Open Letter

[I submitted this letter to The Tech, MIT’s daily, & it took about 10 days for them to publish it, but better late than never ↓]

The members of the history faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) listed below write to express our unwavering solidarity with the students and professors at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology and condemn in the strongest possible terms the Iranian government’s violent raid on our counterparts at Sharif. We watch the footage of the government’s crackdown in anger, frustration, and disbelief.

Universities are places for intellectual exchange, open discussion, and rigorous debate; they are the last places security forces should be found — let alone found attacking students and professors.

We at MIT have a decades-long connection with Sharif, as MIT played a role in its inception. Furthermore, MIT has a long history with Iran’s best and brightest at Sharif, many of whom have graduated from that esteemed institution and have come to MIT to further their education while simultaneously enriching our diverse student community. Many of our current graduate Iranian students and faculty hail from Sharif University; we also express our solidarity and heartfelt support for the entire MIT Iranian community who watch helplessly as the Iranian government’s brutality is unleashed upon their peers, friends, family, neighbors, and fellow citizens. We see you. You have our support and our empathy.

We recognize that the government’s assault on Sharif is part of a wider crackdown on dissent in the country after Mahsa Amini’s death sparked nationwide protests. The 22-year-old died in the Iranian government’s custody after the morality police detained her for wearing her head covering “inappropriately.”

MIT is a U.S.-based institution, and some may see this statement as violating another nation’s sovereignty, especially in the context of U.S. and Iran acrimonies and the extensive history of foreign intervention in Iran throughout much of the modern period. To be clear, this statement is not a call for any such intervention; we respect all nations’ sovereignty. As a global institution, however, what fate befalls people elsewhere impacts us here at MIT as well. We affirm the words of the venerated 13th-century Persian poet, Sa’adi:

“Human beings are body parts of each other,
In creation they are indeed of one essence.
If a body part is afflicted with pain,
Other body parts uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you shall not retain.”

We are also reminded of the timeless words of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, “If I sit silently, I have sinned,” reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of the Iranian government’s raid on Sharif University of Technology and the nationwide crackdown on peaceful dissent, and expressly support Iran’s student community as well as peaceful protest. We call on the Iranian government to withdraw all security forces from any and all campuses, release all detained students, faculty, and protesters immediately, and urge the government not to stand in the way of peaceful political expression.

Sana Aiyar
Pouya Alimagham
Megan A. Black
William Broadhead
Tristan Brown
Catherine Clark
Lerna Ekmekçioğlu
Alexander Forte
Malick W. Ghachem
Anne McCants
Kenda Mutongi
Hiromu Nagahara
Jeffrey Ravel
Elizabeth Wood

The authors of this piece, listed above, are faculty members in the MIT’s History Department.

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