Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made further progress in his plan to reinvent Iran as a liberal secular democracy yesterday by calling for a purge of "liberal and secular" academics in the universities."Today students should protest and shout at the president asking why some liberal and secular professors are still present in the universities," he told a gathering of young scientists. "Our educational system has been under the influence of the secular system for 150 years. Colonialism is seeking the spread of its own secular system." While acknowledging it was difficult to change this system, he said: "Such a change has begun."
Mr Ahmadinejad also said his government had tried to reduce the political influence of university chancellors, many of whom were seen as pillars of the reformist government of his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. "A political predominance existed among many of the university chancellors but we have tried to reduce it because we don't believe chancellors should enter into politics at all," Mr Ahmadinejad said.
His latest comments will intensify fears among student and faculty members of an incipient crackdown. In recent months, several student activists have been imprisoned and dozens of liberal lecturers forced to retire before the statutory age. Last year, Mr Ahmadinejad appointed a radical cleric as chancellor of Tehran university, the country's most prestigious institution.
The government has also buried "martyrs" from the 1988 Iran-Iraq war in some universities in what activists see as an excuse to allow security forces on to campuses to keep watch on the student body. Iran's Islamic authorities have kept universities under close surveillance since a wave of student protests demanding greater freedom in 1999. A student leader, Akbar Mohammadi, died in jail in July after a hunger strike started in protest at being reimprisoned following a long-term release on medical grounds.
But Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, a political scientist at Tehran university, dismissed suggestions of an imminent purge. "Ahmadinejad is a populist trying to create a charismatic image for himself," he said. "These comments are aimed at those who voted for him and perhaps designed to divert attention from Iran's economic problems. They don't mean there is an orchestrated plot against more liberal lecturers."
Perhaps this is all “harf” (empty words) but it does sound as if he is looking to consolidate further his position by removing sources of potential opposition