[lg policy] ANALYSIS: Iranian regime’s policy of dumbing down the population
haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Feb 14 10:33:03 EST 2018
ANALYSIS: Iranian regime’s policy of dumbing down the population
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to ethnic Arabs during a visit to Dehlavieh
in the province of Khuzestan, on 25 March 2006. (AFP)
<http://english.alarabiya.net/authors/Tony-Duheaume.html> By Tony Duheaume
<http://english.alarabiya.net/authors/Tony-Duheaume.html> Special to Al
Arabiya English Wednesday, 14 February 2018
Text size A A A
The Iranian regime’s ban on the teaching of English in its schools is just
an extension of its attempt at dumbing down the population in order to
force feed them the ideology of Ruhollah Khomeini.
It is a method which it has aggressively employed against ethnic groups
such as the Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan since the 1979 revolution.
Persianization of an Arab province
The oil-rich province of Khuzestan, which was originally known for its Arab
culture and demography and was even called Arabistan (Al-Ahwaz), is
situated in southwest Iran. Reza Shah Pahlavi’s troops invaded this Arab
territory in 1925 and after annexing it renamed the province as Khuzestan.
Even after the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty, Khomeini continued the
oppression of Al-Ahwaz by installing the dictatorship of Shiite clerics.
Applying his own interpretation of Shia theology, Khomeini imposed it on
Iranian society through compulsory Persian education and a
government-controlled media which led to the dumbing down of the province’s
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With only the Farsi language allowed and a singularly Persian cultural
identity being imposed on all, the new regime incited a jingoistic fervour
in order to revive Persian control over most of the Middle East.
As far as Iran’s Persian identity is concerned, leaders of the Iranian
regime have given it a racist tinge. They fear an uprising in oil-rich
Khuzestan, an area which is critical to the country’s financial survival
and so they have begun to drastically dumb down its population through poor
education and a heavily controlled media.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures as members of Iranian armed
forces take part in a rally in Tehran, on February 11, 2018. (Reuters)
The threat from education
Majority of those living in this annexed Iranian province are of Arab
descent, but they have been stripped of their cultural identity and
language. They have also been driven out of their lands, or have been
forced to embrace a highly Persianized identity and way of life. It is a
heavily-policed province where a call for change could put one behind bars
or be executed.
With the Iranian government having virtually blocked education to
non-Persians in ethnic minority areas such as Ahwaz, with hardly any
schools left in their villages, the children of the poor have to travel to
the city for education on a daily basis, which is close to impossible for
many, due to the cost or lack of transport.
Even though there is high level of illiteracy in the Ahwazi community, with
no government plans to invest in local education, the regime unveils plans
to build 3,000 schools in neighbouring Iraq. In Khuzestan, the lack of
education keeps people from having the ability to speak out for themselves
in the realm of politics.
Limiting education has always been the regime’s way of dumbing down the
Ahwazis and all other minority ethnic groups, as without proper education,
they will not get far academically, and will be in no position to change
the province’s future or effectively voice their grievances to the
Any other language except for Farsi is forbidden in public places. This
prohibition covers schools and denies children of ethnic minorities the
right to education in their mother tongue and drastically undermines their
cultural identity. According to many reports, the Ahwazi Arabs have the
highest proportion of illiteracy in Iran.
Right across Iran, all non-Persian languages are proscribed from all forms
of printed material, such as newspapers and magazines. Journalists who dare
flaunt this rule are harassed by the secret services, and in most cases
jailed or executed. There are just a few Arab language programs being
broadcast on state radio, but not a single TV channel broadcasts any
programs in the Arabic language.
The government of Iran directly controls all television and radio
broadcasting. The authorities frequently issue ad hoc orders banning media
coverage of specific topics and events. (AFP)
Ban on satellite dishes
To ensure Ahwazis have no political representation within the
administration in Khuzestan, even educated Arabs are prohibited from
forming political organisations. After the election of President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad in 2005, many were thrown out of public jobs.
But there are times when censorship verges on the ridiculous. For instance
in July 2012, security forces entered the village of Sariya in Khafajiya
and removed satellite dishes from residential buildings to stop the locals
from receiving broadcasts from foreign Arabic channels.
ALSO READ: Why is Iran persecuting followers of the Gonabadi Sufi order?
With the regime so obsessed with security, it is believed that the raid was
carried out in response to a Dubai television show on Caliph Omar (May
Allah be pleased with him), which showed how the Caliph’s military forces
mounted a brilliant military campaign against the Persians. When the
fighting was over, King of the Persian Empire of Iran Yazdegerd III was
heavily defeated and this brought an end to the Persian Empire.
The mullah leadership felt that the TV show could incite rebellion in the
minds of local Ahwazis, who have been living under extreme oppression, and
were already restive by various government projects which were ranged
For quite some time, the number of Shias converting to the Sunni faith is
on the rise. With the series on Caliph Omar (May Allah be pleased with him)
being broadcast during the holy month of Ramadan, the administration might
have felt that the show has led to more conversions, which fuelled paranoia
against the oppressive regime.
Defending their latest ban on the English language, a senior education
official said the decision was in response to a warning from Islamic
leaders, on how the learning of the English language would open the door to
Western “cultural invasion”.
In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voiced his outrage over the
“teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools”, as
according to him “Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of
colonial expansion… the best and the least costly way would have been the
inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries”.
But by dumbing down the population in the way it has, with its oppressive
arm crushing all forms of freedom in Iran, the regime is presently under
attack from within. If the recent street demonstrations increase, the
regime could be experiencing a counter revolution by the people on the 40th
anniversary of its own revolution.
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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