Iranian researchers fear for science after hard-line cleric takes important post
Iranian researchers fear for science after hard-line cleric takes important post., Many Iranian scientists are daunted about last week’s appointment of a hard-line conservative cleric as the new secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution (SCCR), a body with considerable power over science, academic life, and culture in Iran.
They worry Abdolhossein Khosropanah, appointed on 17 January by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, will strengthen the grip of anti-scientific forces on Iranian research and promote an “Islamic” interpretation of the sciences. Khosropanah succeeded Saied Reza Ameli, a much more moderate cleric and a professor of communication studies at the University of Tehran. His appointment, approved by Khamenei, was welcomed by the conservative wing of Iran’s government.
The appointment comes amid months-long anti-government protests and the emergence of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police in September 2022.
Critics of Khosropanah say his past statements and actions show he is not qualified for the job. In a 2021 TV appearance, the cleric said he had caught COVID-19 three times and cured it with a plant-based traditional Islamic potion every time. He claimed the efficacy of such treatments had been scientifically proven, and that they had fewer side effects than COVID-19 vaccines.
This claim of Khosropanah resonates with Hindu hardliners in India who claim to cure COVID-19 with Gau mutra (cow’s urine) which cannot pass any scientific examination.
The escalation of right-wing hardliners to power in different countries is posing a valid threat to the existence of human rights in itself especially freedom of expression, promotion of scientific temper and more concernedly gender equality.
Some scientists worry in particular about the potential fallout for women, as Khosropanah will now oversee the implementation of guidelines for academic promotions and codes of conduct. In 2014, Khosropanah said he believes “women reading novels, talking with unrelated males, and wearing makeup” were the main causes of Iran’s rising divorce rate. In a recent statement, he defended the death sentences given to several Iranians protesting after Amini’s death, saying, “This is the punishment for those who rebelled against the God and his prophet.”
Khosropanah has been accused of plagiarism and self-plagiarism, although he has not directly responded to these allegations.
History is itself evidence of the fact that progress made by any society was dependent upon the freedom of thought and expression enjoyed by the people. Their ability to think out of the box and contribute to the development and welfare of humankind is what made such persons and their society progressive, developed and prosperous.
Hence the concern expressed by the Iranian scientific fraternity about the appointment of such a hardliner who is intended to promote scientific temper in society but under the guise of an Islamic cloak is genuine and fair and needs to be appreciated and supported globally for the freedom of science.