Spectrum | Jun. 10 7:52 pm EST
SIPA-bound

Assad aide admitted to Columbia, expatriates group urges school to reconsider

Sheherazad Jaafari, a 22 year-old aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, will be attending SIPA in the fall, according to the New York Times Media Decoder. Why is the Media Decoder, a blog that primarily covers, well, the media, interested in this story? Because Jaafari may have gotten a little help in getting through the admissions process, courtesy of interview queen (and friend to the Assads) Barbara Walters.

Jaafari, who had previously helped arrange Walters’ infamous interview with President Assad, had struck up a friendship with Walters, referring to herself as the TV journalist’s “adopted child” in emails obtained by The Telegraph in Britain. When she applied to SIPA, she wrote Walters for help:

I applied for Columbia and I hope to get accepted. If there is any way you think you can give my application a push I would really really appreciate it. You did mention that you know a professor there.


Walters, mistakenly believing that Jaafari had applied to Columbia’s journalism school, then wrote to Columbia journalism professor Richard Wald on Jaafari’s behalf (disclosure: Wald is the former chair of Spectator’s Board of Trustees):

Hi there. This young woman, whose resume is attached, is the dtr of the Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. She helped arrange my interview with Assad. She is only 21 but had his ear and his confidence. I have recommended her as an intern to your son for Piers Morgan. She is applying to Columbia School of Journalism. She is brilliant, beautiful, speaks five languages. Anything you can do to help? And how are you anyway?

Wald wrote back, telling Walters that Jaafari had applied to SIPA, but nonetheless promising to help:

The degree she is applying for is not in the Journalism school but in International Affairs. However, through the Admissions Office network, I will get them to give her special attention. I am sure they will take her.

All else goes well and after I get a haircut, I will be beautiful again.

Jaafari got into SIPA, and presumably Wald got his haircut, so all was right in the world of Barbara Walters’ friends…or was it?

The Syrian Expatriates Organization, a group seeking to support “the activists on the ground to help cover the atrocities committed by the regime,” has issued a press release urging Columbia to rescind Jaafari’s offer of admission. The release reads, in part:

…SEO urges Columbia University to adhere to general ethical principles and rescind admission to Jaafari, who has been aiding the leader of a dictatorial regime that has killed tens of thousands of Syrian civilians.

[Correction: an earlier version of this post said Wald was a current member of Spectator's board of trustees.] Check back for updates.


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COMMENTS (31)

  1. CC '14 • June 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm • Reply

    I don’t interpret their outrage as directed towards the fact that she got a little bit of help in the admissions process. Many students utilize connections they have during the crapshoot that is US higher education admissions, myself included. Rather, this is a matter of the subject’s connection to egregious human rights violations rather than the ever-ubiquitous nepotism in the college admissions process. I would change the first paragraph, it’s misleading.

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    • Sido • September 3, 2012 at 1:55 am • Reply

      Le proble8me qui me pose vient surtout sur la dure9e de coiosmatnon, de9penser de l’argent dans un cd de musique ne me de9range pas, car la musique s’e9coute de nombreuse fois, le soucis d’un film c’est qu’il occupe notre esprit 1h30, vu le prix et le temps, il n’y a pas beaucoup de chose plus chere dans notre socie9te9. Meame des jeux video pourtant cher, e0 la meame echelle c’est moins cher car e7a occupe plus de temps. Une paire de chaussure tu la gardes 1 an, 2 ans voir plus. Le soucis des films vient de le0, pour le temps que e7a dur, c’est beaucoup trop cher 25 euros 1h30 C’est plus que se que je gagne dans le meame laps de temps J’adore les films, je suis meame cine9phile, que ce soit des films anciens ou nouveau j’aime, mais je n’ai pas envie d’attendre 10 ans qu’un film nouveau devienne vieux, et je n’ai pas envie non plus d’alourdir mes finances de9je0 serre9 Je regarde un film voir deux par soir en ge9ne9ral, 30 ou 31 jours dans un mois, en prenant une moyenne de 20 jours, en comptant ne serait-ce qu’un film e7a me fait 400 euros, juste avec 1 film, sachant que j’en regarde souvent 2, et je compte pas ceux que ma femme peut regarder e9galement et qui m’inte9resse pas, on arrive vite e0 des de9penses monstrueuse, donc entre stoppe9 quelques chose que j’aime, me ruiner ou regarder en streaming, mon choix est vite fait

