McGill University says it is investigating one of its instructors who allegedly called for the death of people participating in anti-government protests in the streets of Iran in recent weeks.
Members inside and outside the McGill community are accusing the staff member, Soroosh Shahriari, of promoting hate speech and inciting violence. They also say the university is acting too slowly in holding him accountable and plan to hold a protest on campus Thursday evening.
A post from his Twitter account, which has since been deleted, said how “sweet” and “heartwarming” it would be to see the leaders of the protests killed.
Shahriari is an instructor in the Jewish studies program for the fall 2022 semester, according to McGill’s website.
On Sept. 22, a post from his Twitter account appeared to comment on the recent uprising in Tehran after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody after being arrested by Iran’s “morality police.”
She was arrested after being targeted by authorities because her headscarf was allegedly too loose, in violation of an enforced dress code for women in Iran.
Since her death, protesters have taken to the streets, many of them women who have boldly removed their hijabs as they call for the removal of Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Since Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17, protests have spread to more than 80 cities in Iran and Amnesty International estimates at least 52 people have been killed by security forces between Sept. 19 and 25.
“How good and heartwarming it will be to experience the execution of hundreds of Mojahedin leaders arrested in the recent riots. Oh Good, it is sweet!” reads the controversial tweet from Shahriari’s account.
CTV News reached out to Shahriari via email and he declined to comment publicly.
Along with his Twitter account, his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts also appear to have been deleted.
An online petition that has collected more than 23,000 signatures calls on McGill to investigate the matter and to enforce the university’s policies.
“The particular tweet praises execution and may incite violence against protestors. In our view, and given the context summarized above, the “Mojahedin leaders arrested” in this tweet can only be interpreted as a reference to Iranian protesters or a group of protesters whom the tweet author speculates to be members of [People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran],” the petition reads.
“The statement was felt by us to be a veiled threat to the safety of any individual, including McGill students, who support freedom-seeking protestors in Iran or may share political beliefs that are targeted by this tweet.”
When asked if Shahriari is still an instructor, McGill said it could not comment due to privacy laws.
The university wrote that it is balancing the heightened concern over the “shocking posts” on social media with the instructor’s freedom of expression.
“We continue to look into the matter very closely and we have reached out directly to Iranian students at McGill to offer support at this difficult time. We have also encouraged all students, whether Iranian or not, who require support to seek out the resources available at McGill,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.
“As we have reminded our community, it is crucial for all of us to remember the importance of procedural fairness and to take into account the wide protection offered to free expression in our society, even when such expression is distasteful or disturbing.”
In the meantime, a poster with the title “Freedom of repression” was circulating on social media promoting a “sit-in” at McGill from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday.