Iran: Khamenei’s fear of universities has a long history

In a meeting with a handpicked group of loyalist students on April 26, regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei implicitly acknowledged his fear of Iran’s explosive society, especially among the youth.

In a lengthy speech in which he spoke of the years after the 1979 Revolution, Khamenei tried to portray the mullahs’ regime as a state that seeks scientific growth and progress. But he also admitted that his regime has always been challenged by the centers of education and science.

“Since the beginning, there were two opposing views, one of which was the ‘Revolutionary view led by Khomeini’ and the other the ‘backward and antirevolutionary’ view,” Khamenei said, referring to the confrontations between the regime’s loyalists and the dissident groups in universities.

Khamenei warned that the opposition movements are still present in the universities and “are being supported inside the country.” He warned students to avoid “despair and passivity,” an implicit acknowledgment that his regime is fast losing its hold on universities.

Prior to this, Hassan Firouzabadi, the regime’s former armed forces chief of staff, had reiterated that the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), had expanded its presence across Iran, including in the country’s universities, following the 1979 revolution. “They even gained the support of a percentage of the religious schools,” he added.

In the spring of 2020 Khamenei, himself said that in “the early days of the revolution we had youths that were absorbed by eclectic groups (meaning MEK)” and warned senior regime officials to “be on the lookout regarding support being provided to the enemy recruiting the society’s youth.”

Khamenei is right about this one. The regime’s face-off against Iran’s colleges and universities on the first day the mullahs obtained power, dates back 43 years. From 1979 and early 1980 then regime Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini expanded his control over the society through crackdown and promoting his outdated mentality. However, he was never able to take full control over Iran’s colleges and universities.

“The threat of universities is more dangerous than cluster bombs,” he once said, indicating his utter hatred for Iran’s colleges, universities, and campuses.

Colleges and universities in Iran have always been the epicenter of progressive perspectives and initiatives, especially an area where the PMOI/MEK enjoyed expansive support. Their meetings in different universities, especially the classes held by Iranian Resistance leader Massoud Rajavi, prevented the spread of Khomeini’s obsolete mindset among the country’s colleges and universities.

In the spring of 1980, the French daily Le Monde reported: “Mr. Rajavi, with his educational speeches, has extensive popular support” and “his political meetings in the capital and other cities across the country attract crowds of 100,000, 200,000, and at times 300,000 people.”

This is exactly why Khomeini launched the so-called “Cultural Revolution” in 1980 and began his regime’s massive crackdown campaign against Iran’s colleges and universities. Furthermore, Khomeini allocated nearly half of the college/university classrooms to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) paramilitary Basij force members to impose full and lasting control over the colleges and universities. Simultaneously, crackdowns and even executions continued to target the country’s college students. According to reports obtained by the Iranian Resistance, 40 percent of the 120,000 people murdered or executed by the mullahs’ regime during the past 43 years were dissident college students and people belonging to Iran’s educated sector.

While Khamenei boasted that the regime honors science and the education of the elite, on Monday, April 25, the regime’s judiciary sentenced two award-winning, elite students, Ali Younesi and Amir-Hossein Moradi, to 16 years in prison. The mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) has been holding them in detention since April 10, 2020.

At the same time, the regime is ramping up repressive measures against students in universities. Security forces have been dispatched to monitor and control students under the pretext of enforcing the hijab and dress codes. The measures have resulted in mass protests by students.

Now, 43 years into this ongoing conflict, Khamenei’s April 26 speech and his remarks about the regime’s “concerns” regarding the universities indicate yet again that the mullahs have failed in their war against Iran’s colleges and universities, and the society as a whole.

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