The Utah-based Civic Friendship organization on Sunday, deleted a notice on its website and on Twitter for an event with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s former UN ambassador, after The Jerusalem Post sent a series of press queries to the organizers and participants of the webinar.

The former Iranian regime envoy, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, and current Oberlin College religious studies professor, has become a flashpoint for intense controversy across the US because Amnesty reported he committed crimes against humanity in Iran.

As the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambassador to the UN in 1988, Mahallati covered up the mass murder of thousands of innocent Iranian political prisoners, according to Amnesty.

“Mr. [Bahman] Baktiari must answer to us why he misused the name of Mr. Baskerville, the ‘American Lafayette of Iran’ and the ‘American martyr of the Iranian constitutional movement,’ to invite Mahallati, who is accused of crimes against humanity? How can Baktiari justify misusing the name of a martyr to invite someone accused of mass murder?,” Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American human rights activist ,told The Jerusalem Post.

The Iranian regime murdered Bazargan’s brother, Bijan Bazargan, during the 1988 prison massacre.

Baktiari, who is the executive director the Utah-based Baskerville Institute, is listed as a moderator of the event with Mahallati.

One of the missions of the Baskerville Institute is  to “Initiate Bridge-Building projects that facilitate friendship and peace between the Iranian and American peoples.”

When asked by the Post if Baskerville is undercutting its mission by hosting Mahallati, who also has been accused of genocidal antisemitism and denigrating the persecuted Iranian Baháʼí community, Baktiari refused to answer.

When asked about the event with Mahallti,  Alex Shapiro, the executive director for the United Jewish Federation of Utah, told the Post that ”I certainly do not and will not support any person or any agency that supports the elimination or delegitimization of Israel.”

Bazargan  told the Post that “More than 5000 political prisoners who had prison sentences and had spent several years behind bars, were suddenly hanged, based on a Fatwa (Islamic Decree) by Ali Khomeini, Iran’s Islamic Regime’s Supreme Leader, and now Mahallati wants to talk about ‘Religious diplomacy.’ As a diplomat in IRI’s foreign ministry and the United Nations he was busy for years covering up IRI’s atrocities and denied their arbitrary arrests, long sentences without the due process of the law, and mass executions.”

The webinar with Mahallati is titled: “Religious diplomacy in the Middle East. The Pope, The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and the Grand Ayatollah of Najaf.” The event is slated to take place on May 18 and May 19.

After the Post sent press queries to the advisory board members of the Baskerville Institute, the website deleted the advisory board’s emails and names and converted the page into “password protected” section.

One advisory board member, Janet Afary, Professor of Religious Studies and director of the Iranian Studies Initiative at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Post via email: “I have almost no interaction with the Baskerville Institute on these issues. I am a historian of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1906-1911) and Howard Baskerville was an American who fought in that revolution on the side of the constitutionalists and was killed during a war. My area of specialization is strictly this period. If they have an event that involves the Cons Rev [Constitutional Revolution], then I may be asked to comment on the quality of the papers.”

Other advisory board members, including Miles Hansen, President and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, the former banker, Chris Redgrave, and Ben Kolendar, the director of the Department of Economic Development for the city of Salt Lake City, declined to respond to multiple Post press queries.

Bazargan  said the Islamic Republic of Iran “is trying to soften its image and covering its bloody hand. People like Mahallati with their message of friendship and religious diplomacy are the propaganda machine of the Islamic Regime to cover up the mass murders and the atrocities against Iranians. People like Mahallati are dangerous for the US National Security and should not be allowed to work in academia. ”

The United States government under both Republican and Democrat administrations has classified the Islamic Republic of Iran as the world’s top international state-sponsor of terrorism.

Jessica Emami, an Iranian-American political analyst, told the Post that “I am elated that Baskerville Institute has removed evidence of its association with Mr. Mahallati, a known war criminal according to evidence provided by Amnesty  International. Mr. Mahallati’s actions make a travesty of everything Henry Baskerville stood and died for.”

She added that “This disassociation is an important first step in discovering why Oberlin College still maintains him as a tenured professor and fails to respond to the media and his victims’ families.”

In an October email to the Post, Mahallati denied that he covered up the mass murder. He has declined to answer questions about his reported calls to eliminate Israel and his demonization of the Baháʼí.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post: “Has Mr. Mahallati apologized for his antisemitic and anti-Baháʼí sentiments made while he was a shill for the Iranian regime at the United Nations? Does he still support the genocide-seeking Holocaust  denying [Iranian] regime? Organizers and Oberlin College should also check Amnesty International’s report that Mahallati committed crimes against humanity by covering up the mass murder of at least 5,000 Iranian political prisoners during 1988 at the UN.”

Cooper added that “The Civic Friendship organization has the right and obligation to know if this professor still maintains these hatreds. If so, then he should have no place in a religion peace dialogue nor should he be teaching ‘peace to students at Oberlin College.”

Bazargan asked why does the US education system give “him a platform to speak and spread lies and misinformation? We demand answers from Oberlin College.”

One of the participants on the webinar, Daniel Peterson, Professor of Near Eastern History at Brigham Young University, wrote the Post that “I have received your inquiry” but did not answer any of the Post’s questions about Mahallati. Peterson later scrubbed a section he wrote about Mahallati on his blog. Andrew Skinner, another panelist and a religion professor at Brigham Young University, declined to respond to the Post.

Rabbi Alan Brill, who teaches at Seton Hall University, and is scheduled to appear on the webinar, declined to respond to the Post. Brill blocked this reporter on Twitter for sending him a press query. Rev. John Bryson Chane along with the Tehran University theology professor Mahmood Vaezi, who are listed on the webinar notice, did not answer Post media queries.

The logos of a number of organizations as ostensible sponsors appeared on the webinar with Mahallati. The Utah Muslim Civic League is listed but told the Post that “We did not give consent for our logo or name to be used. We asked them to remove us and they immediately did.”

Utah Valley University is listed on the notice but declined to respond to the Post.

The Post contacted Charles Randall Paul, who is president for the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, and a moderator for the webinar with Mahallati. He did not answer.

The John A. Widtsoe Foundation, which was also listed on the webinar notice, declined to answer a Post query.

Oberlin College announced in early May that it plans to investigate the allegations against Mahallati.

Gregg Levine, chair of the Community Relations Committee for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, told the Post in the community’s first public comment about Mahallati: “The Jewish Federation of Cleveland appreciates Oberlin College taking immediate action to investigate the serious allegations against Professor Mahallati. If these allegations prove to be accurate, we are hopeful that the college will move just as quickly to remove this individual from its faculty. “

He added that “We stand with our partners at Hillel in ensuring there’s no place on any college campus in Northeast Ohio for anyone who embraces hatred against any community or encourages war against a country.”





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