Iran Interior Minister Kordan sacked for fake Oxford degree
Michael Theodoulou | November 05, 2008
IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suffered a humiliating and politically
damaging setback when his Interior Minister, Ali Kordan, was impeached by
parliament for deception after he confessed to holding a forged law degree from
The President has portrayed himself as a champion against corruption but stood
by Mr Kordan as the scandal intensified, insisting that his minister was a
"victim" who had devoted 30 years of service to the Islamic Republic and should
not be judged on one "piece of torn paper".
Mr Ahmadinejad refused to attend the parliamentary session, declaring that the
move to impeach was illegal because Mr Kordan had committed no wrongdoing
during his turbulent three months in office.
But the parliamentarians behind the motion countered that an interior minister
should be seen to be incorruptible: his powerful post oversees domestic
security as well as organising vital presidential elections to be held next
Mr Kordan was defeated by a large majority. His unseemly sacking pushes the
President dangerously close to having to submit his whole cabinet to a review
by parliament, which is led by Ali Larijani, the parliamentary Speaker, who is
one of Mr Ahmadinejad's key political rivals within the fractious conservative
Mr Kordan's disgrace will deal a body blow to Mr Ahmadinejad's hopes of winning
a second four-year term but will not prove mortal, analysts said. Deputies have
accused him of naivety for having been duped by the lies of his disgraced
But the President faces more serious challenges, in particular over his
expansionary economic policies, which are blamed for rampant inflation that now
stands at nearly 30 per cent.
Plunging oil prices also mean that it will be difficult for Mr Ahmadinejad to
keep handing out cheap loans to the poor who helped him to win power in the
Meanwhile, Mr Ahmadinejad's failure to show up at several recent public events
triggered rumours that he was too ill to run for president again, forcing aides
to admit that he sometimes suffers from strain and exhaustion.
The Kordan saga began in August when parliament - which vets cabinet ministers
proposed by the President - met to vote on his confirmation. When several
deputies questioned Mr Kordan's eligibility, he brandished a graduation
certificate purporting that he had been awarded an "honorary doctorate of law"
He did little to allay suspicions of his academic record by persistently
referring to one of Britain's two most prestigious seats of learning as "the
London Oxford University". Within days Iranian reporters were following up
claims by some deputies that the degree was bogus. Mr Kordan promptly released
a copy of the certificate to quell such speculation.
Alef, an Iranian news website associated with one of Mr Ahmadinejad's critics,
delightedly pointed out several spelling and grammatical errors in the
document. The word entitle, for instance, appeared as "intitle".
Alef passed the certificate to Oxford, which disavowed it. The Iranian
Government then blocked access to Alef.
Mr Kordan soon became a laughing stock. Gleeful Iranian websites circulated a
fake resignation letter by the supposedly contrite minister that brimmed with
typographical errors and crossings-out.
One deputy claimed that Mr Kordan, who worked as a university lecturer, had
even regaled students with imaginary tales about his days amid Oxford's
dreaming spires and hallowed cloisters.
Mr Kordan, who stubbornly refused numerous calls to resign instead of facing
impeachment, told parliament on Monday that he would never have presented the
degree if he had known it was a fake.
He claimed that it was issued for his "managerial and executive experience" and
for a thesis he had submitted to the University of Oxford through a person who
had opened an affiliate office in Tehran.
Mr Kordan insisted that he received the degree in good faith and doubted it
only when deputies questioned its authenticity. "To my utter disbelief, the
university did not confirm (the degree) when my representative went there", he
He claimed that he had filed a complaint against the mysterious intermediary
who purportedly represented Oxford in Tehran. But Mr Kordan said that he was
unable to find the man and has declined to name him.