Along with the inhuman sentences and the execution of the protestors, the Iranian regime has resorted to firing several university professors who had been identified to have participated in protests during the nationwide uprising. Hardly a day or week goes by without no news about the dismissal of professors or students from all corners of the country.
In the years following the 1979 revolution, one of the strongholds in society that were considered a threat against the new regime, founded by Ruhollah Khomeini, was Iran’s universities. With the newly formed regime feeling threatened by these establishments, in a coup-like action, a so-called ‘cultural revolution’ began in the universities. Initially, this revolution forced the universities to close, followed by the purging and expulsion of any professors and students who opposed the regime or were considered a threat to the regime’s existence.
When the universities were eventually reopened, the regime heavily controlled the universities with the help of its intelligence service, the MOIS, and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). All opposition was repressed, and many students, professors, and intellectuals become the victims of the regime’s brutal purge.
During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, many professors were expelled from work without any reasonable reason. This period was one of the worst times in the history of Iran’s universities. This policy greatly echoes the current situation.
When Ebrahim Raisi’s government came to power in 2021, the regime once again began the purge and dismissal of professors in some universities, long before the current protests started. This clearly shows that the regime was aware of its main threat and had already begun to feel the rumblings of an erupting volcano.
In the latest round of dismissals, two of the professors of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Tehran were removed from work on false pretenses in the last two weeks. In the follow-up, and amidst the protests of the students, the involved institution did not give a clear reason for their dismissal, instead putting the blame on security issues.
Most academics and experts have considered these actions a result of a political and security view of the university, and they have warned about the harms of these encounters with university professors and students.
Saeed Moidfar, a sociologist and retired professor at Tehran University, spoke about the dismissal of professors from universities, especially the professors at Tehran University, stating that the university is no longer a scientific environment, but the playground of other factors which are determining its fate without any scientific criteria. As a result, these conditions are depleting the universities of their original and inherent values.
He added that the university was, and is, supposed to be an environment for professors and eminent academics to gain experience and research. Those at the top of their game are being expelled or suspended from the university, while other people are being allowed to enter the university without any scientific experience and the qualities to fit the criteria needed for such fields, which in turn is causing the university to lose its credit within the society.
With measly explanations being given and the policy of purging universities of capable and academically qualified professors, the regime is uprooting the country’s scientific society with dangerous consequences in the future.
This is not the only subject that is harming Iran’s academic society. On January 8, the state-run Jomhoori Eslami daily warned about the increasing brain drain, writing, “If this situation continues, we will become an unknown and isolated society like North Korea.” It added the dimension of this loss: “We have lost a lot of talents and forced them to migrate, and now this harmful process has an alarming acceleration.”
Discussing the regime’s enmity with the country’s academic society, which is ingrained in the regime’s medieval culture, the daily added, “One look at this issue is that someone recently said on one of the domestic television channels, let them go so that the country can be purified. Another point of view is that we should sanitize extreme thoughts and brains so as not to be the cause of brain drain.”
Jomhoori Eslami concluded their article by stating, “Unfortunately, the first view is the current way of the country and as long as this view rules the country, we will witness brain drain and if this situation continues, we will soon have a country that lacks the characteristics of a well-known society that can compete with today’s world, interact and not be isolated like North Korea.”