ANALYSIS: Iranian regime’s policy of dumbing down the population
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 society.
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.
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 government.
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.
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.
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 against them.
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.
Written: Tony Duheaume