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October 26, 2010

New Educational Restrictions on Youth in Iran

Two recent announcements by Iran’s hardliners signal renewed efforts to repress Iranian youth.
A senior official at the Education Ministry has announced that Iran will not allow “western” influenced courses in universities and will review 12 humanities disciplines to make them compatible with “Islamic teachings”. According to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, humanities studies are not compatible with “Islamic teaching” as they are based on materialism.  This would imply that disciplines such as human rights and women’s studies are based on principles of materialism and do not follow the theories of Islam.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Leader declared that the private financial endowment of Azad (meaning free in Farsi) University as religiously illegitimate, leading the way for government take-over. Azad University, supported by former President Rafsanjani, was a major site for the opposition protests in the June 2009 election.
Eliminating humanities studies and making universities more religiously-oriented will not stop the youth from gravitating towards and appropriating western culture, no matter how harshly Iranian government officials crack down on men’s mullets and women’s nail polish.
On the positive side, a representative at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that there has been a lot of progress in improving primary education levels for young Iranian girls. An increased literacy rate at 77.4 percent in Iranian girls living in villages all across Iran, gives these underprivileged youth a chance at higher education.
But a study done by the Dubai Initiative discusses Iran’s youth population in today’s tough economic times. Iran has the highest share of youth of any country in the world, with 60% of its total population between ages 15 and 29 . With 57 percent of university students studying humanities, cutting down on these disciplines is going to have a drastic impact on the youth population’s outlook. Getting into university in Iran is a study on its own with an 85 percent fail rate on the concour (Iran’s college entrance exam). And Iran is in the midst of economic recession that has left many youth unemployed.
Here’s an idea. Why don’t we allow more of these smart, savvy, young Iranians come to the United States for college. Where they have the option to study whatever they want and become the future innovators of the world. Not only is it a brain gain for the US, but it will allow so many of the young Iranian generation to flourish in an environment where they can express their beliefs and ideals without feeling the wrath of repression hanging over them. But until the Single Entry Visa Policy is corrected and more visas are available for Iranian students, we will continue to hear about increasing Iranian government crackdowns and have little to offer but sympathy.

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