Abdollah (Omid) Payrow Shabani (1962-2023)

Abdollah (Omid) Payrow Shabani, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, died last month.

Professor Shabani worked in social and political philosophy, focusing on democracy, multiculturalism, and issues confronting his native country, Iran. You can learn more about some of his writings here.

Professor Shabani joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph in 2003. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Ottawa and his MA and BA from Carleton University.

Don Dedrick, chair of Guelph’s Department of Philosophy, shared a memorial notice, posted below.

Dr. Abdollah (Omid) Payrow Shabani, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph, died in Toronto on December 23 2023 after a long and debilitating illness. He was 61. His partner Marjan Bateni describes his youth:

Omid came from a war-torn area of Iran, from a middle-class family of educators who had to flee their hometown during the Iran-Iraq war. They had to take refuge in the city of Karaj, north of Tehran, with their house and belongings all gone in the war. When he finished high school, Omid was not allowed to attend university in Iran because he was politically active. All his like-minded friends started mysteriously disappearing or were taken to unknown locations by Iranian authorities, so he fled, moving from country to country, with the threat of death or imprisonment at every corner, doing any possible survival jobs. He drove cabs, washed dishes at restaurants. When Canada finally gave him asylum, he did not speak any English or French. He started learning English by attending ESL classes.

In Canada, Omid settled in Ottawa, earning B.A. and M.A. degrees from Carleton University, and the Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Ottawa in 2000. He was a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the New School in 2002, where he studied with Jurgen Habermas. He came to the University of Guelph in 2003. His first book, Democracy, Power, and Legitimacy: Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas, was published in 2003 by the University of Toronto Press. Throughout his academic career, Omid continued to write about the nature of democracy, about multiculturalism, and about civil society. Many of his publications, including his last article in 2023, concern the political situation in Iran. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in social and political philosophy, ethics, critical theory, and the philosophy of law at the University of Guelph.

Omid leaves behind a legacy of intellectual vigor, resilience, and a profound commitment to democratic ideals. His contributions to political theory, particularly on the political complexities of Iran, will continue to inspire scholars and advocates alike. In the hearts of those who knew him, Omid’s memory will be cherished as a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Though he is no longer with us, his memory will live on in the hearts of his partner, his daughter, his colleagues, his students, and everyone fortunate enough to have known him.


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Marjan Bateni
Marjan Bateni
16 days ago

When you talked, I wanted everyone to get quiet and listen. Your would choose every word purposefully, and the way your words sat together to deliver a concept always amazed me; perfect juxtaposition, beautifully though-out sentences. Your dry sense of humour always cracked me up. It was so hard not to laugh at your sarcastic jokes. You carried so much passion within you, the most fierce of which was your passion for integrity, honesty and justice. You were not an easy person, but every time you smiled my heart would melt for you. You felt the sufferings of others so deeply, but didn’t show much of it. I have never seen anyone as brave and resilient as you were. Never. You went through so much hardship in life, and you stood strong. How much I admired you, respected you, and loved you. How much I admire you, respect you, and will eternally love you. I saw you break into sobs only twice in my life: once when Sattar Beheshti’s mother appeared on TV, holding the picture of his murdered son, and wishing all Iranians a Happy Norooz. The other time was when my dad died. Your demeanour towards adversities of life, the worst of which was your debilitating illness, was fighting them fiercely to overthrow them and accepting them gracefully in the face of defeat. My friend, my companion, my husband, I miss you with every fibre of my being. You did not believe in reincarnation, but I do, and I like to think that you were wrong just this once, that you are now living in Italy in your new life, playing soccer, drinking red wine, and smiling under the sun.

Mark McCullagh
Mark McCullagh
14 days ago

I cherished Omid as a friend and as a colleague since he arrived in Guelph in the early 2000s. He was always ready to talk about philosophy or current events, as well as to share his insights about developments in Iran. He had a wonderful sense of humour, sometimes tinged with wry worldliness, no doubt one product of the long period of struggle and challenge that he faced after having to leave Iran as a young man. Now and then he would drop into the conversation some surprising fact that I hadn’t known about him–for example, that he spoke Italian. Italy had been one stop on the years-long journey that took him ultimately to Canada. At every turn, Omid displayed warmth and generosity towards students and colleagues. Joanne and I give our deepest condolences to Marjan and Tara. We will all miss Omid’s presence.

Marjan Bateni
Marjan Bateni
Reply to  Mark McCullagh
14 days ago

Thanks for sharing your heartwarming memories and sentiments.