Three awards and one man of distinction

June 22, 2007 at 12:36 pm (UK NEWS)

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Last October former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami – a man who has yet to be investigated in connection with human rights abuses and murders that occurred under his watch both as president of Iran and during his tenure as head of the country’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance – travelled to the University of St Andrews in Scotland to accept an honorary degree for his efforts in promoting “dialogue between faiths”.

(Surely an insult to the women stoned by his government and the writers and political dissidents it has killed.)

The National Union of Students said that it was “appalled” and issued a demand for Khatami to use his influence to secure the release of Ahmad Batebi, the pro-democracy demonstrator imprisoned for his role in the student protests of 1999, before any honour was bestowed.

The NUS, like many, regarded St Andrews’ move as an endorsement of Iran’s criminal theocracy by a UK institution. So perhaps we can forgive the poor old mullahs for being slightly baffled now that another British institution – the monarchy, no less – has given Salman Rushdie a knighthood. (He’s been made a ‘Sir’ as Iranians say.)

Quite what the UK government is playing at is unclear, but so curious is the tango between these two nations that we shouldn’t be surprised if in the next few months President Ahmadinejad himself flies to Scotland to pick up a tartan turban and a bottle of scotch for the Supreme Leader – with some deep-fried Mars bars and a kilt thrown (and if we’re lucky, a headbutt).

Or perhaps the University of St Andrews will come to its senses and follow the example of Edinburgh University, which decided last week to strip Robert Mugabe of the honorary degree it awarded him in 1984. (Hopefully, 23 years hence Khatami will not be the leader of Zimbabwe.)

As for Sir Salman, if only he had the gumption and wisdom to follow the example of the fashion entrepreneur Joseph Corre (pictured) – and son of designer Vivienne Westwood – who turned down his MBE, rubber-stamped as it was by Downing Street.

He wrote in The Independent yesterday: “I couldn’t accept an honour from a dishonest man. And Tony Blair is a dishonest man… Mr Blair has caused many miserable deaths and tortures.”

Too bad that – unlike this honourable businessman – the world’s Bush-friendly Sir Salmans are not willing to swim upstream.

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