Excalibur – –
Despite a student-organized protest, the controversial documentary Iranium was successfully screened on campus Feb. 11.
The screening of Iranium, a film that explores the history of Iran as well as the idea of Iran as a nuclear state, was sponsored by a number of student groups on campus, and was monitored by 11 Toronto police officers.
David Elmaleh – an executive member of Hasbara Fellowships at York, one of the groups sponsoring the event – said the screening was intended to draw attention to Iran’s reported ambitions to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons, which would threaten the entire globe.
“A university […] is exactly the place that you should be discussing these issues,” said Maleh.
The screening, however, caused an uproar among many York students. A crowd of just under 100 protestors showed up with homemade signs and chanted “No more lies” and “No war, no Iranium.”
Noah Kadish, co-president of the Jewish Law Students Association at Osgood Hall, said the protest would not do much good.
“It’s a little odd that one of the groups protesting is the Iranian Human Rights Society (IHRS) when the Iranian government is perpetrating human rights abuses against the Iranian people,” he said. “They should be hoping to also put the spotlight on these abuses.”
But Hanieh Bahmanpour, an executive member of IHRS at York who was at the event protesting the film, expressed her concerns over the screening.
“We felt that [Iranium] portrays a lot of false information,” said Bahmanpour. She said all the film would do is spread propaganda.
She also pointed out the commentators in the film deliberately mistranslate the Farsi language to make the dialogue appear more violent and threatening.
“It was not an issue about supporting the regime, but it was an issue about spreading false information and promoting war and propaganda on campus,” said Bahmanpour.
Dishy pointed out many Iranian students on campus were supportive of the screening.
“There were a lot of random Iranians that came up [to the tabling for the event] and were very supportive of it,” he said, specifically referencing the “Iran Human Rights Activists Association of York University” listed as a sponsor on the group’s Facebook page.
The association is not an officially registered student club, and according to Bahmanpour is composed mainly of Iranian students. It was founded by Sara
Akrami, a former IHRS member who left for undisclosed reasons.
IHRS member Niloofar Golkar said his group was particularly offended [email protected] had hired 11 police officers for the event in response to the student protest.
Adir Dishy, president of [email protected], said his group never requested any police officers, and that the number of officers at the event was determined by York Security and Toronto police.
“Regardless of what we want, that’s how many [officers] that have to be there,” he said, adding [email protected] is unable to afford 11 police officers. The group was charged for the cost of two officers, he clarified, since clubs that sponsor an event requiring security must bear partial security costs.
Rob Kilfoyle, director of security services, confirmed the police were paid duty officers and that [email protected] would be covering some of the costs.
When it comes to protests, Kilfoyle said York Security Services dialogues with student groups.
“We meet with student groups [to] let them know they’re free to express their ideas as long as it’s done safely and respectfully,” he said. “We encourage open dialogue.”
Unfortunatly, the demonstrations distracted more than a few nearby students, some of whom were writing exams for a second-year software tools course.
Though the professor stated he didn’t think the demonstrations overly disrupted the exam, some students claimed otherwise.
“It affected us so badly,” said second-year computer science student Ahmad Aseeri. Wizda Nisar, a third-year in the same major, complained “we couldn’t focus.” Third-year fine arts student Prina Wong was particularly irked.
“It was really annoying because I was trying to focus on the test,” she said. “I probably failed.”
This article was originally published here.