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(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to lead the step back to 1980s-style radicalism.
"Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with a group of students.
Ahmadinejad complained that changes in the country's universities were difficult to accomplish and that the country's educational system had been affected by secularism for the last 150 years. But, he added: "Such a change has begun."
The president, in his role as head of the country's Council of Cultural Revolution, does have the authority to make such changes.
But his comments Tuesday seemed designed to encourge hard-line students to begin a pressure campaign on their own. That would presumably help his efforts by placing more pressure on universities to take such moves.
Ahmadinejad is widely believed to need to jockey between various interest groups in Iran, at a time when hard-liners control more and more of the top rungs of government, but still encounter resistance from parts of the public at large. Moderates also still remain in the government.
Earlier this year, Iran retired dozens of liberal university professors and teachers. And last November, Ahmadinejad's administration for the first time named a cleric to head the country's oldest university, Teheran University, amid protests by students over the appointment.
The developments followed a campaign promise by Ahmadinejad for a more Islamic-oriented country. He took office last August.
Since then, Ahmadinejad also has been replacing pragmatic veterans in the government with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hard-liners.
Ahmadinejad's aim appears to be to install a new generation of rulers who will revive the fundamentalist goals pursued in the 1980s under the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
In the early 1980s, shortly after the revolution, Iran sacked hundreds of liberal and leftist university teachers and students.