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Anger over Khatami's honorary degree

Ahwazi activists have joined the growing chorus of anger over a decision by Scotland's elite St Andrews University to award former Iranian president Muhammed Khatami an honorary doctorate.

Khatami will today be handed the doctorate by the university, whose chancellor is Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell. Khatami will also open the university's Institute for Iranian Studies, which is supported by regime officials. While the university has lauded Khatami as a 'reformer', opposition activists have testified to the state terrorism faced by students, ethnic and religious minorities, trade unionists, homosexuals and women under his presidency.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has demanded that the invitation to Khatami should be withdrawn unless Ahmad Batebi, a student jailed in 1999 during a pro-democracy protest, is freed. However, the university's student association which is not a member of the NUS has voiced its support for the human rights abuser. It claims Khatami has helped reconcile Islam with Christianity and Judaism - a claim that is belied by the fact that Khatami's administration waged a war of terror against minorities in Iran.

Khatami also ordered the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs in a programme of "demographic restructuring". Since an Ahwazi Arab uprising against Khatami's government in April 2005, 25,000 Ahwazi Arabs have been arrested and hundreds more have been executed, unlawfully killed or disappeared.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Despite the facts, St Andrews University and the university's Students Association continue to rally behind the former president, playing down his crimes against humanity and repeating the regime's propaganda verbatim. They appear to approve of Khatami's role as the smiling diplomatic facade of a brutal government.

"The Iranian opposition may be ideologically divided, but it is united in its condemnation and revulsion of the decision by St Andrews University to reward human rights abuse.

"This appeasement of a regime guilty of terrorist acts against its own civilians as well as foreign country is approved by the leader of the Liberal Democrats. If he ever lived in Iran, I wonder how long the authorities would allow him to preach liberal democracy before sending him to the torture chambers in Tehran's Evin Prison, which is now home to many liberal democrats - including Ahwazi UN-registered refugees recently kidnapped from Syria and sent to Iran, despite protests from the UNHCR.

"It is sickening that members of the British political establishment, British academia and even some Scottish students are shaking hands with a man who has thwarted democracy and crushed human rights in Iran."

Click here to download a letter sent from the presidential office during Khatami's administration on the procedure to change the ethnic composition of Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz) and eradicate Arab language and culture in the province.

Click here for the NUS's statement opposing Khatami's visit to the UK.

Click here for BAFS's leaflet protesting against Khatami's visit to the UK.

Sign the petition condemning Khatami's honorary degree