Harvard’s Shorenstein center to revoke Hossein Derakhshan’s fellowship

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Harvard’s Shorenstein center to revoke Hossein Derakhshan’s fellowship

On January 11, 2018 Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s (HKS) Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy named Mr. Hossein Derakhshan as one of its 2018 fellows. The news struck us with shock and disappointment, leaving us to question the integrity and merits of the decision made by Shorenstein Center to grant Mr. Derakhshan an opportunity of such caliber.
We choose to believe that Shorenstein Center does not know enough about Mr. Derakhshan and his systematic and unjustifiable activities against Iranian citizens, human rights advocates and journalists over the years. As such, we take it upon us to provide a summary of Mr Derakhshan’s activities, not stated in his biography posted on Shorenstein Center’s website. His systematic intimidation of Iranian advocates has indeed brought about irreversible consequences for many innocent citizens.
• Mr. Derakhshan wrote pieces linking Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari and Iranian-Canadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo to the National Endowment for Democracy, implying strongly that these scholars were engaged in espionage activities. This charge put the liberty and lives of these scholars at risk during their periods of detention in Iran.
• Mr. Derakhshan wrote a piece in the Open Democracy website defending a forced confession extracted from Mr. Jahanbegloo
• Mr. Derakhshan exposed the identity of an anonymous dissident Iranian blogger, thus making him and his family a target for Iran’s intelligence ministry
• Mr. Derakshan repeatedly attempted to link Iranian human rights activists to Bush-era “regime change” efforts, thus imperilling their lives, their families, and their work
• Mr. Derakhshan has written repeatedly in defense of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Mr. Derakhshan deliberately chose to misuse his influence and to turn his back to the very individuals he could have helped and supported with his technological expertise. His decision, and the activities that followed, do not merit recognition in the name of the late President John F. Kennedy. It is disheartening and alarming to see a premier academic institution established based upon values of respect, honesty and accountability jeopardizing these very principles by such a decision. We live in a time when preserving our uncompromising commitment to democratic values, accountability and transparency are of the essence.
Opportunities such as this fellowship are typically there to empower individuals, influencers, experts, advocates and leaders who put their knowledge into practice for the betterment of the society. However, with its selection of Mr. Derakhshan, Shorenstein Center appears to also grant fellowships to those who hinder the wellbeing of citizens courageously working to realize democratic values locally and globally. Granting Mr. Derakhshan a fellowship at Harvard University has sent an alarming signal to the Iranian human rights community in the country and abroad.

In light of the above, we, the undersigned of this letter, respectfully urge the Harvard University to take on the necessary steps to reassess Mr. Derakhshan’s case, and to reconsider its decision.


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