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Iran’s Education Reboot Threatens a Regime That Wants to Unlearn the Truth

Students protests tehran (1)

The onset of Mehr, the first month of autumn in the Persian calendar, aligns with September 23, 2023, and traditionally signifies the beginning of the academic year in Iran. This reawakening of centers for knowledge and enlightenment poses a significant threat to the entrenched and regressive regime, which has thrived on fostering ignorance and superstition. As schools and universities open their doors, the oppressive and misogynistic regime faces the looming specter of a resurgence in student and youth-led uprisings, challenging the very foundations of its authoritarian rule.

Official sources report a number of over 12 million students across various education levels attending schools in this new academic year, accompanied by a million teachers guiding them. Additionally, the Ministry of Science states that over 3.3 million students will commence their studies at universities this year, with more than 80,000 professors ready to instruct in classrooms.

However, the regime does not hide its primary concern and fear of a renewed public uprising coinciding with the anniversary of the 2022 uprisings and the start of the academic year. This dread underscores their efforts to suppress and neutralize any potential uprising, combined with the regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi’s main mission in addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York to convince the world that the clerical regime is not about to be overthrown.

Hence, it is evident that as the new academic year commences, the regime’s chief apprehension remains how to counteract and subdue potential uprisings and protests.

This narrative sheds light on the pivotal role of universities and students, particularly female students, during the 2022 uprising in Iran. The academic institutions and their students, notably those in Tehran, were at the forefront, sparking the uprising right after the martyrdom of Mahsa Amini. Their call for awakening reverberated across other universities, solidifying their pioneering role throughout the uprising.

Soon after the universities, school students joined the social upheaval and people’s uprising, with many of them, particularly female students, defying societal norms, chanting vehement slogans against the regime, including “Death to Khamenei,” undermining the Supreme Leader’s perceived authority.

Initially, the regime took a passive stance against students and schoolchildren during the first days of the protests, as an effective crackdown would trigger a wider social backlash. Despite unprecedented attacks, as witnessed in Sharif University and various schools, the regime lacked the capability to effectively counter the organized gatherings and protests by students and schoolchildren due to their unity and structured assembly.

This impasse, led to a sinister and appalling strategy adopted by the regime to suppress the youth, as conventional crackdowns were too dangerous and also failed to deter the youth’s determination for change. Starting in November 2022, the regime orchestrated a wave of heinous and calculated poisoning attacks, targeting a shocking 280 schools across 28 provinces. What makes this more alarming is the absence of any claims of responsibility or accountability, as no individuals have ever been arrested or persecuted in connection with these acts.

The Iranian regime devised an extensive strategy to suppress and immobilize students and young learners. This included an array of oppressive measures aimed at both universities and schools, targeting the very focal points that fueled the stubborn spirit of the uprising.

  • Widespread arrests of students, framing them with fabricated charges and imposing heavy sentences
  • Arbitrary expulsion of students, undermining their educational prospects and stifling their voices
  • Expulsion of professors and educational staff showing the slightest affiliation with the uprising or sympathy with protesters
  • Militarizing universities, granting extensive authority to security forces at campuses
  • Ongoing chemical attacks on girls’ schools to terrorize young female students
  • Evicting students from dormitories and turning universities into profit-driven enterprises
  • Infusing regime-affiliated thugs into universities under the guise of academic staff to control the students.
  • Extensive detention of teachers and imposing severe sentences due to their association with the uprising and students
  • Increasing the quota for the paramilitary Basij and the Iraqi Hashd-Ashaabi in Iran’s academia

The new academic year has begun under such circumstances. Khamenei knows too well that the gatherings of a rebellious generation, enlightened by the culture of resistance, armed with intellect, and well-versed in social media, pose a significant threat, and at any moment, a spark of uprising may ignite. Hence, he strives to delay the commencement of universities and push for online classes as much as possible.

For Khamenei’s regime, the entrance of an “army” of 12 million students and a “force” of 3.5 million university students into the realm of education and assembly poses a “national security risk”.

Hence, the regime will undoubtedly attempt to control the uncontrollable and the accumulated potential of anger and dissatisfaction will definitely lead to more confrontation.

The existence of a nationwide resilient movement with a solid structure and organization, serving as an inspiration for a resilient and steadfast generation, is a nightmare for a regime that belongs to the past. If four decades of suppression and subsequent mass murdering of Iranian youth have failed to bring them to their knees, an aging, more fractured, and more isolated regime would not succeed either.