Beyond the Burg: Iranian institutions crack down on protestors
September 8, 2009
The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran have called for crackdowns on the country’s universities.
After the June 12 Iranian presidential election, many students took to the streets in protest of what they felt to be an impossible result. The protestors demanded a re-vote, but the supreme leader refused their petitions and called for an end to the protests. Protests continued for weeks, leaving the country divided.
Khamenei has recently blamed the civil unrest on the social science and humanities teachings of Iran’s universities. He recently called for evaluations of departments that he believes undermine Islam.
According to the Mehr news agency, a presidential panel has already met to begin reviewing curricula.
The panel, although formed over a year ago, did not begin work until there were recent calls to remove elements deemed “un-Islamic” from universities, due to the fear that the teaching of secular concepts helped fuel the unrest that followed the June election.
Political pressure to further “Islamize” Iranian higher education has strengthened in recent days as a response to the perceived threat from the teaching of secular ideas.
Many schools have started punishing students who participate in presidential election protests.
Islamic Azad University has been a significant target of several clerics and high-ranking officials, according to the New York Times.
“This university must once again be purified,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual advisor Ayatollah Muhammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi said. “This purification must occur at the management level and other levels. You see just how many who do not believe in religion, Islam and God have attended and graduated from this university.”
Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former rival of Ahmadinejad, established Islamic Azad University. Hard-liners have long wanted to come after the university as a possible tool of undermining Rafsanjani, who has served as a cautious but essential supporter of the opposition to Ahmadinejad’s administration.
The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran has allegedly forwarded the names of politically active students of several universities in major cities to campus authorities, facilitating to the questioning of hundreds of students.
The Iranian government has not threatened to close any of the country’s universities, but the government’s crackdown is likely to continue.
Fifty students living in the University of Tehran’s dormitories were questioned for hours by a disciplinary committee, according to Advar News, a student-run website. Politically active students in Iran have grown to expect disciplinary measures or bans from universities, but both have become more common in the past three years.