The Guardian: Religious fundamentalists in Iran are demanding separate university classes for men and women in a drive to impose puritanical Islamic values on the country’s campuses. The Guardian
Robert Tait in Tehran
Religious fundamentalists in Iran are demanding separate university classes for men and women in a drive to impose puritanical Islamic values on the country’s campuses.
The call – backed by senior figures close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – comes as new statistics show female students outnumbering their male counterparts in a sharp reversal of traditionally masculine-dominated trends.
It is being spearheaded by Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohamadian, a cleric heading the state body representing Mr Khamenei in the nation’s universities. Mr Mohamadian warned in a speech that universities were descending into “fashion shows” and urged chancellors to punish students who breached Islamic rules on dress code and gender-mingling. He demanded segregated classes and the evaluation of faculty members on religious and moral grounds to transform the culture.
“At present the public environment of universities is free and the moral situation is offensive,” Mr Mohamadian told a gathering of university administrators. “University chancellors are responsible not just for education and research, but for the religion, beliefs and ideas of students. If one or two out of the minority who deface universities are confronted and severely disciplined, the rest will be warned and change their ways.”
The demand is in line with a clampdown that has seen CCTV surveillance cameras installed on some campuses. Politically active students have been denied access to courses and large numbers of lecturers forced to retire. Two months ago, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded a purge of liberal and secular lecturers.
Iran’s Islamic laws already require men and women to sit in different rows in classes and lecture halls. Campus libraries, reading rooms, refectories and halls of residences are also segregated.
The higher education ministry is resisting further separation as impractical and unnecessary. However, the proposal has strong support from MPs on the influential parliamentary cultural committee.
“When the working environment is all-male or all-female, employees and students are liberated from certain distractions,” Mousalreza Servati, a committee member, told the ILNA news agency. “In free environments, the possibility exists that when a lady passes, a gentleman likes her face or her behaviour and has it not happened quite often that this interest later results in the wife leaving the husband to marry another man.”