The Two-Way
8:35 am
Fri March 16, 2012

California Students Push For Removal Of Syrian From Foundation

  • Amy Walters on the NPR Newscast

The student council at the University of California Irvine approved a resolution Thursday demanding that Dr. Hazem Chehabi, Syria's honorary consul in Southern California, be removed from the post of chair at the UC Irving Foundation, which supports the school and is trying to raise $1 billion for it.

The non-binding resolution cites:

-- The "deadly violence" used by the regime of President Bashar Assad "against peaceful protesters."

-- That "Hazem Chehabi serves as an official representative of a foreign
regime that continues to commit crimes against humanity" and has "continuously refused to step down as the Syrian Honorary Consul General or condemn the killing of innocent civilians by the Syrian regime."

-- And that "the continued tenure of Hazem Chehabi directly contradicts the
values and goals the University wishes to establish as a beacon for human rights protection."

It then goes on to "demand the University ... uphold its values and take a stand for human rights and the accessibility of freedom and democracy for everyone" by taking "the necessary actions to remove Hazem Chehabi from his position as Chair of the Board of Trustees."

NPR's Amy Walters, who has been following the debate over Chehabi's position on the foundation, spoke with him last summer. She reported that:

"Although Dr. Chehabi agreed to meet with NPR, he refused to be recorded. He won't discuss the Assad regime, but says personally, he opposes the shooting of unarmed civilians."

Amy also reported last summer that University Chancellor Michael Drake "declined NPR's interview requests, but offered a written statement, saying the university appreciates Dr. Chehabi's support. He also expressed outrage at the violence in Syria."

Our colleagues at KPCC add that "in a response to his critics, Chehabi [has written in the past] that his consular position is volunteer-based, that he is not paid by the Syrian government and that he has no ties to the Assad regime."

As Amy reported, however, Chehabi told her that he and Assad grew up together and were still meeting as of last summer.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.