Who is behind the Center for Iranian Studies?

Brother of Iran’s judiciary chief founded the “non-partisan” Toronto-based centre


An organization in Toronto that describes itself as a non-partisan centre for Iranian culture and scholarship was founded by a well-connected Iranian diplomat and is funded by the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.

The Center for Iranian Studies, located at 290 Sheppard Ave. W., was incorporated in January 2008. One of its three directors at the time was Fazel Larijani, who was then Iran’s cultural attaché in Ottawa. He is the brother of Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, and Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, head of the judiciary. Mahdi Shahrokhi, who works at the centre, says it still receives money from the Iranian embassy but is not controlled by it.

The embassy’s involvement is not mentioned on the centre’s website, which claims its goals are research and study. It says it helps universities organize seminars and workshops, although Shahrokhi could not give an example of when this had taken place. The website has a section called “Who is who?” that contains biographies of three Canadian academics studying Iran, and of Iranian-Canadian director and actor, Soheil Parsa. The implication is they are involved with the centre. Maclean’s reached two of the four, Concordia professor Richard Foltz and Soheil Parsa. Both say they have no affiliation with the centre, and Parsa has written to ask that his name be removed from its website.

This week, eight prominent Iranian academics in Toronto—including University of Toronto professor Ramin Jahanbegloo, who was imprisoned in Iran for four months in 2006—wrote an open letter questioning the centre’s motives and mission.

“We are not aware of any of our colleagues who are engaged in this Centre’s activities. However, functionaries of the Centre regularly contact Iranian student groups with promises of assistance, and fund Farsi classes and/or cultural events,” they wrote. “We demand that the Centre post the names of the founding members as appears on the website of Industry Canada, name its officers and advisors involved in its activities, and above all disclose the sources of its funding inside or outside Canada.”


Who is behind the Center for Iranian Studies?

  1. Hamid Mohammadi is the cultural attaché of Iranian Embassy which right now is in charge of the institute.
    it looks that he has diplomatic passport and immunity from the expulsion by Harper Government

    saeed Soltanpour
    TV anchor

    • I found it interesting but not surprising that saeed Soltanpour, TV anchor of " Shahre Ma" is aware of: " diplomatic passport and immunity" from the expulsion by Harper Government "

      It seem to me that Saeed Soltanpour is still following the staff of Iranian embassy from one Islamic centre (mosque) to another. Last time he confessed that, for unknown reason, he met the Iranian Ambassador at the "York Region Islamic Centre" in Richmond Hill.

      MF Shiravand

  2. Why Is Michael Petrou, loosing sleep over it? there are are centers of studies from so many different countries in Canada,
    Are they making bomb? if they could not make it in Iran why would they make it in Toronto , If they are illegal why they are still there ? I do not really understand what is the problem here , even If the writer has no life ,he should not be worrying about Iran.How many centers of Jewish studies are there in Canada ? a couple of hundred , did you ever get indigestion about what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong? how truthful they are ? Go get a life stop being terrified by Iran! I know it is a matter of pride to show how timid you are about Iran , i think you should be ashamed of being so timid psychotic , hateful and shallow.

    • even If the writer has no life ,he should not be worrying about Iran.

      Uh, Trim, have you been keeping up with the news THE LAST COUPLE OF DECADES????

      • "Uh, Trim, have you been keeping up with the news THE LAST COUPLE OF DECADES????"

        I have. Ever since the Iranian revolution "caught everyone by surprise!" Since that time, I"ve been rather unimpressed by how Iran is reported on by the Western media.

        Not that I'm credulous, mind you. I can't stand Iran's shitty regime. But once burned, twice shy.

      • Let me try this again:

        "Uh, Trim, have you been keeping up with the news THE LAST COUPLE OF DECADES????"

        I have. Ever since the Iranian revolution caught everyone by surprise. Since that time, I've been rather skeptical and unimpressed by Western reporting on Iran.

        Not that I'm credulous, mind you. I can't stand Iran's awful regime. But still, once bitten, twice shy.

    • Trim, I doubt he's losing sleep over it. But, it's a worthy investigation as the Iranian communities in Toronto and Canada have significant issues with the government of Iran and its actions; given that there seems to be some connection here, then I think Petrou's investigation asks a good question.

  3. Merci Micheal Petrou for exposing the various tentacles that this regime has: from its numerous bursary students who spy on other student activists for them, to all the 'non-partisan', 'cultural' organisations at the various universities in Toronto. This is an important piece because it substantiates what a lot of us Iranian-Canadians already know.

  4. Anybody know if Zafar Bangash's name has cropped up in this?

  5. Close all the Iranian regime's embassies around the world and the regime will fall sooner than later

  6. Cat Fur, it is good to see you on this story.

  7. winston you hit the Target welldon
    closing all iranian regime,s embassies around the Glob

  8. dirty bassiji

  9. My name is Mahdi Tourage, one the academics named under "Who is Who" of this organization. I have no idea who they are and who they are affiliated with. I did write to them to express my anger at their using my name and academic affiliations without my knowledge or consent. They give the impression that i somehow support this organization. I did not know they even exist until today! In any event, for whatever it is worth, this is the copy of my letter to them:

    April 14, 2010
    I am writing to ask you to remove my name and picture from your website as someone who is somehow affiliated with your organization. I have no affiliation with you and until today did not know you even existed. It is very irresponsible of you to use my name and academic background without my knowledge, to give the impression that i am somewho affiliated with your organization or the fascits dictatorial government of Iran. I do support, however, any effort to expose the attrocities of the Iranian regime and the peaceful struggles of Iranian people for democracy.

    Mahdi Tourage

  10. Good Article to expose the omni-hands of Iranian regime in different spheres of life inside and outside Iran. Some of these information was vivid for amny of us but need a broader exposure.

    However, Mr. Tourage, I suggest, since this "Centre" is a registered and legal entity, you can sue them and send a copy of your complant to the office of "Public Trustee" which all these non charitable NGO s are registered.
    All the best

    Keyvan. S

  11. Yes, this organization is feeding through Islamic Republic. While we have too many hungry people in the country which has been laying on black gold and the poverty line tight now became 850,000 toman, what is motive to spend these extra money instead of feeding poor Iranian inside Iran.

    These "organizations" has nothing to do but supporting Islamic Regime of Iran that does nothing but making life miserable for the people inside Iran.

    Stop fooling people all around the world. Close these corrupt places. I am positively sure that one day, in the very near future the people of Iranian bring these criminal regime down . People in Iran have no more patient to tolerate these brutal regime anymore.

  12. Toronto's most prominent Jewish community center is located within 2km of that "center", which is in most probability, and as everyone here is thinking, a nest of Iranian intelligence from which to spy on, influence, and intimidate local Iranians, and from which to plant "operations"…

    I'm Jewish, and all I can think about right now is Argentina 1994 :-(

    Canada's best weapon against these scum is Canada's own expatriate Iranian community who demonstrate daily in their neighbourhoods (e.g. at Yonge / Drewry in Toronto where I pass by every day, and at whose shops I shop) against this fascist and ghastly regime.

    Michael Petrou: I want to thank you for your pieces in MacLean's on this very important topic. And thanks to your editors for including this material in. Please keep up the good work.

  13. ca.iranology is formed by mollahs embassy in canada,to take apart in this
    format,means helping mollahs in iran to destroy iranian civilisation

  14. Does the NDP support this institution?

  15. As an iranian-canadian i am ashamed, disgusted and worried… we have an affluent community in Canada who has fought hard against societal stigmas to reach where they are…. we have enough on our sholders as it is we dont need this…

    I hope they close down this crap…

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