With the impending anniversary of the 2022 uprising, the regime is ramping up its repressive strategies to avoid the revival of the widespread protests that rocked the entire ruling establishment for several consecutive months. Among these strategies is a focus on universities and students, who played a crucial part in the 2022 uprisings. They acted as the intellectual compass of society, steering the nation clear of the regime’s historical tactics of misleading dissent.
According to a document published and circulated in Iran’s universities, the government of Ebrahim Raisi has initiated the process of recruiting 15,000 Basij members and regime supporters as academic faculty members. This recruitment is being done “on a quota basis, urgently, and outside the existing academic framework of universities.”
Following the spread of the news, the sole government official to react to this report was the spokesperson of Raisi’s Ministry of Science. Their response, however, came late and involved denying the “covert and unauthorized appointment of certain academic faculty members within universities.”
This contradiction arises even in light of documents unveiled by the Telegram channel “GhyamSarnegouni,” which exposed that the country’s National Security Council issued a resolution last December, instructing for the “recruitment of academic faculty members in alignment with the standards of the Islamic Revolution in universities.”
Furthermore, other documents reveal that decisions have been formulated against protesting students, dissenting professors, and those not adhering to the establishment’s principles. These decisions were taken within a security-intelligence committee overseen by the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and these proceedings spanned 10 sessions from December 2022 to February 2023.
"Down with the Oppressor, Be it the SHAH or The SUPREME LEADER": A popular slogan chanted by protesters in universities across Iran. WATCH pic.twitter.com/knAwYP6Z12 #IranProtests #مهسا_امینی #مرگ_بر_ستمگر_چه_شاه_باشه_چه_رهبر
— Ali Safavi (@amsafavi) December 11, 2022
The outcomes of these decisions have been recorded in four separate lists. These lists reveal that over 2,800 students have been summoned to the disciplinary committee, 643 students have been expelled and banned from entering universities due to what state officials call “the disturbances in February 2023,” and 281 individuals have been suspended from university service for the same reason.
Additionally, travel bans have been issued against 22 students deemed “disturbance-makers in Mazandaran,” preventing them from leaving the country.
Therefore, the expulsion and dismissal of professors and academic faculty members from universities, along with their replacement by Basij elements and “aligned” individuals, are part of a security plan to exert greater control over universities and to limit the influence of this institution on society.
Multiple reports of widespread dismissal and removal of professors in various fields, particularly in humanities, have been published even in government-affiliated media outlets. According to these reports, “It is unclear how many university instructors have been expelled, suspended, or voluntarily left the university in the past year… because many individuals, due to the risks they face, prefer their issues not to be publicized through the media, so as not to exacerbate their problems through such exposure.”
The disdain harbored by anti-intellectual clerics was spearheaded by the regime’s founder and former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, who declared on December 18, 1980, “All these catastrophes that have befallen humanity have emanated from universities… The world has been corrupted by universities.”
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) January 16, 2020
The regime’s hostility towards universities as centers of knowledge and awareness is evident. Even a state-affiliated newspaper, in its August 20 issue, acknowledged the recent assaults on universities by the regime, questioning, “Why is there such animosity towards universities? The answer is evident: knowledge! Opposition to knowledge is at the heart of any antagonism directed at universities. In the presence of genuine knowledge, pseudo-science cannot thrive. However, in its absence, pseudo-science prevails…”
While this assertion is indeed accurate, limiting it solely to the ideological enmity of ruling clerics with knowledge belittles the scope of this animosity. Both the dubious Cultural Revolution enacted by Khomeini in 1980, leading to the suppression and closure of universities for two years, and the recent assaults on universities, some of which have been dubbed the “Second Cultural Coup,” are driven by the fear of reinvigorating the university’s role as a “Bastion of Freedom.” These actions also acknowledge the failure of previous strategies to quell the university’s influence on society.
In particular, the scenes of impassioned and revolutionary student protests during the 2022 uprising underscore that despite the regime’s efforts to suppress it under the banner of “unity between seminary and university,” the university remains resilient, vibrant, and ready to embrace its honorable position as a bastion of freedom.