Iran Head Wants Liberal Teachers Ousted
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; 6:50 PM
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's hard-line president urged students Tuesday to push for a purge of liberal and secular university teachers, another sign of his determination to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in the country.
With his call echoing the rhetoric of the nation's 1979 Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad appears determined to remake Iran by reviving the fundamentalist goals pursued under the republic's late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Ahmadinejad's call was not a surprise _ since taking office a year ago, he also has moved to replace pragmatic veterans in the government and diplomatic corps with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hard-liners.
Iran still has strong moderate factions but Ahmadinejad's administration also has launched crackdowns on independent journalists, Web sites and bloggers.
Speaking to a group of students Tuesday, Ahmadinejad called on them to pressure his administration to keep driving out moderate instructors, a process that began earlier this year.
Dozens of liberal university professors and teachers were sent into retirement this year after Ahmadinejad's administration, sparking strong protests from students, named the first cleric to head Tehran University.
The country's oldest institution of higher education remains home to dozens more professors and instructors who outspokenly oppose policies that restrict freedom of expression.
"Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with students.
The president complained that reforms in the country's universities were difficult to accomplish and that the educational system had been affected by secularism for the last 150 years. But, he added: "Such a change has begun."
It was not clear whether Ahmadinejad intended to take immediate specific measures, or was just urging the students to rally.
Ahmadinejad, in his role as head of the country's Council of Cultural Revolution, would have the authority to make such changes himself. But his comments seemed designed to encourage hard-line students to begin a pressure campaign on their own, thus putting a squeeze on universities.
"This is the beginning of a so-called cultural revolution. Ahmadinejad and his allies plan to sweep their opponents from the universities," said Saeed Al-e Agha, a Tehran University professor. "They want to rule the brains of youth there."