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High Council of Cultural Revolution

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High Council of Cultural Revolution

This article is about the Cultural Revolution, 1980–1983. For Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, see Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution (1980–1987) (in Persian: انقلاب فرهنگی) was a period following the Iranian Revolution where the academia of Iran was purged of Western and non-Islamic influences to bring it in line with Shia Islam.[1] The official name used by the Islamic Republic is "Cultural Revolution".

Directed by the Cultural Revolutionary Headquarters and later by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, the revolution initially closed universities for three years (1980–1983) and after reopening banned many books and purged thousands of students and lecturers from the schools.[2] The cultural revolution involved a certain amount of violence in taking over the university campuses since higher education in Iran at the time was dominated by leftists forces opposed to Ayatollah Khomeini's vision of theocracy, and they (unsuccessfully) resisted Khomeiniist control at many universities. How many students or faculty were killed is not known.[1][3][4]

The government's process of censoring foreign influences has not been without conflict. In addition to interrupting the freedom, education and professional livelihood of many, and striking "a major blow to Iran's cultural and intellectual life and achievement",[5] it contributed to the emigration of many teachers and technocrats. The loss of job skills and capital has weakened Iran's economy.

Officials and founders

Numerous political figures, clerics and academics were involved in the cultural revolution between 1980 and 1987. The following figures are known as main advocates of the movement. They expelled some 700 University professors from Iran's academic institutions in a short time.[6][7]

Name Title
Ruhollah Khomeini founder
Ali Khamenei founder and head of the council
Mohammad Javad Bahonar member of council
Ahmad Ahmadi
Jalaleddin Farsi
Mehdi Golshani
Hassan Habibi
Ali Shariatmadari
Abdolkarim Soroush
Mostafa Moin minister of science
Hassan Arefi mostly involved in expelling medical scientists
Mohammad Ali Najafi minister of science
Asadollah Lajevardi

In 1983, Ali Khamenei was the main figure behind the expansion of the council and its scope of activities. His suggestion was approved by the Iranian leader.

Islamization of universities

The shutdown of the universities was preceded by the defeat of leftist forces on university campuses. On April 18, 1980 after Friday prayers, Khomeini gave a speech harshly attacking the universities.

We are not afraid of economic sanctions or military intervention. What we are afraid of is Western universities and the training of our youth in the interests of West or East.

His remarks are thought to have "served as a signal for an attack that evening on the Tehran Teachers Training College" by his supporters, the Hezbollahi. One student was reportedly lynched, and according to a British correspondent, the campus was left looking like `a combat zone.` The next day, hezbollahis ransacked left-wing student offices at Shiraz University. Some 300 students required hospital treatment. Attacks on student groups also took place at Mashad and Isfahan Universities."`[8] Attacks continued April 21 and "the next day at the Universities at Ahwaz and Rasht. Over 20 people lost their lives in these university confrontations. ... The universities closed soon after the April confrontation for Islamization`. They were not to open for another two years." [8]

The main theme of the movement was to purify the universities and education system of foreign influences. In his original letter, Ayatollah Khomeini wrote: Set yourselves free from any " –ism" and " –ist" belonging to the East and the West. Be self dependent and do not expect any help from the foreigners.[9]

After shutting down the universities on 12 June 1980,[10] Khomeini issued a letter, stating:

The need for Cultural Revolution which is an Islamic issue and demand of the Muslim nation has been recognized for sometimes but so far no effective effort has been made to respond to this need and the Muslim nation and the devoted and faithful students in particular are concerned and are worried of the machinations of plotters, which every now and then become evident and the Muslim nation are worried that God forbidden the opportunity is missed and no positive action is taken and the culture remains the same as the time of the corrupt regime which the acultured officials put these important centers under the disposal of colonialists. Continuation of this disaster which is unfortunately the objective of some the foreign oriented groups would deal a heavy blow to Islamic Revolution and Islamic Republic and any indifference towards this vital issue would be great treason against Islam and the Islamic country.

