According to a report recently published by the Henry Jackson Society and Student Rights, Durham University received over £185,000 from the regimes of Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Cameroon, Vietnam and North Korea between 2008 and 2011.
An earlier report, published by the Centre for Social Cohesion, revealed a donation of £2.25million made to Durham University by Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi of Sharjah (UAE) in 1999. Al-Qasimi made another donation in 2008, although the exact amount is not known. Responding to the report, the university issued a statement in which it denied that Sharjah’s alleged human rights abuses are “violations in the sense understood by the major human rights organisations”.
In 2012, the university took an additional £2.5million from Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah of Kuwait. Robert Halfon MP condemned the “astonishing” decision to receive money from a country which “we cannot consider to be democratic or tolerant” and “does not respect equality rights for women, property rights or the rule of law”.
In 2008, Durham University signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Under this agreement, £10,000 was paid to the university by the regime. The university had previously appointed former Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Nosratollah Tajik as an Honorary Fellow in 2004. Tajik was arrested by British authorities in 2006 for his role in smuggling military equipment into Iran.
As part of the formal relationship between Durham University and the Iranian regime, a seminar “monopolised by pro-regime speakers” was held at the university in 2010. The event was jointly organised by the Iranian Embassy in Britain. When Iranian students at the university protested the event, they were denounced by Dr Colin Turner, the Co-Director of Durham’s Centre for Iranian Studies, for having “absolutely no problem in accepting scholarships from the British government – which has turned the slaughter of innocent teenagers in Iraq and Afghanistan into an art form”. He added that, “before they accuse us of receiving what they term ‘blood money’ from our Iranian funders, maybe they should look a little more closely at the source of their own funding”.
The same Dr Turner freely admitted that “Iranian money comes with strings attached”, which may explain why, for 14 months, the university refused to condemn the regime for imprisoning its former student, Eshan Abdoh-Tabrizi. Although Eshan was arrested in January, the university would not even acknowledge his arrest until June.