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Widespread uprising of Iranians against clerical d

Cultural Revolution


Suppressive forces at Tehran University
Suppressive forces at Tehran University
Jahanshah Rashidian
Mideast Youth, May 21st, 2010,
On the thirtieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution in Iran, let us to cast light on its aims and process. While the Islamic Republic was shaping after the 1979 revolution in Iran, Iranian students continued to resist the new dictatorship. The Islamic regime was initially cautious in its attempt to control the campuses. Students were in control of the classroom, the physical space, and campus.
Short after the revolution, students, employees, and professors could create democratic councils to administer their universities. Elections were held in which a majority of students rejected the IRI-dominated Islamic association. Leftists and MKO (The People’s Mujahedin of Iran) sympathisers were majority in most council.
The relatively democratic achievements which were gained for the first time in the history of Iran during the 1979 revolution could become a prelude for more democracy: This democratic atmosphere was a thorn in the eyes of the new dictators. The newborn dictatorship in Iran could not tolerate such a state of dual power.
On April 18, 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, ordered a “Holy War” (jihad) against the “infidel” students. He accused them of turning the campuses into “war rooms” against the Islamic state. After it, the Friday prayers and armed gangs attacked three campuses. Within the next few days, the gangs wounded hundreds of students and killed at least 24. Students were driven off the campuses, and the government took over all the premises.
On April 19, 1980, the Islamic Republic of Iran launched the Cultural Revolution in Iran. It was the official beginning of violence to force the “Islamisation” of universities. The order to fire started with a fiery speech of President BaniSadr, the first President of the IRI, He proclaimed the beginning of Cultural Revolution, following this speech; the universities in Tehran were assaulted by pro-regime students protected by pro-regime thugs. On April 20, 1980, a decree was meant to crush the post revolution achievements once for all the following decree issued by the Revolutionary Council:
1. Within three days, all political groups and related organisations in all universities, colleges and schools have to close their offices. If they do not done so, the Revolutionary Council and all its members, including the President, will mobilise the “Muslim” people and go to the universities to destroy these centres of councils.
2. The universities and colleges must develop a plan to complete final examinations by June 4, 1980, and be closed from that day until the government is able to restructure the educational system based on a revolutionary Islamic philosophy and only will new students be admitted.
3. The universities must not hire any new staff.
Following the above decree, in the next weeks, universities in Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Rashtese, Bluchistan, Ahwaz, and Isfahan were constantly attacked. Thousands were wounded, hundreds arrested, and more than fifty students were killed. Some of those arrested were later executed.
The universities were finally closed in June, 1980, and the purification process began. On each campus, an administrative body called the Holy Council of Reconstruction was created. Professors and employees, many with a long history of Opposition to Shah’s dictatorship, were fired, forced to retire, or refused their salaries. The scholarships of students abroad were revoked. According to statistics collected by Tehran Polytechnic, 40% of all professors were fired or forced to resign in the first year.
The Islamic Holy Councils were to immediately silence the campuses. Students not affiliated with the state run Islamic student associations were no longer allowed to form any organisations. Muslim student associations were given the mandate to spy on students. Academic freedom was completely abolished. Repression was so extensive that many secular and progressive students had to turn into clandestine for the coming decades.
The assault on the universities was the beginning of an Islamic project baptised the “Cultural Revolution” appointed in May 1980 by Khomeini. The Cultural Revolution Council was headed by Ali Khamenei, the present Supreme Leader; Khomeini himself led the project of integrating the universities into the Islamic norms. Although most members of this council were from the “IRP” (Islamic Republic Party), several belated outsiders like Soroush and Moein belonged to its active members.
The reopened universities and colleges after two years became fully Islamic with medieval theological seminaries, mosques, gender discrimination, and imposed Islamic hijab. Rules were imposed to thwart any political activity of non-Islamic groups within the campus. New students were admitted only if a “local investigation” could prove that they were loyal to Islam and the Islamic regime.
Islamic student associations were in a swift growth mushroomed in the country’s universities. These bearded and veiled students not only supported the Cultural Revolution, but were all fanatically attached to the most aggressive and undemocratic values of militant Islam and its new founder, Khomeini. No independent, democratic, and secular group was tolerated on the campus anymore. Unprecedented political control over universities, the suppression or restriction of non Muslims’ students, more gender segregation, forced veil, crush of any secular attitude were the immediate measures to be taken on campuses.
Another consequence of the Cultural Revolution, which needed a two- year closure of Iranian universities, was the immigration waves of many professors and scientists who were forced to leave Iran to escape the Cultural Revolution. Many young Iranians hoping to enter universities in other countries escaped the country too. Normally, most Iranians don not voluntarily go to Islamic schools, colleges, and universities and since there is no one single free educational institution in Iran, many try to find a way to enter a university abroad.
