“The most dangerous form of discrimination is a government that discriminates; you have to fight against that”
Iranian-Dutch nuclear physicist and professor Nasser Kalantar (1960) experienced the UN sanctions against scientists of Iranian origin first-hand. He fought against the restrictions that the sanctions imposed upon him, and he won.
“My work as a nuclear physicist was impeded by the sanctions of 2006. I couldn’t go to the nuclear power station in Petten for meetings there, and I couldn’t go to Delft University of Technology to attend a lecture. Apparently, it didn’t matter that I had lived here for thirty years and had a Dutch passport. All people of Iranian background were being treated as collectively guilty until proven innocent – that’s discrimination.
All people of Iranian background were being treated as collectively guilty until proven innocent – that’s discrimination.Nasser Kalantar
We won the lawsuit we filed against the sanction scheme resoundingly in the lower court, on appeal, and in the Supreme Court. But we never got any kind of apology from the government. Last year, I saw Minister Blok [Foreign Affairs] on TV talking about a suspicious case at Delft University of Technology, and saying that because of that case everyone with an Iranian background had to be screened. If you can’t expect a minister to properly understand the outcome of a court case, how can you expect ordinary people to do so?
If you see something wrong happening, you have to call it out, even if that gets you into trouble.Nasser Kalantar
The most dangerous form of discrimination is a government that discriminates; you have to fight against that. Even knowing that a court case will take years and cost so much energy, like mine did. The people around me tried to talk me out of even doing it. But I am a man of principle; that’s something I got from my parents. They always told me, ‘If you see something wrong happening, you have to call it out, even if that gets you into trouble. Never just be a silent observer.’
If there’s something I don’t agree with, I say so. While I was studying in America, that sometimes got me very nasty responses, like: ‘If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave?’ Discrimination is very deeply rooted in America. My wife and I decided that we didn’t want to bring our kids up in a country like that. So we chose to come to the Netherlands, but discrimination is sadly present here too, often below the surface. But here you can actually talk about these things and there is a functioning legal system.”
Starting in 2006, the UN Security Council adopted a number of resolutions in an attempt to prevent Iran from conducting nuclear research. The Iranian government’s refusal to be deterred by these resolutions led to drastic sanctions being imposed on the country.