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Iranian Professors Urge Government To Butt Out

President Hassan Rohani

A group of 700 Iranian university teachers have sent a letter to the government calling for an end to what they say is "unprecedented interference" in the internal affairs of universities.

The Islamic Association of University Teachers of Iran said the signatories addressed the three branches of government to stop "extralegal" pressure on Iranian universities, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported on May 10.

The signatories called on the government to use all its power to "protect the integrity and independence of universities." They said the current situation had created "disappointment, frustration, and a feeling of insecurity" among university students and teachers.

The signatories called on President Hassan Rohani, Judiciary chief Sedaq Amoli, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani to "guarantee the prevention of extralegal and inappropriate pressures" on universities.

The signatories did not specify the individuals or entities they accused of interference. But they cited several examples of powerful entities exerting such pressure.

There was a reference to a canceled concert at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, in northeast Iran, earlier this year.

There was also mention of a canceled speech at Tehran University by lawmaker Ali Motahari*, a relative moderate who has drawn criticism from hard-liners.

In the run-up to his election as president in June 2013, and even since he took office, Rohani has called for greater academic freedom at Iran's universities.

Iran's clerically dominated government has sought to keep a tight lid on political debate and dissent among students, who have been at the forefront of three major waves of protest, in 1999, 2009, and again in 2011-12.

* CORRECTION: This article initially misspelled Motahari's name.

Written by RFE/RL's Frud Bezhan