Harvard Donor Accused of Illegally Funding Iran

The Alavi Foundation, a non-profit organization that has funded various Harvard programs in Middle Eastern culture and language, faced formal allegations from the U.S. government earlier this month that they had illegally given money and services to the Iranian government in violation of laws that regulate trade with Iran.

The foundation, which provides donations to colleges to promote Islamic education, denies the charges, according to a report from the New York Times.

The foundation referred media inquiries to its lawyer, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The grants received from the Alavi Foundation have funded programs at both Harvard College and Harvard Law School and have been spent to promote the academic purposes of the University.

The funds partially cover expenses for programs in Middle Eastern culture, language instruction, and legal studies, according to a statement released by Harvard yesterday.

“The grants...have been spent solely for purposes in furtherance of Harvard’s academic mission” said Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin.

Media reports questioning the legitimacy of the organization go back as far as 2003, when the Washington Post reported that federal instigators were looking into the organization.

Yet the investigations have only recently led to formal allegations and the government seizure of the Alavi Foundation’s New York-based real estate holdings.

Galvin said that Harvard officials were not aware of the Alavi Foundation’s alleged ties to the Iranian government before the recent press reports were published.

One recipient of the Alavi Foundation’s grants, the faculty at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, is concerned about the consequences of the recent accusations levelled by the government.

“[The Alavi Foundation] provides money to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, so there was some feeling that you might lose that money,” said Middle East History Professor E. Roger Owen.

But despite the recent accusations, President of the Harvard Islamic Society Na’eel Cajee ’10 said he believes that it is important to step back from the issue and remain objective until more details are uncovered.

“Any comment made at this point is mere conjecture about a long standing donor to an academic program,“ Cajee said.

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