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  2. Anonymous • June 11, 2012 at 9:05 am • Reply

    Agree with above. There is no outrage in receiving a letter of recommendation, as the application process requires three. This is done everyday at most schools. The only outrage would be if she and her family are involved with Assad and any human rights violations.

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  3. Tough case! • June 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm • Reply

    She’s apparently a good candidate, and rescinding the offer would be unjustified, unless she had directly committed a crime, which I doubt she has, given her position. I hope they weighed this problem when they admitted her.

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  4. Al Dorman • June 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm • Reply

    Columbia’s useful idiot journalism students furfilling their role – demonizing official enemies.

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  5. another political connection? • June 12, 2012 at 9:19 am • Reply

    Kazakhstan president’s nephew cheated his way into Columbia University

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/kazakh_columbia_con_job_Rzm2pW72MO90nyHRMCyctL

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    • Anonymous • June 12, 2012 at 9:21 am • Reply

      We’re getting like Harvard.

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    • Anonymous 2 • June 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm • Reply

      No comparisson. This girl didn’t cheat at all, and from what it looks she’s a good candidate. It’s unfair to judge someone by the position in which she was born. While she doesn’t do anything wrong, she must be treated with consideration.

      I see the resplies comming: What about the inocent people being killed in Syria? Indeed, those who are guilty should be accountable for their crimes, but as far as we can tell she isn’t part of them.

      They are in civil war, but the fact that she’s worked close to the regime in power doesn’t make her guilty of these crimes. She might even be a factor of change in her country in the future.

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      • Quentin • September 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm •

        Ce n’est pas possible alors meame que Hadopi 1e8re du nom e9tait en pre9paration tout le monde asavtisreit les autorite9s que c’e9tait un faux combat, et que e7a allait eatre un e9chec; Ca n’aurait comme conse9quence que de9placer le te9le9chargement ille9gal vers d’autres plateformes plus furtives et e7a allait de9mocratiser les outils d’anonymisation . on y va droit dedans et on continue !!! Mais c’est pas vrai ???!! Depuis le de9but on rabache que pour lutter contre le te9le9chargement ille9gal il fallait faire table rase du mode8le e9conomique du star-system qui n’a que trop dure9 depuis l’apre8s guerre. Beaucoup se sont grassement (et trop) enrichis sur cette base mais la socie9te9 et la technologie ont e9volue9es. Nous sommes dans un domaine qui n’est ni de la sante9, ni de l’e9ducation, ni de la se9curite9 ! j’allais meame dire ni meame de la culture !!! De9sole9 mais une grosse partie des productions populaires, que ce soit de la musique ou du film, ne sont que du divertissement commercial. Et s’il y a des efforts dans notre socie9te9, je suis vraiment navre9 de voir qu’il ne sont pas fait dans les secteurs qui le me9ritent !!!!! Remettons juste les choses e0 leur place: on doit se serrer la ceinture, on mangera un peu plus souvent des patates ou des pates (sauf si on est e9lu de la re9publique, of9 l’on pourra profiter encore quelques de9ce9nies de bons repas au restaurant). Donc en ces temps contraints, e7a ne me fait ni chaud ni froid que de savoir que les parasites de l’industrie du show-biz qui gravitent autour de quelques vrais artistes, devront eux aussi se remettre en question. (d’autant plus que ce n’est pas nouveau s’il y a un domaine of9 la se9curite9 de l’emploi n’a jamais existe9 c’est bien celui du spectacle et des divertissements) Fini le temps be9ni des croisie8res au caraefbes sur des yatchs prive9 pour ceux qui vendaient au prix fort de la soupe par tonneaux au peuple qui n’avait besoin que d’une assiette .Aujourd’hui internet est le0 et on ne refera pas machine arrie8re. Les mare9chaux-ferrants n’existent plus et il n’y a plus de chevaux sur les routes et autoroutes Il faudra bien que l’industrie du divertissement s’adapte et on n’obligera pas les citoyen e0 se de9placer e0 cheval sous pre9texte que l’industrie des mare9chaux-ferrants est en difficulte9 !

