By Abuzar Zaman (source: Amirkabir
University of Technology News)
Translated by Frieda Afary, Iranian Progressives in Translation
Translator's note: The study of the humanities has become a major focus of Iranian university students during the past decade. Over half of Iran's 3.5 million university students are enrolled in various branches of this field. In order to combat the effects of this field of study on the minds of young students, the Iranian government has launched a campaign against the humanities. At the recent shows trials of reformists, the prosecution specifically attacked western philosophers and academics for supposedly having instigated the latest protest movement. On August 30, Ayatollah Khamenei also addressed a gathering of professors and university administrators with a stern warning. He blamed the humanities for Iranian students' "lack of faith," and called on professors to "identify the enemy" and to revise this field of study. Below is a response from a student at Amir Kabir University in Tehran. Amir Kabir University has been the site of several important human rights protests during the past few years.
Students protests at Amirkabir university (Feb 2009)
In Iran, academics, whether students or professors, have always been highly
scrutinized. If we examine contemporary Iranian history, we will see that in the
past and the present, the university has been the site of critique, of
opposition to , and struggles against the rulers. A great deal could be said
about the influence that academics exert upon society and its political
environment. However, it needs to be emphasized that this wise sector of society
is constantly a source of fear for Iran's rulers and statesmen. There is an
added concern with regard to academics who represent the humanities. Rulers come
to the conclusion that this sector should be either eliminated or cleansed. They
[academics -- tr.] should be prevented from moving in a direction contrary to
that of the rulers.
In a government like the Islamic Republic, freedom of speech and opinion only
exist within the framework of the beliefs and interests held by the rulers and
the system. There is no need for a person studying law, sociology, philosophy,
etc. to become familiar with different philosophic schools of thought, with
theories held by various intellectuals, with law as practiced in other
countries, or with human rights, etc. After all, isn't it true that in an
Islamic state, all should follow a single school of thought and a single belief?
And that is the school of Islam, of course as interpreted by the state
Therefore, rulers should see to it that no one strays from the path or thinks differently. And if the rulers don't begin the surveillance at the university, the task of controlling dissident and diverse beliefs and theories in the society as a whole becomes very difficult, if not impossible. This explains why those who rule the system are concerned about the increasing numbers of students in the humanities and their own inability to control them.
Likewise, in the latest show trials, the attacks have been aimed at the humanities, intellectuals and philosophers. Even Saeed Hajjarian [former advisor to president Mohammad Khatami -- tr. ] says the following in his confessions (which are not really his own words): "Teaching the theories of the humanities in Iran's universities has been a factor leading to waste and destruction of public property after the recent election."
For years, the Islamic Republic has attempted to dismantle the field of
humanities, and to limit it or teach it in a selective way. Years ago, it
started to cleanse the universities devoted to the study of the humanities.
Great scholars in various fields like sociology, psychology, law, literature,
political science, etc. were expelled or forced to resign. Many students were
denied an education. Many limitations were imposed on the universities. Now, the
Islamic Republic is making an ultimate effort to further limit the teaching of
the humanities in order to deny future Iranian society the presence of thinkers,
philosophers, intellectuals, and scholars.
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