the LGBTQ community and religious minorities like Baha’is and Sufis.
According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks cable, Iran’s regime executed 4,000-6,000 members of the LGBTQ community since 1979.
Schröter said that “Added to this is the declared will of the Iranian leadership to destroy Israel, unprecedented antisemitic agitation and the military build-up of combat groups across the Middle East to be deployed against Israel.”
The academic also said Iran’s regime persecutes women, citing the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer, who was imprisoned in Iran for 38 years and ordered to receive 148 lashes. Sotoudeh represented women prosecuted for removing their mandatory headscarf.
Dr. Elvira Grözinger, deputy director of the German branch of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told the Post that “The famous Persian scholar and physician Avicenna was temporarily persecuted and imprisoned. Today, he would have been executed in Iran as he was not abstinent from wine, not always loyal to his rulers and spread revolutionary ideas.”
She added that “The resident of the University of Trier praises the openness and cosmopolitan spirit of his university embracing cooperation with international scholars and rejecting xenophobia. When, however, at the same time he has no objection towards a scholar from his institution accepting an award from the president of Iran, the president like, the award winner, contradict these very virtues.
“The Iranian Islamic regime is one of the most murderous ones in our days, it terrorizes its own people and spreads terror throughout the world. Accepting this award from the bloodstained hands of a dictator is an utterly unethical kowtow! It slams the humanistic ideals of scientific cooperation between scholars and demonstrates a decay of academic standards both on the part of the university and the scholar.”
Last month, during a US congressional hearing, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, termed Iran’s regime the leading state-sponsor of Holocaust denial and antisemitism.
The US State Department under both the Obama and Trump administrations classified Iran’s regime as the worst state-sponsor of terrorism. Dr. Michael Jäckel, president of University of Trier, told the Post that Lammer was with an internationally recognized book award. This is the third time that his work has received recognition.
“An international educational award is always an opportunity to get in touch with scientists from other countries and to start an exchange,” he explained. “For us, that was the decisive factor.”
When pressed about Rouhani’s antisemitism, Jäckel said “The university is committed to combating all forms of discrimination,” citing nationalism and xenophobia. When asked why he did not cite antisemitism and what the university’s definition of contemporary Jew-hatred is, Jäckel did not comment.
Jäckel said his university is a “open to the world.”
The Jungle World commentary disputed the university’s contention about the Iranian regime award being prestigious. The article said that one cannot assume an impartial and factually sound jury “in the case of Islamic fascist, totalitarian regimes like the Iranian one, in which basic conditions for the awarding of a literary prize such as the right to freedom of expression do not exist.”
Lammer declined to answer a Post media query.