A university campus has become the ground for a political battle between conservatives and moderates in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pushed to take over Islamic Azad University, a private university, after it became a haven for political involvement in the Green Movement. This action seems to be directed at former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, founder and chairman of the board of Azad, who “all but allied himself with the Green movement” this past year. Foreign Policy reports:
Recent clashes between moderate conservatives in Iran’s parliament and hardliners in the executive branch have moved to an unlikely battleground — the Islamic Azad University, the largest institution of higher learning in Iran.
Since the start of his first term in office, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a series of attacks against the management of Islamic Azad University, criticizing administrators on a variety of grounds — including the life-term presidency of Abdullah Jasbi and high tuition rates [. . .] But the most important aspect of this new wave of attacks is the involvement of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who — as founder and chairman of the board of Azad University — is at the center of the firestorm.
After Jasbi allowed opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi’s campaign to have unrestricted access to Azad University’s resources, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners decided to try to do whatever it took to eliminate Jasbi and other Rafsanjani loyalists from the university. After years of running one of Iran’s most politically repressive university systems, Jasbi’s decision invigorated students there to participate in politics for the first time in years. Students at Azad University led the way in campus activities during the disputed presidential race last year by participating in rallies, meetings, and political debates.
The government, alarmed by this trend, decided to change Azad University’s constitution to make it possible to remove Jasbi and other Rafsanjani loyalists. This change had to be approved by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, where Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani’s harsh foe, has a healthy number of supporters. The hardliners were trying to create a link between Azad University’s management and Moussavi and pave the way for a full takeover of one of Rafsanjani’s final centers of power. Since last summer, when Rafsanjani all but allied himself with the Green movement, Ahmadinejad and his supporters have tried to strip Rafsanjani of the vast power he once held in state-affiliated leadership positions.
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