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Posts Tagged ‘ Iran education ’

  • 26 October 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • Events in Iran

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.

Can Obama Keep His Promise to Iran’s Youth?

The early verdict on the new Iran sanctions is that even the “smart” sanctions have proven to be, well, dumb. Instead of targeting Iranian government officials connected to the nuclear program or who are complicit in human rights abuses, the new sanctions are punishing young Iranians who have been the greatest allies of democracy, human rights, and accountability in Iran.

Late last week, it was revealed that young Iranians looking to attend college abroad are now facing serious impediments because of new sanctions. The Educational Testing Service–the US-based company that provides standardized tests necessary to apply for college, like the GRE and the TOEFL–announced that it was suspending tests for hopeful students in Iran in order to comply with recently passed UN sanctions.

Back in March, President Obama recorded a statement to Iran for Norooz–the Iranian New Year–in which he promised to “sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people,” which he said would include “increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities…”

But with the announcement that standardized testing has been suspended in Iran due to sanctions, President Obama has failed to live up to that commitment.

This President claimed that he could walk and chew gum at the same time. But in placing “pressure” at the center of his Iran policy, every other element of the President’s Iran strategy is being subsumed by a singular focus on punitive actions, including the President’s “outstretched hand” promises to the critical demographic of Iranian youth.

For those keeping score, the UN passed multilateral sanctions against Iran on June 9, which were then followed by more stringent, unilateral sanctions passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on July 1.

In the weeks that have passed, Iranian civilian jets have been denied access to European airports and, because Congress’ sanctions specifically forbid companies from providing jet fuel to Iran, Iranian passenger planes are struggling to find ways to refuel, doubling the cost of travel for Iranians. Meanwhile, many of the same Iranians who were taking part in protests and fighting brutal government repression last year are now feeling the crunch of sanctions as the prices for most goods rise steeply.

And now, young Iranians who want to travel the world and study in universities in America and Europe are finding that US-led sanctions are denying them that opportunity.

President Obama seems to understand to the importance of connecting Iran’s youth to the world, given that he has placed an emphasis in his outreach efforts on student exchanges and opening up the Internet. Iran is a country of young people–60% of Iranians are under thirty. All of these youth were born after 1979, post-Islamic Revolution, post-hostage crisis, and many even post-Khomeini. They have only lived under the broken promises of the Revolution and yearn for greater rights, more opportunities to express themselves, and increased interaction with the outside world. They are not moved by the Iranian government’s propaganda and don’t find relevance in the anti-Americanism that many in Iran’s government claim as its raison d’être.

Young Iranians hold the greatest hope for a democratic Iran that has positive relations with the US and its neighbors. But by punishing these young Iranians and providing reasons to resent and distrust America, we play into the hands of those in Iran’s government who are more comfortable with isolated, dejected young population than with a vibrant youth that is connected to the outside world and adamant about their rights and aspirations.

President Obama isn’t the only one who understands the importance and power of Iran’s youth. Ahmadinejad’s government is increasingly exerting pressure on young Iranians, a continuation of the crackdowns at university campuses that has been central to Iran’s efforts to suppress dissent over the years. There are instances of increasing cultural repression–such the policing of haircuts and nail polish, and new restrictions on movies and music. There are also expanding attempts to infiltrate and influence young Iranians through schools and universities, including a recent announcement that the government would be dispatching clerics to schools this fall to counter Western influence in classrooms.

Clearly Iran’s government understands that Iran’s young people are the locus for change in Iran. But the US will only alienate these young people by telling them they can’t study in America or even take the GRE.

Obama Administration officials said for months that they only sought sanctions that would punish Iran’s government, not its people. But it’s unclear if any actions were actually taken in this regard. Sanctions are rife with unintended consequences–just look at how US sanctions last June blocked American communication software from being legally available in Iran, even as Iranians depended on Internet communication tools to broadcast their protests to the outside world. Those sanctions have thankfully been repealed, but not until the damage had already been done.

President Obama may not have intended to ban Iranian students from studying abroad. But until he reconciles his stated intentions towards the Iranian people with his Administration’s prioritization of pressure, a pattern of contradictions will continue to emerge between what the President promises on Iran and what policies are actually being pursued.

Urge President Obama to keep his promise to Iranian students

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

  • 18 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Sanctions

Smart Sanctions

New sanctions have caused ETS, the Educational Testing Service, to block Iranian students from taking standardized tests required for Western educations, such as the TOEFL and the GRE.

From ETS’s website:

Registration temporarily suspended in Iran

The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution affecting banks and financial institutions that conduct business in Iran. As a result of this resolution, ETS is currently unable to process payments from Iran and has had to temporarily suspend registration until alternative arrangements can be made. Please check back after July 22 for an update.

This means it will now be even harder for Iranian students to study in the US, since these tests are a prerequisite for most admissions applications.  Iranian students already face an inordinately strict visa process in which they are only eligible for single-entry visas.  This policy is unique to Iran in the Middle East, by the way; Saudi students, Syrian students, Lebanese students — they are all eligible for multiple-entry visas, yet Iran is not.

But what is most troubling about this newest impact of sanctions is that it runs directly counter to the stated interests of US foreign policy on Iran.

In Obama’s Nowruz address last March, he said:

[E]ven as we continue to have differences with the Iranian government, we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people. For instance, by increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities

This commitment was echoed every time the Administration stressed the targeted nature of these new sanctions; that they will impose penalties on Iran’s government — not its people.  And yet, the reality continues to prove otherwise.

There is even reason to believe this unforeseen consequence of sanctions runs counter to our covert operations involving Iran.  The so-called “brain drain” program which seeks to lure Iranian nuclear scientists to defect surely involves some type of academic cover.  That was clearly the case with Shahram Amiri’s bizarre ordeal, since his CIA handlers set him up with a university posting in Arizona.  The point of any type of “brain drain” program is to lure the current generation — and perhaps more importantly the next generation — of intellectual leaders in fields like nuclear science out of the country.  The single most effective tool in reaching that goal is simply getting them to study in US universities while they’re young.  We have the best colleges in the world, and oftentimes that experience is transformative.

Sadly, the unintended consequences of sanctions continue to have the exact opposite effect of President Obama’s goal of distinguishing between the Iranian government and its people.  And three decades of evidence suggests that the Iranian government gains enormously every time we make that same mistake.

  • 8 January 2009
  • Posted By Sahar Jooshani
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

The Elimination of the Concour: Better Late than Never

For some time now, education policymakers in Iran have debated the necessity of the infamous Concour examinations for university admissions. After several years, Iran has decided to implement guidelines that would do away with these compulsory university entrance examinations.

For the majority of Iranian students, this dreaded exam is a one-way ticket to the bottom of the financial ladder. Of the 1.3 million people that take it, only 10% score high enough to place into public sector work or graduate programs. This means the majority of the population of young adults in Iran are left to fend for themselves in a miserable job market with over 25% youth unemployment.  So what does this mean for Iran’s future? Nothing good.

Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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