Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Iran's Attack on Intellectual Freedom

Under the leadership of recently "elected" president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's radical Islamist dictatorship is busily crushing any form of intellectual freedom. The newly appointed Minister of Culture, Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, speaks proudly of his willingness to censor any book that offends the regime's "religious values":

He said that under his control, the ministry had also moved to ban a book on 2,500 years of Persian-Iranian monarchy, which had been approved under ex-president Mohammad Khatami. Iran's monarchy was ousted in 1979.

Movie censors were also criticized by the minister - appointed in August by Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - for being too soft.

"These people did not want to accept that this country is the country of the 12th Imam and that the constitution does not approve of things against Islamic law," he said, adding that, "officials have been changed".

In an analysis for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mehdi Khalaji provides additional information on Harandi:

In his position as deputy editor of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, Harandi wrote many articles condemning democracy as a Western model for governing, pluralism as an “effective weapon of the West to achieve their cultural invasion into Islamic world,” and freedom of speech as a way to destroy people’s religious beliefs. His background of attacks on liberal journalists and political activists strongly suggests that Ahmadinejad wants to suppress cultural freedom and to limit the freedom of information.

One manifestation of the regime's assault on intellectual freedom is a crackdown on literature:

The process of issuing permission to publish books of literature and the human sciences has practically ground to a halt. All books, even Qurans, must receive official permission for publication from the culture ministry. Writers and publishers say that the censorship regulations have become stricter since Harandi took over the ministry. The young writer Hossein Sanapoor, for example, opted not to publish his planned book of short stories because censors asked him to eliminate four stories that, taken together, represented the majority of the book.

With the ascension of Ahmadinejad, the Iranian dictatorship is now firmly in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the regime's most radical elements. All vestiges of the relative liberalization of the 1990's are being swept away.

This is not just a problem for the Iranian people. At the same time as the Iranian dictatorship has attacked freedom at home, it has also called for the destruction of Israel, and almost certainly orchestrated lethal attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.

As history has shown, regimes motivated by a radical totalitarian ideology are often not content merely to oppress their own people, but also resort to external expansion. This is why the entire world has a vested interest in helping the Iranian people gain their freedom.


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