I am much saddened by learning of Hossein Alikhani's untimely death. As an occasional contributor to the prestigious journal of his center on world dialogue, I always admired Hossein for his unique initiative that was so close to his heart, the noble cause of global dialogue, and for his deep, passionate commitment to world peace.
Although we never met and I have yet to see even his photo, I feel I have lost a true friend with whom I shared so much and who always encouraged me in my various endeavour.
I recall how he made a generous contribution to the World Youth Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania, that took place in Summer of 2000. I was the organizing chair of that event and at the time worked closely with the UN's Special Representative on Dialogue Among Civilizations, Giandomenico Picco. Initially, I went to Vilnius with Picco to attend a three day seminar on Dialogue Among Civilizations that took place at the presidential palace and featured, among other speakers, three East European presidents as well as a number of international luminaries including the author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi.
Yet, I saw an opportunity to launch a unique event for the world's youth and turned to Mr. Alikhani who made a generous contribution of some $60,000 to UNSESCO-Lithuania, which co-sponsored the event -- that brought hundreds of young people from dozens of countries together for a week of cultural, social, and political dialogue. It was a wonderful festival and would have never been possible to cover the travel expense of most of the third world kids without Alikhani's contribution.
Another occasion when Alikhani came forward with assistance was a couple of years later when I was in Baku, Azerbaijan, for a two-day conference on oil and gas in the Caspian, and then I connected with the UN program on Caspian environment and worked on an international conference on Caspian environment with the goal of bringing the environmental NGOs from the region together for a few days and, again, it was Alikhani to the rescue for a bulk of the financial expenditures of the conference.
But, in addition to our shared interest in world peace and global dialogue, Alikhani and I shared something else in common: we had both suffered grievous injustice in America, and we had both brought civil rights law suit against the perpetrators of human rights abuse against us, in his case the US federal agents who abducted him and chained him to a bed for weeks, and in my case the rights abusers at Harvard University who framed me with a fictitious crime story in order to silence me. "We are comrades in suffering," I told Hossein one day and he chuckled, and I always felt he was one of the few people who knew the depth of my emotional pain caused by the blindness of American justice to my cry for justice.
Although an Iranian court had issued a verdict in Alikhani's favor, he was never able to collect a penny, and nor was I, despite the clear, irrefutable evidence of malicious abuse of my human rights at Harvard University. I remember one night, after I had emailed him some information about what had transpired in my case with Harvard, Hossein called and we spoke for a long time and when I expressed my dismay that the so-called Iranian intellectuals had chosen silence instead of speaking out on my behalf, as a few US luminaries like Noam Chomsky and historian Howard ZInn had done, his response was, "I am not alll surprised, but that is because most of them are very shallow."
I will always regret that we never met, this noble soul who loved Iran, and humanity.
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