The Hari Putar Dialogues - 18
(The Guardian, Tehran, 13 August 2008. When skeptical MPs questioned the eligibility of Ali Kordan to be Iran's interior minister, he believed he had the perfect riposte; a law degree obtained from one of the world's most elite institutions, the University of Oxford. He even flaunted a graduation certificate on university-headed paper purporting to award him an "honorary doctorate of law" for "opening a new chapter" in comparative legal studies. Now Kordan's extravagant claims have landed him in hot water and severely embarrassed the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the university denied ever having awarded him a degree.)
Putar: There was a report in the Guardian today about an Iranian Minister who has been flaunting a fake law degree from the University of Oxford.
Hari: I read that report, putar. Fake Bachelors, Masters and even PhD degrees are now commonly available on the Internet for a small price.
Putar: But this was a degree from Oxford University.
Hari: And no ordinary degree at that. It was an honorary doctorate in law in comparative legal studies. A PhD. No less
Putar: Would a PhD help someone in carrying out the functions of a Cabinet Minister?
Hari: I don't think so, putar, although some basic education would certainly help. Why did the issue of his eligibility come up at all? Surely cabinet ministers in Iran are not required to have high educational attainments.
Putar: It is not required at all. I understand that President Ahmadinejad had introduced him to fellow parliamentarians as Doctor Ali Kordan, and that's how the whole controversy had started. Some of the opposition members questioned why he was being introduced as a Doctor when, to their knowledge he didn't have a PhD.
Hari: And that's when he pulled out that fancy degree from Oxford University to quell their protests.
Putar: Exactly! But it all rebounded, because as the matter developed it became obvious that the degree was a fake.
Hari: Didn't the certificate have some signatures?
Putar: It certainly had, Papaji. Dated June 2000, the certificate said Kordan had "shown great effort in preparing educational materials" and it bore the signatures of three professors, Edmund Rolls, Alan Cowey and PE Bryant in awarding him a degree from the university's "faculty of the college of law".
Hari: Do these professors teach there then?
Putar: In a statement, the university said: "Professor Edmund Rolls, Professor Peter Bryant and Professor Alan Cowey have all at some stage held posts at the University of Oxford. However, none of them work in the field of law, and none of them would sign degree certificates." It's an irony that it happens to be a PhD in law, isn't it?
Hari: Why do you say that?
Putar: Well, I'm sure parading fake degrees amounts to breaking the law and is an offence under Iranian law, but to forge a honorary PhD certificate in Law of all subjects makes it all the more...
Hari: The Iranian President Ahmadinejad has publicly defended Kordan by dismissing all degrees in general as " torn paper", a phrase he has often used to dismiss UN Security Council resolutions against Iran's nuclear program.
Putar: He may dismiss UN Security Council resolutions as being worthless, as sometimes they may be, but this certificate is not only worthless, it is also a fake. Mr Kordan could be prosecuted for it.
Hari: That's true. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Majlis, the Iranian Parliament, has ordered a Committee to investigate the authenticity of his academic qualifications.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: Wouldn't you agree that anyone who produces a false certificate has no right to be a Minister?
Hari: I would agree with that, putar.
Putar: In this particular case however even if the University of Oxford had not issued the statement that it did, it would still have been obvious that the certificate was a fake.
Hari: Why do you say that, putar?
Putar: The news website Alef has posted the statement issued by Oxford University on its site alongside Kordan's "certificate", in which it gleefully pointed out several grammatical and spelling errors. For instance, in the certificate, "entitled" is misspelled "intitled," and according to the certificate Kordan was granted the degree "to be benefitted from its scientific privileges." The clumsily worded document says Kordan "has shown a great effort in preparing educational materials and his research in the domain of comparative law,that has opened a new chapter, not only in our university, but, to our knowledge, in this country." You see, there should be a space after a comma but the certificate has left out spaces after all but one of the commas.
Hari: I see. So not only is it a fake, it is an obvious fake prepared by someone with very poor English.
Putar: Flourishing such a document as genuine shows remarkably poor assessment on the part of Mr Kordan.
Hari: No doubt about that, putar.
Putar: If someone has such poor assessment with regard to how the authenticity of an ordinary PhD certificate would be judged by anyone with some basic intelligence and knowledge of the English language, how can judicious, unbiased assessment be expected of him, while judging law and order and other complex situations in the country. An ability to assess intelligently is surely a reasonable requirement to be expected of the Interior Minister of a country.
Hari: I suppose it is fair to conclude that we cannot expect much discernment from this gentleman.
Putar: To sum up, would you agree that Mr Kordan should not be appointed as Interior Minister if he produced a fake PhD certificate?
Hari: I agree with you.
Putar: And also, or even more so, because he produced such a poor fake?
Hari: I don't know, putar.