April 2, 2012
Chancellor Michael Drake
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
RE: Dr. Hazem Chehabi appointment
Via E-mail and Fax
Dear Chancellor Drake,
We are writing to you regarding the Chair of the UCI Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Hazem Chehabi. As you know, Dr. Chehabi serves as the Syrian Honorary Consul General, a post that makes him the highest-ranking Syrian diplomat in the U.S. still associated with the brutal Assad regime.
On Thursday, March 15th, UC Irvine’s Associated Student Government overwhelmingly voted in favor of calling for the removal of Dr. Chehabi from the Board of Trustees.
As concerned community members and advocates, we applaud the student government’s courageous decision and join them in urging the UCI administration and the Board of Trustees to take immediate necessary measures to remove Dr. Chehabi from his position as Chair until he condemns the ruthless massacre of innocent civilians by the Syrian regime and no longer represents the government of Bashar Al-Assad as Honorary Consul General of the Syrian consulate in Southern California.
We should clarify that it is not enough for the UCI administration to merely issue general condemnations of massacres of innocent Syrian families and children by the Assad regime. What is needed are direct and clear actions from UC Irvine distancing itself and its Board of Trustees from any and all connections with the Assad regime.
Since March 15, 2011, the Syrian people have been subjected to a brutal crackdown for what began as a peaceful protest against the 40-year dictatorship of the Assad family. Human rights groups estimate that over the past 12 months, more than 11,000 civilians have been killed, including more than 750 children and 650 women; more than 35,000 injured, over 65,000 missing, and over 200,000 people are in detention, where they are subjected to abuse and torture. Throughout the past month, the cities of Homs, Idlib, and Dar’aa have been under an incessant, brutal attack by heavy artillery that has claimed the lives of many civilians and destroyed countless homes and buildings. In the midst of such incessant bombardment by the regime, Homs and municipalities like Baba Amr have been leveled and almost entirely destroyed. Contrary to what the Assad regime will have people believe, this violence has not only targeted Sunni Muslims but Syrians of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
A man who has repeatedly refused to condemn the Assad regime and step down as the Consul General for the regime with such a long record of crimes against humanity should not represent or be associated with this University.
Unfortunately Chancellor Drake’s statement in support of the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom and justice rings hollow, in light of Drake’s and UCI’s continued association with a representative of the Assad regime:
“We join the world community in expressing outrage at the continued violence toward unarmed civilians in Syria and in demanding that the violence stop.”
UC Irvine prides itself on promoting and advocating the values of democracy and freedom. As such, the university should be at the forefront of taking a stance against any regime that violates human rights, especially in times of continuous mass killings and human rights violations.
We urge the University to stand by its principles of justice, honor and integrity, and put its words into action
by demanding its Chair of the Board of Trustees step down from his position as the Honorary Syrian General Consul of the Assad regime or alternatively, removing Dr. Chehabi from the Board if he fails to do so.
We look forward to your timely response.
American Muslims for Palestine, Southern California
Wendy Tarr, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Orange County
Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area
Rev. Jerald M. Stinson, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Long Beach
IUCC (Irvine United Congregational Church) Advocates for Peace and Justice
Stephen F. Rohde, Chair, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace, National
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles
Kathy Masaoka, Co-Chair, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress
Orange County DREAM Team
Rev. Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting
Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Progressive Faith Foundation
Shura Council of Southern California
Dr. Reinhard Krauss, Co-Pastor, St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Syrian American Council, Los Angeles