The MEK explained that this was essentially a three-year-long anti-intellectual purge, with all the universities closed and hundreds of professors, students, and scientists arrested between 1980 and 1983, all to eliminate any “dissidents, intellectuals, and supporters of [the MEK]”. This was a complete contradiction of the 1979 revolution to topple the Shah, which was led by the intellectuals who were focused on building political awareness so that no other Shah would ever be established in Iran.
As Khomeini spread his fundamentalist ideas in late 1979 and early 1980, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi would give speeches at Sharif University every Friday afternoon, drawing crowds of 10,000 on the lawns outside. By 1980, the MEK, which had been decimated when the Shah threw the leaders in jail and executed all but Rajavi, had 300,000 members.
Initially, the regime cracked down with brute strength, killing 30 and injuring thousands when Khomeini’s club-wielders, including current parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, attacked. But this could not stop the crowds.
The popularity of the MEK and Rajavi was what caused Khomeini to close all universities, fearful of an educated populace waging war against the regime.
The regime went further in 1999 to target the MEK in universities by denying students political and religious freedom, as well as introducing gender segregation in all educational settings and preventing female students from taking courses that contradicted Sharia law.
At the time, the president of Tehran University, Dr. Mohammad Maleki, explained that Khomenei’s Cultural Revolution pushed Iran backward and for his honesty, he was threatened with execution and forced to serve a 10-year prison sentence.
The MEK explained that the Cultural Revolution caused a brain drain, with hundreds of professors fleeing the country and replaced by ignorant people who “knew next to nothing” but were malleable to the regime’s whims. This is still the case today in Iran.
State-run television station Channel 4 aired criticism from an academic on May 27, who said that there was no way forward for the country under a regime that doesn’t respect everyone. He explained that the regime and its ignorant leaders would ruin the country because they do not consider the Iranian people and dismiss all scientific evidence.
This is of particular concern to the MEK at present because current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently called for the establishment of a “young and Hezbollah” government. These comments, made during a virtual meeting with young members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) paramilitary Basij force on May 17, do not refer to a government of militants from the Iranian regime-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, but rather it means that they would be loyal and not question the regime’s rulings. That may be the most dangerous thing of all.