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Iran’s very own Braveheart: Uncovering Rowhani’s Scottish education

Hassan Rowhani is Iran’s president-elect. (File photo: Reuters)

Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rowhani has a some-what unknown Scottish past, being educated in Glasgow during the 1990s.

Rowhani, 64, studied at Glasgow Caledonian University in 1995, pursuing an MPhil and later a PhD in law, from which he graduated in 1999, according to Glasgow’s The Herald newspaper.

According to a graduation list, published in The Herald in July 1999, Iran’s soon-to-be leader graduated from his Doctor of Philosophy under his birth-name Hassan Feridon.

The Glasgow Caledonian University’s library houses two books identified as theses authored by Hassan Feridon, published in 1995 and 1998, entitled “The Islamic legislative power with reference to the Iranian experience” and “The flexibility of Shariah (Islamic law) with reference to the Iranian experience,” highlighting his interest in Islam, according to The Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.

Did he study in absentia?

According to some reports, Rowhani may have earned his Scottish qualifications in absentia, as his education coincided with his tenure as secretary of Iran’s national security council, a post which he held from 1989 to 2005.

The Telegraph newspaper noted that such a job would presumably leave little scope for intense study or prolonged absences.

This is perhaps why former students contacted by The Daily Telegraph newspaper were unable to remember a peer named Rowhani, or even Feridon, reported the Telegraph on Sunday.

Writing in the Huffington Post this, Amir Dastmalchian – an academic affiliated to King’s College, London – said such absenteeism was conceivable.

“The lack of regular compulsory elements in most British doctorates means that students can find ways to obtain doctorates for work conducted in another language,” he stated.

“Whatever is the case with Mr. Rowhani’s PhD, it is certainly possible, in specific instances, to obtain a doctorate in the UK without truly going through a process of new learning and without being part of the academic life of a university.”

Scrutiny of his credentials

Intense scrutiny of Rowhani’s academic credentials occurred after a January investigation by online monitoring group, Iran Election Watch.

Prior to their article, which stated that Rowhani attended Glasgow Caledonian University, “Hassan Rowhani’s biography on Center for Strategic Research (CSR), a think tank run by Rowhani, claimed he had graduated from the internationally acclaimed University of Glasgow,” Denise Ajiri, co-founder of Iran Election Watch, told Al Arabiya English.

“While writing potential presidential candidates’ biography we tried to track down Rowhani’s educational background. We were not able to find any online evidence about his attendance at Glasgow University.

After contacting the university in question “they told us they found no evidence that Rowhani ever received a degree from the University of Glasgow,” added Ariji.

After Iran Election Watch published the story “we received an email from CSR. They clarified that the “correct university is GCU (Glasgow Caledonian University) [and] not University of Glasgow,” she explained.

The article led to a change in Rowhani’s CSR website biography, states Ajiri.

“Of course they did not say that they have changed the name from “Glasgow” to “Glasgow Caledonian”, but we have the screenshots from both before and after the changes were made which proves that they have made a correction.”
 

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Last Update: Tuesday, 18 June 2013 KSA 11:19 - GMT 08:19
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