Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ahmadinejad Urges Purge of Secular Academics

Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government plans to purge liberal and secular faculty members from Iran's universities in a bid to revive the ideals of the Islamic Republic's heyday in the 1980s.

``Our academic system has been influenced for 150 years by secularism,'' the official Islamic Republic News Agency cited Ahmadinejad as telling a group of students today. ``We have started to make change happen but we need special support for it,'' he said.

``Students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities,'' the president said. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad was elected in June 2005 after pledging to redistribute the country's oil wealth to the people. His victory gave the backers of the Islamic revolution power over all state institutions. Ahmadinejad has scrapped some social and civil reforms inspired by his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.

About 40 professors at Tehran University were forced into early retirement in June. The move led to several days of student protests, Agence France-Ptesse reported.

Canadian-Iranian academic Ramin Jahanbegloo, arrested in May, is awaiting trial on suspicion of acting against Iranian interests and contacting foreigners. Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei accused Jahanbegloo of fomenting a ``velvet revolution'' in the Islamic Republic on U.S. orders. The academic was released on bail Aug. 30 after four months in prison in Tehran.

Ebadi Group Curbed

Last month, Iran banned any activity by a human rights group headed by Nobel peace prizewinner Shirin Ebadi. The group has involved itself in rights cases including those of journalist Akbar Ganji, who was imprisoned for six years and released in March, and photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in detention in 2003.

The Iranian government also ordered a raid to remove television satellite dishes from homes in Tehran, the capital, saying they threaten the nation's ``psychological security.'' The dishes, tolerated under Khatami, have mushroomed in the past decade. Music, news and talk programs by dissident Iranian channels based abroad are the most popular of the foreign broadcasts.

Iran refused to meet an Aug. 31 United Nations Security Council deadline to suspend production of nuclear fuel, a stance that may lead to sanctions. The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using a nuclear-power program to disguise weapons development.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net .