Press Release by The British Council
It is with great regret that, on 31st January 2009, the British Council suspended its operations in Tehran after eight years of building cultural and educational links between the people of the UK and Iran.
In the last week of December, most of the sixteen locally-appointed members of staff were summoned for interviews at the Iranian Office of the President where it was suggested to them that they should resign from their posts with the British Council. This follows on from an incident where two members of staff had their passports confiscated after attempting to leave the country to go to a routine meeting.
"These actions by the Iranian authorities are unacceptable. They are designed to pressurise our staff with the clear intention of stopping our cultural and educational work in the country," said Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council.
"I welcome the fact that the Iranians have cultural centres here and want the British people to better understand their country through this kind of work. But this can not be a one-way street."
The safety and well-being of staff were the British Council's prime considerations and the organisation has had no choice but to suspend all cultural relations activities until such a time that operations can be resumed with employees able to conduct their work without fear of intimidation or harassment.
"There are no winners here. Our staff in Iran have lost their jobs; our Iranian partners have lost opportunities to work with the UK; and young people in Iran and the UK have lost the chance to build links that can last a lifetime," said Martin Davidson.
"I am disappointed that the Iranian authorities have chosen to cut educational and cultural ties with the UK at the very time when they can be of most value."
The British Council restarted its work in Iran in 2001 specifically at the invitation of the Iranian authorities. Since then we have achieved much with our Iranian partners over the last eight years, including staging the first Western theatre production and the first exhibition of Western modern art since the Islamic Revolution in 1978. We have strengthened links between researchers and universities in both countries and have made a significant contribution to developing the teaching of English in both the state and private sectors in Iran.
"I want to stress our commitment to building stronger cultural and educational ties between Iran and the UK," said Martin Davidson.
"At the British Council we know that maintaining open and constructive dialogue between countries is vital during difficult times. That is why we continue to work in places as challenging and varied as Iraq, Burma, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.
I am now looking for the opportunity to discuss with the Iranian authorities an agreement that will allow us to resume our work there in the future."
The British Council is a non-political cultural relations organisation that works in more than 100 countries worldwide to connect millions of people with the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas.
About: The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, science, sport and governance and last year we reached over 128 million people. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm's length from government.
Reference: British Council, Iran
... Payvand News - 02/05/09 ... --