By Felicity Bosk
Dr. Khalil "Haji" Dokhanchi is a professor of political science at UW-Superior. He was born in Iran and moved to the United States in the late 1970s when he was 14. He came to attend high school and college, but remained when turmoil in Iran made it very difficult to return.
“I stayed because about six months after I came here, there was a revolution in Iran and then there was a war with Iraq for eight years," he said. "That made going home more difficult.”
He visited several times in the early 2000s when the country was open and safe, but he no longer feels he is able to visit.
“Recently they’ve been arresting a lot of Iranian-Americans so I don’t feel safe,” he said. “The biggest thing was the election… it was a hard bitter election with big post-election violence, and then there was the Green Revolution. Since then I have not been willing because I disagree with the government and the elections.
"It makes you appreciate human rights. As an observer of the political process you should be able to express your political opinions without fear of violence,” he added.
There are more than 30 political science majors and minors at UWS. Besides teaching and advising students, Dokhanchi is the advisor for the International Peace Studies Association and for Amnesty International. The latter recently raised $266 on World Toilet Day. The money was given to Oxfam so they can build toilets in places in the world where the people do not have access to a clean toilet.
“Politics is not always about elections so much as it is about quality of life," he said. “Politics is about improving quality of life for everybody.”
Dokhanchi has teamed up with history professor Karl Bahm in teaching two cross-section courses, "War and Peace in Bosnia" and "War and Peace in Northern Ireland." These classes end in an optional month-long study-abroad trip to those countries so students can see for themselves the topic they had studied.
“Absolutely amazing, beyond description,” Dokhanchi said. “I jokingly say, 'money-back guarantee' and I have yet to have anyone ask for their money back.”
Recently, his class, "Making of a Modern Global System" held a two-day exhibition on refugees in the YellowJacket Union.
“I think we should do more," he said. "I think the election has unfortunately caused a lot of ignorance about refugees and the refugee population.”
Part of what he and the class were hoping to do through the exhibit was to educate people on what it means to be a refugee, how they differ from migrants, and what we can do for them.
“The purpose is not to have specific outcome, but to have a good discussion: How do you allow refugees to come here while at the same time maintaining security? Do they hurt us or do they help us? We aren’t looking so much at ideology or wishful thinking, but look at the evidence. We want to encourage students to look into these kinds of questions, I’m sure somebody will have some answers.”
Dokhanchi has been working at UWS since 1992. He created the Peace Studies track within the Political Science program, which aims to educate students on war and peace.
“I think [UWS is] a great small institution, where I actually think we do a lot of really good things and students get their monies worth," he said. "This is not a processing plant where you have 200 students in a classroom; you get to work with students, their strengths and limitations, and foster their own skills.”