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  6. Ballistics • June 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm • Reply

    If you can believe the cover story in today’s issue of the New York Post, the young woman is not merely the daughter of the Syrian amabassador to the US. She spent the past year working in the equivalent of Syria’s Ministry of Propaganda, trying to convince domestic and international audiences that the Assad regime is not murdering its own people. So while I highly doubt that her trigger was literally pulling on a trigger, she is much closer to the atrocities being committed than some of the readers here are assuming.

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  7. alum • June 13, 2012 at 9:33 am • Reply

    I don’t think we need to shy away from confronting people we disagree with (no matter how vehemently we disagree). She’s made it to SIPA, now deal with the fact that her views are different or even possibly repulsive, there are a million people like her, worse than her, many of whom future diplomats and political leaders will have to confront. Isn’t this the very purpose of SIPA?

    If you find her repulsive, use it as an opportunity to change a mind, if you cannot, let her arguments help you understand why you hold your views, and at it’s worst, understand better the people who’ll be sitting on the other side of the negotiating table.

    Then there’s also the chance that she doesn’t actually hold extreme views, but is being given a only one side of the Syria story and believes that Assad is fostering peace in his country. Maybe she secretly dislikes the regime, but has been forced to be a supporter through family affiliation?

    Rescinding her admissions would set an awful precedent, it would also send a message to SIPA students that their classmates shouldn’t come from certain backgrounds.

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  8. maybe • June 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm • Reply

    she’s going for a career change? let her stay–an education can be eye opening.

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    • Cces • September 1, 2012 at 5:40 am • Reply

      Thkniing like that shows an expert’s touch

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  9. Theophilos Mantzanas, Ph.D. • June 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm • Reply

    As a graduate of a Florida StateUniversity and my wife as a graduate of Columbia University, we are both deeply disappointed inthe decision to admit Ms. Jaafari to Columbia University’s School ofInternational and Public Affairs (SIPA). Every day we see the death ofinnocents and the destruction of Syria in the media and we feel anger andfrustration that we are helpless to do anything. Well, now we feel we can tryto do something. We will vigorously oppose Ms. Jaafari’s acceptance to SIPA forthe following reasons.

    Areonly the individuals who actually do the killing and the leader(s) of thegovernment who directly ordered them to do so guilty of the crimes? Are allthose individuals who supported government either indirectly as civil servantsor more directly by attempting to mask the crimes as Ms. Jaafari has doneguilty as well. Is she not guilty as an accomplice to the murder and slaughterof children and women? What message do we send to the individuals who directlysupport these crimes, but don’t actually do the killing? Is the message beingsent that you won’t ever be held accountable for the crimes from which you havebenefited? Shall she profit from the death of thousands by going to a graduateschool of an Ivy League university? As former professors at universities in the United States, weare disappointed that Columbia University is not showing the courage and moralfortitude to deny Ms. Jaafari’s admittance. Columbia University has theopportunity to demonstrate to those indirectly supporting crimes againsthumanity that it will not allow them to profit from a degree from Columbia.

    Yourssincerely,

    TheophilosMantzanas, Ph.D.

    MarthaMylonas, Ph.D.

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    • Anonymous • June 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm • Reply

      I suppose they didn’t teach you to use spaces at FSU? For a Ph.D, your argument is really poorly constructed.

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