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What a good question

Posted by Helen Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It was the Russian Section of the BBC, as far as I can make out, who first reported that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has called upon students in universities and colleges to get rid of liberal and secularly minded teachers.

The Russian Service website headed its article yesterday: “Iran’s president calls for a purge in higher education”, words that have a deadly meaning to all Russians. Interestingly enough, the English language website had a much milder heading: “Iran’s liberal lecturers targeted”. Could be anything, really.

The delightful Mr Ahmadinejad knows very well that universities do tend to explode into strikes and demonstrations against his ever more oppressive and obscurantist rule. So, after the destruction of the satellite dishes and the periodic crack-down on bloggers, the Iranian President has decided to launch another assault at the academic institutions.

Last year Teheran University acquired an ayatollah as its rector as part of the campaign to turn Iran into a completely backward kind of Islamic state. The students and academics responded by demonstrations after which many of the latter were sacked. (Though according to the BBC correspondent, that was not such a big problem as “many have found new jobs with institutions run by people linked to the president's political opponents”. Not for long, I imagine.

In the meantime, The American Thinker has asked a very pertinent question. Bearing in mind the outrage expressed by the Association of University Teachers on the subject of transgressions by the Israeli government, to the point of wanting to break all relations with all Israeli academics, can we look forward to a proposal for a boycott of Iranian academics? After all, unlike the case with Israel, what is at stake here is any semblance of academic freedom?