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Rouhani promises academic freedom at Iranian universities - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani waves after swearing in at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran on August 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani waves after swearing in at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran on August 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called for increased academic freedom in a speech at the University of Tehran on Monday.
Rouhani reiterated the importance of healthy academic debate and demanded an end to obsessive scrutiny of students and faculty members.

“The security environment will lead to hypocrisy and we do not want that,” Rouhani told a crowd of students and academics at the University of Tehran. He also reiterated his desire for the full support of academia for his “government of wisdom and hope.”

A large majority of university students and lecturers across the country voted for Rouhani at the June election, and he paid tribute to the overwhelming support he has received from this sector.

In his speech Rouhani articulated his government’s vision for an active university environment during his administration and, in a rare public intervention into its activities, called on the intelligence ministry to relax its scrutiny of academia, so all faculty members would feel safe to express themselves and participate in debates on campus.

He also called for restrictions on attending conferences abroad to be relaxed.

“I will ask the intelligence ministry to trust academia and let experts and even students attend these gatherings,” Rouhani added.

During the administration of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attendance at international conferences by Iranian lecturers and students of the humanities were frequently treated with suspicion and viewed as attempts by foreign powers to infiltrate Iranian society.

In another development, Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of Expediency Council, was heckled during a visit to Kermanshah’s grand mosque, by protesters chanting “death to America.”

Recently, comments from an interview with Hashemi Rafsanjani were quoted in some pro-reform websites, in which the cleric and ex-president said the late Ayatollah Khomeini was inclined to cancel the “death to the America” slogan at Friday Prayer sermons.

Rafsanjani was forced to abandon his speech and leave the venue.

Rafsanjani also met with the merchants and traders of Kermanshah on Tuesday. In his comments, he said that “the radicals would not allow us to normalize Iran’s relation with the world and if this does not materialize our [economic] problems will persist.”

Rafsanjani acknowledged the difficulties the private sector has to deal with, noting that “the general mismanagement of the country has caused the current economic difficulties, hence by rectifying the domestic management and reforming foreign policy the situation will be improved.”

This has been widely-interpreted as a gesture of support for President Rouhani’s attempt to obtain the lifting of the US and UN sanctions imposed on Iran by negotiating an agreement over the country’s controversial nuclear program.