Former Iranian President Speaks At UVa

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

September 7, 2006

The former President of Iran paid a visit to the University of Virginia. Muhammad Khatami, who was the Iranian president from 1997 to 2005, addressed students, faculty and administrators in the Dome Room of the Rotunda.

Khatami came to the University as part of a two week visit to the United States. The focus of his speech was how to rid the world of violence.

"This is a new beginning for the world married by violence, it seeks moderation and compassion," said Khatami.

Speaking through an interpreter, Khatami said he feels violence has gotten out of hand and it is not the message that religions teach.

In his speech to 140 students and faculty at UVa, Khatami said in order for the violence to stop, people of all nations have to have an open dialog about diversity, which is why he chose to speak at Thomas Jefferson's university.

"Such differences should not be a cause of conflict, but on the contrary, the diversity and dissimilarity, if the common objective is not forgotten, can help further the advancement of human society," said Khatami.

A Liberal Studies major, who sat in on the speech, found it inspiring, yet she said it wasn't specific.

"It's wonderful that that's what you hope, but what's happening and how are we getting there and if we are not getting there, why not?" asked Alana Levinson, a 4th year student.

To some other critics the whole dialog idea is hard to swallow, since Khatami was involved in the crackdown on Tehran University in 1999 where hundreds of students’ voices were not heard. They were arrested and tortured.

"Maybe in the past Khatami has not been the example of what he is demonstrating now. But does that mean that we don't give him the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, I don't think so," said Levinson.

One of the few questions Khatami answered was about the war in Iraq. He said by putting troops in Iraq America has increased terrorism. But now that they are there, the U.S. can't leave Iraq in the hands of terrorists.

Khatami is scheduled to speak at several universities in the next two weeks. He will speak at Harvard on September 10th.

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