Iran’s Latest Move against Academia

The latest casualty in Iran’s war against academic independence: Dr Ramin Jahanbegloo, a distinguished political scientist and philosopher (see his website here), was arrested at the end of April. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (link added):

At a Tehran airport on April 27, Iranian police arrested Ramin Jahanbegloo, a French-educated scholar who directs the department of contemporary thought at the Cultural Research Bureau, a think tank in Tehran. Mr. Jahanbegloo is the author of books on Hegel, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Isaiah Berlin; he has been a fellow at Harvard University and has taught at the University of Toronto.

No formal charges have been issued, but newspapers aligned with the Iranian regime have denounced Mr. Jahanbegloo as an American agent engaged in “cultural activities against Iran.” He is reported to be in custody at Evin Prison, which has been notorious as a torture center.

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Jahanbeglo’s colleague in Toronto, explains:

They are using him as a scapegoat in order to develop a strategy concerning the people who are supposedly receiving the funds that George Bush has made available to topple the Iranian regime. So he has been a victim of that sort of simple-minded policy. His arrest is a way to warn others that they will face the same fate.

Meanwhile, Dariush Mirzai at Asia News adds some further context:

There are many speculations as to the precise reasons behind the arrest of Jahanbegloo: perhaps it was a statement, an interview, one article too many? Perhaps Ramin Jahanbegloo should not have told the newspaper El Pais about his visit to Auschwitz, and talked about “our responsibility to testify to the ‘unqualifiable’ of Auschwitz? Or he should not have raised internal polemics against “religious intellectuals”? Perhaps it’s better not to speculate too much about the “red lines” that should not be crossed: that would mean granting too much respect to the arbitrary, it would mean reinforcing auto-censorship, one of the aims behind the arrest of Jahanbegloo. One Iranian intellectual said: “The problem is that one never knows where the limits are. One must guess.”

Mirzai also reminds us that Evin Prison was where Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi was killed, in 2003.

The situation of universities in Iran has been of interest to this blog for a while; back in March I  noted that 40 hard-line ideologues have reportedly been installed at Isfahan University, and that its new chancellor, an obscure “Dr Ramshet”, had spoken of the need to suppress and intimidate. Before that I covered the links between western Holocaust deniers and the Neda Institute in Tehran; a subject later picked up by the media. There was also a report in the Guardian back in March which I missed at the time. It tells us that

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is cracking down on Iran’s universities in an effort to crush a student pro-democracy movement and strengthen the hardliners’ grip on power.

Leading student activists have been jailed or expelled from their studies, and lecturers have been sacked, while the government has proposed subjecting academics to strict religious testing.

…The purge has extended to academics and university administrators. One political science lecturer was dismissed for belonging to a human rights group…A radical cleric was recently appointed to head Tehran University.

A blog highlighting Jahanbegloo’s plight can be seen here.

2 Responses

  1. […] a few entries on the country’s sponsorship of Holocaust denial and assaults on independent higher education. The situation for religious minorities remains difficult – especially for Baha’is – and […]

  2. […] blogged on Iranian Holocaust denial here, and on the regime’s attacks on academia here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Automata Theory Computer Science TextbooksLinear […]

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