The religious regime truly pursued to purge dissidents, intellectuals, and supporters of political movements like the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). From 1980 to 1983, the mullahs’ oppressive apparatuses laid off and arrested hundreds of professors, students, and scientists.
In response, the new dictators’ anti-cultural measures caused strong ire among students in different universities. In reality, the pioneers of Iran’s revolution, those who had actually toppled the Shah’s dictatorship via organizing countrywide struggle and demonstrations, were removed from the political scene.
The mullahs preferred to keep the society in the dark and considered the growth of people’s political knowledge as a threat to their survival in power. However, the students and political activists intended to improve the level of political awareness of the society to prevent the establishment of another dictatorship under the name of the religion.
“One of the most important events not to be missed in Tehran is the comparative philosophy lessons that Mr. Massoud Rajavi teaches every Friday afternoon. Every time, about 10,000 people participate on the grass of Sharif University by presenting an entrance card to listen to the speech of the Leader of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) for three hours … Mr. Massoud Rajavi has many sympathizers. The political rallies he holds in the capital and different provinces attract 100,000 people, 200,000 people, and sometimes 300,000 people,” Le Monde wrote on March 29, 1980.
To counter the MEK’s growing popularity among Iran’s academic community, Khomeini ordered his forces to shut down all universities under the pretext of the Cultural Revolution. “All the corruption in the world comes from these universities,” Khomeini said to justify his assault on scientific centers.
Subsequently, many club-wielders loyal to Khomeini raided universities across the country, which led to the death of many students and citizens who rised in support of students against the regime’s thugs. Reports say that at least 30 students and citizens were killed by Khomeini’s club-wielders and more than one thousand people were wounded.
Notably, the new speaker of the Parliament (Majlis) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was one of the club-wielders, and he proudly recounted his story about suppressing students and Massoud Rajavi’s sympathizers.
“During the incidents of July 9, 1999, at Tehran University and its dormitory, I wrote that letter. I was with Mr. [Qassem] Soleimani. We stood firm. Many people criticized us. Even now, wherever we go, they still criticize us. When [people in the uprising] approached the leader’s [Khamenei] office, I was the commander of the Air Force. My photo exists on a 1,000-cc motorbike with a club in my hand along with Hossein Khaleghi… This Ghalibaf was the commander of security forces in the incidents of July 9, 1999,” Ghalibaf said.
“We were among the league of [the chief of Judiciary Mohammad Hossein] Beheshti, and we operated against Massoud Rajavi’s sympathizers,” Ghalibaf added.
Following the Cultural Revolution, the oppressive regime took further actions to restrict the civil, religious, and political freedoms of students. For instance, authorities implemented the plan of gender segregation in schools, colleges, and universities across the country. They also banned female students from educating in several faculties under the justification of being in contradiction with Sharia law.
However, at the time, professors and even the dean of Tehran University described the regime’s Cultural Revolution as a completely political move meant to purge dissidents and occupy universities that were not under the influence of the authoritarian regime.
“The attack on the universities under the name of the Cultural Revolution was a political movement. The university was among the places where the Islamic Republic did not have control and domination… If it was an academic movement, what would they do with the technical and engineering colleges? It’s ridiculous that we have no Islamic or non-Islamic electric major,” Sohrab Behdad, a former professor at Tehran University said.
“The Cultural Revolution was a program by a will to seize power. In fact, it wasn’t a cultural move but a political onslaught… Meanwhile, I should add that the year-and-half before the Cultural Revolution was the most productive and shrining courses in the history of universities, according to the Ministry of Science,” Dr. Mohammad Maleki, then president and head of the leading board of Tehran University, later explained the consequences of the Cultural Revolution.
Notably, given his objection to the Cultural Revolution, Dr. Maleki was sentenced to two times execution in the Revolutionary Court. His sentence was later reduced to ten years in prison.
The Cultural Revolution also contributed to the migration of hundreds of professors from the country and the most significant brain drain in the history of Iran. As a result, ignorant officials took the wheel of a rich country for 41 years, but they drove it onto the brink of collapse in different sectors like scientific areas.
The Inherent Outcome of the Cultural Revolution
In a live interview with the state-run Channel 4 TV on May 27, an academic criticized the Iranian regime’s anti-cultural and oppressive policies and argued that the civilization will not generate with rudeness and without freedom.
According to the state-run Etemad Online website, Tehran University philosophy professor Bijan Abdolkarimi implicitly blamed the mullahs for the degeneration of Iran’s society. “My word is, how would be a society that was supposed to be on the path of degeneration? Civilization cannot progress without rationality. Civilization will not progress with such rude behaviors and populism. Can you create a civilization without developing and glorifying talents?”
Abdolkarimi later slammed the regime’s so-called Ministry of Cultural and Islamic Guidance describing officials as a bunch of ignorant people. “You have assembled an ignorant department in the Cultural Ministry where a bunch of outdated people has gathered there. They nip each book and thought at the bud,” he said.
He also acknowledged the country’s social ruining, saying, “This nation has been going to annihilate. In Iran, ignorant people have taken official positions and address society. They have more power in comparison with intellectuals.”
Abdolkarimi next rejected the regime’s censorship, which has kept the Iranian people in the dark for forty years. “We cannot close the doors and turn Iran into a military castle like North Korea and say, ‘We would like to develop civilization.’”
He also emphasized that Iran’s society has yet to return to its natural path. Obliquely, Abdolkarimi said that the mullahs’ ruling system has emphasized non-essential issues rather than resolving vital problems in the country.
How the Mullahs Use Crisis and Hostility to Rule Iran
“Maybe our intellectuals could allocate a part of their efforts to criticize the West if we did not suffer from a kind of religious monopolization in our domestic policies. However, this monopolizing tyranny has suppressed the biotic space in our country,” Abdolkarimi said.
He also blamed political interference in academic topics, saying, “[Policymakers] have become too rude. Ignorant people’s lectures are more than nobles and thinkers until politics understand its limits.”
At the end, Abdolkarimi revealed a shocking instance about trampling culture in Iran. “What do you expect from this society while the Cultural Ministry agents impound the book of the head of Science Academy from a 23-year-old student?” he questioned.