The "Committee for Islamization of Universities"[10] carried out the task by ensuring an "Islamic atmosphere" for every subject from engineering to the humanities.[10] The headquarters deleted certain courses such as music as "fake knowledge," and committees "came to similar conclusions concerning all subjects in the humanities such as law, political sciences, economy, psychology, education and sociology".[2]

When the institutions reopened, purges continued for five more years with special focus on "Islam’s enemies".[11] Students were screened by committees and those found unfit were not allowed to continue their studies.[12] Students in the University instructor program, for example, "were required to be practicing Muslims, to declare their loyalty to ... the doctrine of the vice regency of the faqih. Non-Muslims were required to refrain from behavior `offensive to Muslims,` and were excluded from all fields of study except accounting and foreign languages." [13]

Outside of the universities, the Cultural Revolution affected some non-academic cultural and scientific figures who it publicly denounced, and the broadcasts of Iranian radio and television, which were now limited to religious and official programs.[14]

Influence and sacrifices

The Cultural Revolution united the theological schools in Qom with state universities and brought secular teachers to Qom for a time. This had the unexpected result of exposing many students in Qom to Western thought, so that it is possible to find "clerics and teachers of theology who know something of contemporary Western thought and philosophy."

Another aspect was that many teachers and technocrats left Iran to escape the Cultural Revolution. While the revolution achieved it goal of ridding the universities of Western influence, it also greatly weakened Iran in the fields of science and technology needed for development.[15] The loss of proper education had led to a loss of Persian culture to more of an Arab culture.


The Cultural Revolution Headquarters was established June 12, 1980 and charged by Ayatollah Khomeini with making sure that the cultural policy of the universities was based on Islam, that selected professors were "efficient, committed and vigilant," and dealing with other issues relevant to the Islamic academic revolution.[16]

It was continued by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council [17] in December 1984. It is described as "the highest body for making policies and decisions in connection with cultural, educational and research activities within the framework of the general policies of the system and considered its approvals indispensable." The body is not stipulated in the Constitution but "was formed under the special circumstances that were prevailing in the early stages of the revolution. The council took its legitimacy from the 9 December 1984 decree of the founder of the Islamic Republic."[2]

In fact, this group of seven (in 1980-83) and then 17 (in 1984) that was even expanded to 36 in 1999 was expected to compile all the cultural policies of the country.Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has oversight over the Council.

The Council has been active in fighting the student movement of 1983-1989 "banning many books and purging thousands of students and lecturers." The council controls the affairs of the university and its students through supervising the selection of applicants to the university and by controlling the formation of university institutions.[2]

Since 2001, the council has been active in demanding state control or government-imposed filtering of the internet to prevent the dissemination of blasphemy, insults to Iran's Supreme Leader, opposition to the constitution, the creation of "pessimism and hopelessness among the people regarding the legitimacy and effectiveness of the [Islamic] system", and similar vices.[2]

Current work

The Cultural Council continues its work ensuring that the education and culture of Iran remains "100% Islamic" as Khomeini directed.

In 2006 there was talk of Universities "bracing" for "tighter state control over student bodies and faculties and perhaps even the second ‘Cultural Revolution'" [20] It has resulted in the dismissal or compulsory retirement of veteran university faculties and their replacement with younger professors espousing the fervor of the Islamic Republic.[21]


The Cultural Council has 33 members,[22] most of whom hold other government posts as well.

At the end of 2009, Mir Hossein Mousavi was fired from his post as the head of the Academy of Arts.[23]

See also

Iran portal
Culture portal

References and notes

Further reading

External links

  • Supreme Cultural Revolution Council
  • Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, in a Lecture in Demark: Christian Morality Dissolved in the Acid of Capitalism and Secularism
  • Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution: We Are Stronger Than America and the West
  • Ayatollah Khamenei’s responses the president & the chairman of SCCR to the questions posed by experts of public relation department of the SCCR in June, 1985.

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