Students get day off from school for dialogue with Iran

2009/11/17

Published in “Tagesspiegel” on November 17, 2009 0:00 h
http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/familie/schule/Dahlem-Iran-Zehlendorf;art295,2951798#formular

(Tranlator’s note: I feel really embarrassed for the stupid headline of this article. The article itself is not as bad as the headline is suggesting)

A German-Iranian teachers’ conference at the school of the private foundation Königin-Luise-Stiftung (KLS) in Dahlem [Berlin] which is attended by a representative of the Foreign Office causes protests of expatriate Iranians

By Benjamin Weinthal

A German-Iranian teachers’ conference at the school of the private foundation Königin-Luise-Stiftung (KLS) in Dahlem which is attended by a representative of the Foreign Office causes protests of expatriate Iranians.
The Iranian ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, at the invitation of the school which as a UNESCO-school supports international exchange programs and human rights projects, was supposed to deliver an opening address at the symposium on Monday.

Especially Kurdish Iranians in Berlin are outraged. For Sheikh Attar, during his term as the governor of the provinces of Kordestan and West-Azerbaijan from 1980 – 1985, was allegedly responsible for massacres to Kurdish people. Critics of the regime of the mullahs had called for protests against his participation in the conference to be held in front of the school building in the Podbielskiallee yesterday, whereupon the school administration arranged for the conference to be transferred to an undisclosed location. The director and CEO of the school, Frank Olie, would not reveal the new location on request. At the same time, students got a day off from their regular classes on Monday. The school on short notice scheduled a study day for all students of the fifth grade an higher, while the grades 1 to 4 were sent on a field day.

In a letter addressed to the parents the KLS justified this decision saying that “significant protests are forming especially against the presence of the Iranian ambassador.” School principal Olie justified the participation of the ambassador saying that the latter is “accredited” in Germany. About the allegations against Sheikh Attar he said: “I am not aware whether these allegations are true.”

Miro Aliyar, member of the Democratic Party Kurdistan-Iran, is backing the criticism: “Sheikh Attar is the ambassador of a regime that has been oppressing the population of the country, particularly the Kurds, for 30 years, a regime that is responsible for murdering numerous political opponents abroad, and that is annually condemned by international human rights organizations for their severe violations of human rights.”

This year in June, teachers of the KLS had drafted a resolution in support of the protest against the alleged electoral fraud in Iran. The resolution read: “In our function as a UNESCO school we call on the Federal Government to urge the United Nations to appoint an independent commission” in order to name those responsible for the “human rights abuses, suppression of the freedom of press, and the electoral manipulations.”

The letter that was supposed to be sent to the Federal Chancellor, the Iranian embassy, and to 190 UNESCO schools throughout Germany, was never posted. KLS circles say that school principal Olie after conferring with the Foreign Office decided to not publish the resolution in order to not harm the German-Iranian exchange program. Olie himself is reluctant to reveal details: “This is confidential.” On inquiry, the Ministry does not recall any talks with the KLS about the resolution: “The Foreign Office has no information on this issue”, said a spokesman. The participation of a Foreign Office official at the conference serves the “intercultural dialogue”, it says. The Ministry takes no offense in the presence of the Iranian ambassador: “The Foreign Office maintains relations with all ambassadors accredited in Germany.”

The Iranian dissidents will continue their protest on Tuesday and distribute flyers outside the school.

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