Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Azad University Battle

RFE-RL reports on a battle over efforts to bring Iran's Azad University under principlist control:
"On one side are hard-liners within the Iranian establishment, most prominently President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who appears ready to punish Azad University for its alleged support for opposition candidates in the 2009 presidential election. Supporting Ahmadinejad is the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR), whose resolution to alter the Azad University's charter, replace its current head of Azad University, and change its governing board was recently approved by the president.

"On the other side are the conservatives within the same establishment, mainly former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who co-founded the university in 1982 and now the heads its board of trustees. Also supporting the conservatives are parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, and Abdollah Jasbi, the university head who is up for replacement and is a close Rafsanjani ally.

"Matters came to a head on June 19 when the university's board secured a temporary injunction that prevented the SCCR from enforcing its revision of the university's charter.

"The next day, a bill was rushed through the 270-member parliament that effectively circumvented the government takeover of Azad, by allowing universities to endow their properties to the public.Azad University's board had previously decided to endow the properties of the university, which has 357 branches and satellite campuses throughout the country.

"The legislative move was quickly met with demonstrations outside parliament by Ahmadinejad loyalists.

"In the wake of the heated protests, 100 legislators made a counter move by voting for emergency discussion of legislation that would support the SCCR's authority in the matter. This, in turn, could result in a bill that would effectively overturn the endowment bill passed on June 20. The counter move led to an uproar in parliament, with legislators exchanging insults."

This is cast as a dispute showing fissures within Iran's governing establishment, but again it rather shows how it is wrong to cast Iran as under the control of a unitary establishment. None of the figures named as opposed to Ahmadinejad's move were ever his allies. Rafsanjani was a strong supporter of Mousavi in the 2009 presidential election, which may mean that Jasbi was, as well, lendence credence to assertions that the institution favored reformist candidates.

Larijani, meanwhile, is a much more traditional conservative than Ahmadinejad, who has taken steps to ameliorate the violence with which the latter's allies suppressed demonstrations last summer. His stance here may be ideological or faction-based, but he definitely has no interest in seeing the Iranian military establishment linked to Ahmadinejad gain control of one of the world's largest universities.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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