By A. J. Cave
On March 4th, 1933, a group of American archaeologists from the Chicago University's Oriental Institute, excavating in the ruins of Pārsā (Persepolis), struck pure gold. They found the largest ancient archive of its size under heaps of ashes and broken stones that had collapsed, preserving its treasure for centuries. That priceless treasure, Achaemenid Administrative Archives, more commonly known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA), is now caught in the American legal system, as the coveted prize in a federal lawsuit - part of a series of related lawsuits, no longer just to seize commercial assets owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran, but a fight for the seizure of precious Persian antiquities held by western museums, regardless of who owns them.
On March 4th, 2009, a group of eminent Iranian academics wrote a letter to Mr. Javier Solana, Secretary General of the European Union, expressing their dismay in new reports that the European Union is now considering to include Sharif University of Technology (SUT), a prestigious Iranian University, in a new list of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, yet another short-sighted western policy to apply international pressure on IRI over her national atomic policy.
So, have you heard of Sharif University?
Bruce Wooley, a former chair of the Electrical Engineering Department at Stanford University, said in an article in Newsweek last year that Sharif [Sharif University of Science and Technology, Islamic Republic of Iran] now has one of the best undergraduate electrical-engineering programs in the world.
The former Aryamehr University founded in 1965 by Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, still thrives as Sharif University of Technology under the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sharif graduates proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the graduates from MIT, Caltech and Stanford in the United States, Tsinghua in China and Cambridge in Britain, just to mention a few.
How about that?
Do you know who Farinaz Koushanfar is? Last year, this young assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering from Rice University, was named one of the world's 35 Top Young Innovators by MIT Technology Review magazine (MIT TR35).
She has developed new techniques that microchip designers can use to fight hardware piracy. A technology that could save billions of dollars per year for microchip manufactures. Her competition was some 300 of the brightest young minds in biotechnology, medicine, computing and nanotechnology. My kind of '300'. Judges came from major institutions and corporations such as MIT, BP, Digg, Del.icio.us, IBM Watson Research Center, Xerox Corp., Princeton, Yale and Texas A&M Universities.
Farinaz Koushanfar is a Sharif University graduate. She is in great company. Students from Sharif University, University of Tehran, Esfahan University of Technology, Shiraz University and other top Iranian schools, are developing a stellar reputation as science superstars in fields of chemistry, mathematics and robotics.
For those of you who don't do 'math', here is a lady who does: Maryam Mirzakhani - another Sharif University mathematics graduate. She became a full professor of mathematics at Stanford University at age of 31 last year. Now she is a Clay Mathematics Institute Research Fellow and a professor at Princeton University. A woman who is not just a credit to all Iranian women, but to all women everywhere!
Some of the great Silicon Valley companies, such as Alvand Technologies, are founded by Iranians. Many Iranians contribute daily in various fields, too numerous to mention, throughout United States and the rest of the world.
The reputation of Sharif and other top Iranian Universities is in no small measure due to the excellent Iranian faculty and educators, building on a tradition of excellence on a high-school system, where emphasis is placed on teaching math and science and exposing students to subjects that most American students do not study until entering college.
Here is another area where Americans and Iranians have much in common: University professors in both countries are under-paid and under-appreciated by the educational system. Some barely can make ends meet. Both admired by their students. Some even revered. But unlike their global counterparts, Iranian academics and scholars face numerous indignities when traveling abroad to share their knowledge and participate in global scholarly exchange.
And now Iranian Universities face the possibility of becoming military targets.
I have an enormous debt of gratitude to all the Iranian educators who have taught me how to fish for myself. It is a debt that can never be repaid in full - but it must be openly and humbly acknowledged all the same.
I wish to add my voice to those of my former professors in requesting the European Union to not just remain neutral but to openly embrace the Iranian educators, scholars and students.
Our world would be indeed poorer if we close our minds and our borders to academic freedom and global exchange of intellectual excellence.
I cannot even imagine what the world would be like if we target institutions of higher learning as military target practices for political gains.
About the author: A. J. Cave is an Iranian-American writer based in California, USA. She is a member of Northern California Chapter of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA) and Stanford University's World Association of International Studies (WAIS).
She is currently working on her second historical novel Cyrus Romance: Kuru Nāmeh. Information about her first historical novel Roxana Romance: Roanak Nāmeh is available at www.pavasta.com.
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