Iran General NewsIranian leader wants purge of liberals from universities

Iranian leader wants purge of liberals from universities

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New York Times: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular professors from Iranian universities, the IRNA news agency reported. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI

Published: September 6, 2006

TEHRAN, Sept. 5 — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular professors from Iranian universities, the IRNA news agency reported.

“Today, students have the right to strongly criticize their president for the continued presence of liberal and secular professors in the country’s universities,” he told a group of young conservatives on National Youth Day, according to the news agency.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said the work to replace secular professors had started, but “bringing change is very difficult.”

“Our educational system has been affected by 150 years of secular thought and has raised thousands of people who hold Ph.D.’s,” he said. “Changing this system is not easy and we have to do it together.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments appeared to be part of a continuing crackdown on social and political freedoms that began with his election last year.

As part of the crackdown, about 110,000 illegal satellite dishes have been confiscated in the past five months, one senior official, Ahmad Roozbehani, was quoted in the news media as saying. Opposition channels that broadcast mostly out of the United States have a large audience in Iran.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s call to rid the universities of secular professors is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution of 1980 to 1987, the period after the 1979 Islamic Revolution when many liberal or Western professors were fired or forced to conform to the revolutionary line. The Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, which was set up during that time and oversaw the purges, is now headed by Mr. Ahmadinejad.

His speech on Tuesday came amid increasing international pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium. Iran has insisted on its right to enrich uranium and has said that it will face sanctions but that it will not give up its nuclear program.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, is expected to meet Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, in Vienna on Wednesday, the ISNA news agency reported.

Some Iranians believe that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard line at home is an attempt to divert attention from his failure to deliver on campaign pledges.

“He promised to improve the economy and bring about more equality, but he has not been able to realize any of those pledges,” said Abbas Abdi, a political analyst in Tehran.

“He has failed to solve the economic problem and Iran’s nuclear case, and now he does not want people to accuse him of lying,’’ Mr. Abdi said. “He is bringing up other issues now to distract people from those failures.”

In an interview on state television during his campaign more than a year ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad said his opponents were wrong to accuse of him of radicalism. He said that cracking down on social freedoms was not on his agenda and that he wanted only to bring about “social justice.”

Last month, however, a government spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, appealed in a letter to the judiciary for a clampdown on the local news media, which he said “spread lies” against Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government, newspapers reported.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that university leaders had a tendency to introduce politics into academic affairs in the past and that his government had been trying to change that.

The president’s appointment of a cleric to head Tehran University, the first since the 1979 revolution, sparked protests on campus. This summer, about 10 humanities professors who had criticized the government were sent into retirement.

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