Students Call for UCI Board Member Hazem H. Chehabi's Ouster over Syria Ties; Updates on Vote to Remove Rejected and Rescheduled

See Update Nos. 1 and 2 on page 2 about a student panel first rejecting UCI trustee Hazem Chehabi's removal and a subsequent vote being delayed.

ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 6, 6:20 P.M.: The Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) is voting tonight on legislation calling for the immediate removal of Dr. Hazem H. Chehabi from the UCI Board of Trustees. The Newport Beach radiologist, philanthropist and UCI Foundation chairman is also the honorary Consul General of the Syrian Consul in Newport Beach and has been under pressure from Southern California Syrian activists since May 2011 to either cut his ties with the brutal regime of Bashar Assad or resign from the UCI board.


Chehabi, who could not be reached for comment this evening, previously told the Weekly he shares the revulsion over the violence in his homeland, while noting his critics have a right to exercise their free speech rights in the U.S.

Chancellor Michael Drake also issued a statement in July condemning the Syrian regime's violence against unarmed citizens. But Drake also praised Chehabi's generosity toward UCI and its students over the years, as well as the physician's quest for “a peaceful and just resolution” to the turmoil in Syria.

That pretty much capped months of protests at the consul, on campus and at Chehabi's medical offices until the issue kicked up again in October, when student groups, Syrian Rising Generation Movement and the Syrian Emergency Task Force-Greater LA joined forces to protest the UCI Foundation's Oct. 29 Medal Awards ceremony. Chehabi and his wife Salma were 2010 UCI Medal winners.

The legislation the ASUCI considers tonight was authored by Michelle Vasquez-Ruiz. It was originally presented from the Legislative Council at a February meeting before being revised and put up for AS consideration tonight. Attempts to reach backers for comment were unsuccessful.

A version sent to the Weekly reads:

Whereas, Dr. Hazem Chehabi is honored on the UCI Board of Trustees; and

Whereas, Hazem Chehabi has continuously refused to step down as the Syrian Honorary Consul General and to speak out against the killing of innocent civilians by the Syrian regime; and

Whereas, the Syrian Human Rights Committee, identified Chahabi as head of the army when tanks surrounded Hama in 1982 and committed genocide against over 40,000 Syrians including women and children led by Rifat Assad.

Whereas, the current regime under President Bashir-Assad has used violence to assert his authoritarian power over the lives of innocent men, women and children;

Whereas, since April 2011, the protesters, fighting for the ideals of democracy and justice, have remained peaceful and have exercised a non-violent forms of protests; and

Whereas, the Syrian regime's continues to violently massacre entire families, including women and children; and

Whereas, 7,720+ thousands of Syrian civilians have been brutally killed and over 220,000+ are being held within prisons, where they are being tortured and punished due to their opposition towards the current regime;

Whereas, Chancellor Michael Drake publicly stated, “We join the world community in expressing outrage at the continued violence toward unarmed civilians in Syria and in demanding that the violence stop.”

Whereas, UC Irvine has become a leading member of the University of California Initiative for Human Rights, which seeks to secure the University's position as a leader in human rights research and training; and

Whereas, the continued tenure of Hazem Chehabi would undermine the values and goals the University wishes to establish as a beacon for human rights protection; and

Whereas, UC Irvine, which prides itself on teaching the values of democracy and
freedom should take a stance against any regime that violates human rights; and

Whereas, Hazem Chehabi, as a diplomat, serves as an official representative of a
foreign regime that has undermined an diplomatic action towards peace in the region; and

Whereas, the University must strive to always take a stance against violent regimes, especially in times of continuous mass killings and human rights
violations; and

Whereas, by honoring Hazem Chehabi, would equate to the University position to stand idly by while murderous dictatorship to continue to assert mass violence on innocent civilians; and

Whereas, the University should follow through with condemning the Syrian Regimes human rights violations by discontinuing the support for the Syrian Honorary Consul General.

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the University to take a stand for human rights and to stand for the accessibility of freedom and democracy for everyone;

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that council asks the University to support this cause by rejecting representatives of institutions that continue to violate human rights and uphold tyrannical practices;

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED, that actions be taken to withdraw the honor and support given to Dr. Hazem Chehabi, as he represents a murderous regime and, consequently, fails to support human rights, freedom and democracy.
“University of California, Irvine Foundation.” Accessed February 19, 2012.

The Syrian Human Rights Committee, “The Syrian Human Rights Committee.” Last modified November 03, 2011. Accessed February 19, 2012.

Research & Communication Centre, ” Strategic Research & Communication Centre.” Accessed February 19, 2012.

University of California Initiative for Human Rights 2007-2008, “University of California at Irvine.” Accessed February 19, 2012.

UPDATE NO. 1, MARCH 7, 1:35 P.M.: A proposal to call for Dr. Hazem H. Chehabi's removal from the UC Irvine Board of Trustees over his ties to the
brutal Syrian regime was voted down last night by the Legislative Council of the Associated Students (ASUCI).

However, the legislation will be re-introduced Thursday, according to Muslim Student Union spokeswoman Safa Ahmed.

The Legislative Council is scheduled to meet in closed session Thursday and again in open Tuesday, March 13, reports the ASUCI website.

UPDATE NO. 2, MARCH 8, 3:21 P.M.: A proposal to call for Dr. Hazem H. Chehabi's removal from the UC Irvine Board of Trustees over his ties to the brutal Syrian regime will not be presented tonight to the Legislative Council of the Associated Students (ASUCI) as originally planned.

The matter is now scheduled to go before the panel Tuesday, according to the Muslim Student Union.

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