'Iranian textbooks part of deliberate indoctrination campaign'

New study shows Iran's children are fed a consistent diet of patriarchy and xenophobia.

Iran's textbooks relegate women and religious minorities to inferior roles and teach antagonism of the West and suspicion of non-Shi'ites, a new study by Freedom House has found. Iran's children are fed a consistent diet of patriarchy and xenophobia as part of a deliberate indoctrination campaign, the report found. "The discrimination and intolerance that appear consistently throughout Iran's textbooks are neither accidental nor sporadic," said Dr. Saeed Paivandi, professor of sociology at the University of Paris VIII and the report's principal author. "Simply put, the government uses the textbooks as a key element of its indoctrination process, and the values propagated there shape the way the next generation of Iranian citizens will view the outside world," Paivandi said. Iran's antipathy has spread beyond the US and Israel to include Europe and Russia. "The textbooks criticize the West (Europe, North America, and Russia) from four main angles: (1) Europe and the United States are portrayed as enemies of Iran's political independence; (2) the West conspires against the current Islamic regime and against Islamist movements generally; (3) colonial rule by Europeans was unjust to the Islamic countries of the Middle East, and the interests of Islamic countries conflict with those of Western countries; and (4) the Islamist discourse of the textbooks expresses opposition to the West as the birthplace of modern society and sees a clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic world," according to the report's executive summary. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also appears in the textbooks as a major issue for Muslim countries, with Israel portrayed as an enemy, and an agent of the US. "The textbooks view Israel as an 'enemy' of Islamic countries and Muslims and an 'agent' of the US and other Western countries. In the textbooks, Israel is 'The regime occupying the Holy Land,' its land is 'occupied Palestine,' and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important concern of Islamic countries. For example, 'God willing, the day will come when Muslims will all be united and free Palestine and rescue the Holy Land from the clutches of the enemies of Islam.' (Grade 3 Social Studies textbook, p. 57),' the report states. "Based on the content of these textbooks, it's not surprising that Shi'ite conservatives handily won Iran's elections this past weekend," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "The country's textbooks pervasively instill the Islamic Republic's ideology, based on fundamentalist religious doctrine, in their readers - and with it, a docility and aversion to protest." Women are never portrayed as individuals, according to Paivandi. They are either someone's wife, daughter, mother or sister. All women are depicted wearing head scarves, even when they are not required to do so by Islamic law (such as young girls). This attitude toward women is supported by examples from the Koran and the life of the prophets and imams, he found. "Discrimination and Intolerance in Iran's Textbooks" is based on a detailed assessment of 95 compulsory school textbooks published in 2006 and 2007 and covering the sciences, humanities, and religious subjects from Grades 1 - 11. The analysis was conducted by a team of native Farsi speakers led by Paivandi, a well-known expert on Iran's education system. The assessment included a statistical analysis of 3,115 textbook images, a content analysis of 412 lessons in the textbooks in all grades, and a qualitative analysis of the 95 textbooks to evaluate all forms of discrimination, Freedom House said in a statement.