Hassan Assadi: Daneshjoo’s Remarks Nothing New, Iranian Academia has Already Been Attacked
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Hassan Assadi Zeidabadi, Head of the Human Rights Committee of Tahkim-e Vahdat Alumni Association, a large student organization in Iran, reviewed the new statements of Iran’s Minister of Science pertaining to the dismissal of students and faculty members who have differing viewpoints than that of the ruling group. According to this student activist, “The ideological selection process in the Islamic Republic is a process that violates human rights and it must be viewed as a set of definitive and mandatory rules, which systematically prevents citizens from their rights to have public appointments through unfair selection and discrimination.”
Hassan Assadi also believes that the Minister’s threats are not a new phenomenon and that they have been consistently implemented over the past four years, forcing many faculty members into resignations or early retirements and depriving many university students of their right to continue their education due to their political activities.
The interview follows:
Campaign: During his speech last Thursday, the Minister of Science said students or faculty members within Iranian universities who are against Islam or valayat-e faghih will be put aside, or in other words expelled, from the educational system. Considering Iranian laws and Iran’s international commitments and the fact that Iran’s Constitution recognizes the rights of all members of the society to education and employment regardless of their political beliefs, what do you think will be the consequences of these statements for students and faculty members?
Hassan Assadi: Look, I don’t believe Mr. Daneshjoo’s statements are anything new. I mean the actions he is promising to take place are not a part of a new, unprecedented plan. He may not have a long track record of operational management, but according to laws and policies of the country, “belief” and not just “commitment” to the Islamic Republic regime and the concept of velayat-e faghih have been constant requirements of selection processes within the Iranian legal system. This is not anything related to recent years; it goes back to the 1980’s.
According to these laws, enjoyment of certain rights and government privileges such as employment require the applicant to prove his belief in the regime and the ruling ideology.
The Selection Departments which are fully active in all government offices and organizations and enjoy a lot of power were set up for this purpose. The Iranian Parliament has passed multiple laws over the past decades and these laws have been confirmed by the Guardian Council to be in accordance with Sharia and the Constitution.
The ideological selection process in the Islamic Republic is a process of violating human rights and it must be viewed as a set of definitive and mandatory rules, which through unfair selection procedures and discrimination, systematically prevents citizens from their rights to have public appointments.
This is explicitly against Item 2 of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says: “Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.” These discriminatory laws are also against Item 3, Article 25 of United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states “…to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.” This Covenant was signed by the Iranian government and according to Iranian Civil Law, international commitments are regarded the same as internal laws. Therefore a serious contradiction now exists in the Iranian legal system.
Campaign: Whom do you think the Minister’s statements include?
Hassan Assadi: Considering the fact that the very approval of such discriminatory laws is based on an ideological view, these laws have been implemented in an increasingly serious and vigorous way within academic environments over the past 30 years. The Islamic Republic of Iran has never allowed faculty members who have opposing views to the ruling ideology, especially in humanities, to enter the universities. The Minister of Science is now claiming the existence of such people in Iranian universities.
Also, we mustn’t forget that almost all university professors today are among those who received their education after the Iranian Revolution and who have been selected for employment during the past 30 years, so they have gone through all the selection scrutiny. Therefore there is nothing new in Mr. Daneshjoo’s statements, unless he means something different than the rules and procedures which have been implemented over the past years when he uses the words “regime” and “velayat-e faghih.”
Campaign: Will we be witnessing more violations of the right to education or teaching on political grounds?
Hassan Assadi: I don’t believe we will be facing a one-time event, like what happened in 1980. We are facing a process which started several years ago; of course it has taken new dimensions after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005. Over the past four years, may humanities professors have retired or they have somehow been prevented from teaching.
Are there any statistics about this?
Hassan Assadi: From personal experience, more than 80% of faculty members who were teaching human rights at graduate level at Allameh Tabatabaee University in 2006 are now deprived from teaching. This situation is also more or less present in other universities. The threat the gentlemen are posing now is an attack which has already taken place and even its evidence has disappeared. They didn’t even have mercy on individuals who were closest to the Islamic Revolution ideology. It may be that for Ahmadinejad’s consecutive cabinets, the meaning of Islamic Republic is something entirely different from what it meant to previous cabinets. It may be that by “regime” in Mr. Daneshjoo’s statements, he means the Ahmadinejad government, not the Islamic Republic or the Constitution, as those close to Ahmadinejad have repeatedly named his election “another revolution.” Well, a revolution is nothing but the overthrow of the previous regime. If we take note of this point, perhaps a lot of things will come to light.
How do you see the future?
Hassan Assadi: I think what we will be seeing is an acceleration of the trend to replace the faculty members. I mean the project to filter the professors is almost complete, but it will not stop. But the project which has started and will intensify is hiring new professors in the humanities area, professors who will basically be coming from security organizations or those who develop security theories. This point is quite clear in Daneshjoo’s recent remarks, when he says “we don’t lack committed forces,” he means this project will intensify. But even so, a fundamental point must not be forgotten.
There is a famous saying about Iranians which says, “The Iranian nation has digested its aggressors in itself.” This capability also exists in the scientific and academic arena as well. Changing the professors will not unite the universities in one direction. Free from students and professors, the university has an independent nature which continually reproduces and because it relies on truth and science, it will gradually overcome the other elements. This is exactly what happened after the “Cultural Revolution [of 1980].” This is a fact our brand new statesmen don’t notice.