A Toronto-based organization that bills itself as a non-partisan NGO dedicated to Iranian scholarship and culture is non-governmental only in the sense that it has no ties to Ottawa. Tehran is a different story. The Center for Iranian Studies was founded two years ago Fazel Larijani, who was then Iran’s cultural attaché in Ottawa and is the brother of Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, head of Iran’s judiciary. The centre is still funded by the Iranian embassy here.
It has been aggressively reaching out to Iranian students in Toronto with promises of free Farsi classes and funds for cultural events. Some of Toronto’s most prominent Iranian academics are outraged by what they describe as its false claims to be any sort of scholarly institution, given the absence of any scholars affiliated with the place, and its lack of transparency regarding its connection to the Iranian regime.
I’ve written a more detailed article about the centre here.
Here is the open letter signed by eight genuine Iranian scholars at Toronto universities:
12 April, 2010
It is a while that an entity calling itself the “Center for Iranian Studies” operating from a house on Sheppard avenue with the website Iranology.ca, has been active in Toronto. This Centre, with a deceptive name alluding to academic research and teaching is not known to any of the undersigned Toronto-based Iranian/Canadian academics from the city’s universities. 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.
As academics with expertise in various fields of scholarship on Iran we have serious concerns about the mission and the mandate of this Centre. We demand that the Centre reveal its real mandate, 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. The “centre” should also seriously consider changing its deceptive name, and stop deceptive postings on its website.
Signatories (in alphabetical order)
Dr. Reza Baraheni, retired professor, University of Toronto
Dr. Minoo Derayeh, Associate Professor, York University
Dr. Amir Hassanpour, retired professor, University of Toronto
Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, Professor, University of Toronto
Dr. Haideh Moghissi, Professor and Associate Dean, FLAPS, York University
Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, Professor and Principal, New College, University of Toronto
Dr. Saeed Rahnema, Professor, York University
Dr. Farrokh Zandi, Professor, York University
UPDATE: I spoke this morning with Soheil Parsa, the Iranian-Canadian director and actor who is included on the “Who is who?” section of the centre’s website. He told me he has never had any affiliation with the centre and has written to them to ask that they remove his bio from their website.