World Philosophy Day: “I am not going to speak in Tehran”
Article published in German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) on 16 July 2010
Source (German): http://www.faz.net/s/Rub5C2BFD49230B472BA96E0B2CF9FAB88C/Doc~E77444FBE5C0F46B998BA45B748A83768~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html
SUMMARY TRANSLATION kindly provided by Elli Mee
The UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day this year will be held in Tehran on 18th November 2010. International scholars have recently criticized the Iranian government which is interfering in the organization of the event. Notably, the German philosopher Otfried Höffe has announced that he will not attend the conference. In the high-profile newspaper FAZ, he explains the reasons for his decision.
Höffe has been an honorary member of the Iranian Institute of Philosophy, which will be hosting the event, since he visited the Institute in 2004. He was invited by the director of the Institute, Gholamreza Aavani, to hold one of the main talks at the World Philosophy Day. Despite the high level of repression in Iran, Höffe initially welcomed the opportunity for debate. After pondering the pros and cons, he decided to give a talk and to also invite colleagues from the United States, Brazil, and Germany to speak at the conference.
To justify this decision, Höffe emphasizes that the academic level in Iran is very high. Moreover, since the event was to be organized by academics, he had expected an open dialogue without censorship and interference by politicians. He had also hoped to inform Iranian students on new developments in Philosophy.
Why did he change his mind now? According to Höffe, the main reason for canceling his participation lies in the fact that Ahmadinejad has recently replaced the head of the organization committee with Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, an insider of the Iranian regime. Höffe states that after this move, one must expect that the Iranian contributions to the conference will be censored. Moreover, the events in Iran since last year’s presidential election can no longer be put aside.
Going more into detail, Höffe highlights that Haddad Adel has threatened critics with a repetition of “Kahrizak”. In the illegal
detention center, prisoners were systematically raped and kept in crowded containers, and some died from the torture.
The philosopher also criticizes the fact that a respected colleague, Mohsen Kadivar, is not allowed to travel to his home country Iran.
Instead of academics like him, the scientific committee of the conference includes Javad Larijani as the head of the human rights council in the Iranian judiciary. According to Höffe, the only work of this council is to spread propaganda and to “systematically deny human rights violations committed in Iran”.
In the concluding paragraph, Höffe states his regret that he will not be able to attend the conference. He emphasizes that no critical voice is currently tolerated in Iran, and that especially academics and intellectuals are targeted by the regime. Finally, he expresses his hope that the current situation will soon “radically change”, so that the cooperation with his Iranian colleagues can be continued.