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Iran's Azad University, Coming Battleground Against Rafsanjani

By Nazanin Kamdar, Rooz Online

As Azad University's new regulations, which require that its president be elected every four years, came into force, pro-government media have launched a verbal attack on its current and long-time president Abdollah Jasbi, who is also a leader of the conservative Motalefe Islami (Islamic Coalition) party while also being a close ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the powerful State Expediency Council.

A scene of protests at Azad University in Qazvin in December 2009. Bannser says: "University Is Alive"

In its long pursuit of taking over Azad University, last week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a decree for the implementation of the school's new charter. That move accomplished two goals: limit Jasbi's presidency and remove leading opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi's name from its board of trustees. Jasbi's possible future departure is seen as a victory of a position that has till now been controlled by Rafsanjani's allies.

The new rules stipulate that the president of this private university shall be appointed for a four year term on the recommendation of the board of trustees of the institution and a confirmation of the supreme council of the cultural revolution, finalized by a letter of appointment issued by the chairman of the board of trustees.

In the latest round of media assaults on Jasbi, Jahan News, an internet website associated with Alireza Zakani, the former head of Student Basij (the para-military militia under the command of the Islamic Revolution Pasdaran Guards Corps) and a pro-administration Majlis representative, published a report in which it asserts that the university was in collaboration with Mousavi's presidential election campaign efforts in 2009.

Jahan News writes, "The management of Azad University requests its teachers, students and organizations to support Mousavi, as is indicated in the official meeting minutes of the university. At a particular meeting that included professors, Jasbi's representative and some members of student groups, it was decided that the university should officially cooperate with Mousavi's campaign through its professors and organization."

According to the same news report, in that meeting it was decided to invite Mousavi to come to one of the campuses of the school in which Rafsanjani's daughters, Faeze and Fateme Hashemi were also present. Jahan News goes beyond just presenting the news and advocates the prosecution of Jasbi and writes, "It is expected that at the least the management of Azad University will be summoned to a court to respond to some of the allegations." The website also promises to publish more incriminating reports about the role of the managers of the academic institution in the post-presidential elections of 2009 and using student tuitions for political purposes.

According to Fars News agency, a pro-Ahmadinejad cleric in the Council of the Cultural Revolution revealed the political goals of the new charter of Azad University. Speaking at a seminar titled "In Search of Justice" which had been organized by paramilitary Student Basij organization, Abbas Nabavi said, "Jasbi has announced that Azad University has a real president and that he was only his representative. Any question should be directed to the president of the school."

Nabavi continues his remarks by challenging Jasbi and says, "I hereby request from the real president of Azad University, i.e. ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, to end this issue because the problem will not be solved through such issues as charity and that the management issues of the university that have come up because of these issues will not be resolved. Thus I propose that a person with an acceptable, independent and effective person be recommended to the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution to replace Mr. Jasbi."

Abbas Naimi is not a new name in Iran's power struggles and political battles and has been a serious challenger to Hashemi Rafsanjani who has in recent years been the principal critic of Azad University. Speaking to a reporter from Fars News agency two days ago, Jasbi expressed his satisfaction with the Azad University's new charter that sets term limits to its president and said, "The charter of the university has finally been amended after years in the direction of making it more rule-based." He added that this "change" had to include the highest offices of the university. "Changes had to be made so that the board of trustees of the university too would change along with its mix, which has not happened. This is a serious issue. I think the cultural revolution council could not implement such changes in the last three decades and so the huge resources of the university remained the monopoly of a specific [political] faction. The people of Iran await to know what is taking place behind the scenes of Azad University which is perhaps not possible with the current mix of the board of trustees."

The members of the board of trustees of Azad University are appointed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and today they are, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Seyed Abdol-Karim Mousavi Ardebili, Abdollah Jasbi, Ali-Akbar Velayati, Hassan Habibi, Seyed Hassan Khomeini, Mohsen Ghomi and Hamid Mirzadeh.

In recent weeks, there have been several calls by pro-administration media for the arrest of Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the son of the president of the Expediency Council, who acts as the head of the office of the board of trustees.

Jasbi himself has been a member of the oldest right-wing conservative group in Iran Hezbe Motalefe Islami (Islamic Coalition party) some of whose members supported Hashemi Rafsanjani during the 2005 presidential elections which brought the wrath of the extremists who support Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's aversion of Motalefe is so deep that not a single of their members made it to Ahmadinejad's cabinet.

... Payvand News - 05/10/10 ... --

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