Under the IRI, nobody is allowed to claim that students’ rights should override any religious and ideological considerations. Actually, the issue of whether Iranian students have the right to have modern and secular universities stands against the Islamic philosophy of IRI constitution. The Constitution considers educational institutions based on Islamic principles and norms and thus does not tolerate any modification in form and principle.
Gender segregation of course exemplified by the nature of such an Islamic concept in which gender segregation symbolises an Islamic society. In other words, Iranian children who have been from primary school deprived from mixed-sex school must now undergo new measures of sexual segregation in their universities.
The short-term the Cultural Revolution was aimed to purify the Iranian education system from the western, secular, and leftist influences. In the long-term objective of the Cultural Revolution, the goal is to root out any aspect of non-Islamic culture from the society by introducing a greater cultural portion of Islamo-arabisation in its place. It is to promote the existing Islamic educational system into a pure Islamic set of beliefs. What concerns the educational institutions; they should become all ideological relics of “Hozeh Elmieh” (Shiite theocracy schools) in Qom, saint city in Iran. Based on this objective, the Cultural Revolution should weaken as much as possible the academic and universally accepted values of universities especially in the fields of human sciences. These must be replaced by Islamic values.
Although, the IRI uses experiences of cultural revolutions of other totalitarian regimes, comparing Chinese and Iranian Cultural Revolutions is conceptually wrong. The fundamental differences are in goals and orientation: while the Chinese revolution in 60th was an attempt to hasten a socialist society, the Cultural Revolution in Iran is an attempt to regress the society to a stage of most reactionary form of a feudalist society in which the regime hopes to revaluate the norms and values of primitive clan society of Arabia in the epoch of Prophet Muhammad.
Islamo-arabisation of Iranian culture is a flagrant wish of the Iranian clerical class which is conceivable in their language, attitudes, and way of life. It stipulates a process of “Depersianisation” in which any non Islamic components of Persian culture, all those reminders of pre-Islamic culture which were not rooted out by the early Muslim occupiers, must be now labelled as “non-Islamic” and thus rejected. The process is in fact a negation of most Iranians’ national identity - Such a cultural negation was once imposed by early Muslim invaders 1400 years ago when they occupied Persian Empire and destroyed the great Persian culture by imposing their own faith upon most Iranians.
Although after two centuries of occupation, Iranians could free their country from Muslim invaders, Islam remained intact- contrary to Spain which threw away Islam with Muslim occupiers after freedom-, and however, the imposed Arabic language was changed into the current Farsi. The Shiite clerical class shows no loyalty to this language and Iranian pre-Islamic culture- Mullahs are more in tune with an Islamo-arabic culture despite their presently emerged controversies with the Iran’s neighbouring Arab countries. Terminology of influential Mullahs like Khomeini, Motahari left no doubt that an Islamo-arabisation of Iran is their desire, a process which was interrupted some 1200 years ago by heroic resistance of Iranians. Mullahs likely prefer to impose this unachieved process long after a physical departure of the early Muslim invaders.
The IRI constitution has implied this goal by saying, “since the language of the Koran and Islamic texts and teachings is Arabic, and since Persian literature is thoroughly permeated by this language, it must be taught after elementary level, in all classes of secondary school and in all areas of study.” - No wonder that today, lesson of Arabic language and reading of the Koran will gain more compulsory character despite abhor of an increasing majority of students.
The Cultural Revolution was continued by in the following years under “the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council. It became the highest body for general Islamisation of culture and education. Though, the body is not even stipulated in the Constitution, was formed under the pressure of hardliners for more state control over student bodies, arbitrary dismissal of professors, and paving the path for further cultural revolutions.
Today’s student movement in Iran is another topic. In short, it seems a potential force with a vague and double characteristic. While it is only allowed to exist as long as it remains a relic of the IRI, at the same time, is influenced by the plight of Iranians under the plague of the same IRI.
The High Council of Cultural Revolution is now led by Ahamadinejad who replaced in 2005 Khatami. It is to mention that the council has expanded in number and projects considering Khatami’s era not enough adaptive to the Cultural Revolution. They even want a second Cultural Revolution to purge universities of secular and reformist, ex-brothers. The Cultural Revolution, though a born-freakish-failure, continues in all aspects, not only by Basiji students, but also by street fighters of the “Morality Police” bashing “bad hijab” women, and “un-Islamic” men.
All existing Islamic associations, from pro-Ahamadinejad Basiji students to “pro-reformists” or under any name and colour, have roots in various factions of the IRI. Today, three decades after the Cultural Revolution, an increasing majority of Iranian students are being conscious of realities and are looking for an independent, democratic and secular student movement.
Although, in the past years, some members of Muslim student associations, by trying to demand reforms and taking part in anti Hardliners- Protests, became less docile sheep of the IRI cattle, nevertheless many of them were brutally punished. Since the IRI is so brutal with its co-Islamists, an independent, secular, and democratic student movement cannot officially exist under the totalitarian IRI. Such a movement would be massacred by any faction of the regime, as we saw in the past.


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