Iranian Academics Warned to Avoid Foreign Institutions
The Academies Close
31 May, 2007
Britain's university lecturers chose an unfortunate day to announce their proposed boycott of all things Israeli. As members of the University College Union voted 158-99 for "a comprehensive and consistent boycott of all Israeli academic institutions", news came in from The Guardian that Iran's powerful intelligence agency had warned Iranian academics that if they maintain links with foreign institutions, they will be viewed as potential spies.
The latest twist in the British boycott of Israel may not be the final say. Hardliners have tried to push through anti-Israel measures in previous conferences, drawing international condemnation from academic freedom and anti-censorship bodies. The Guardian says that 21 Nobel prizewinners wrote to the paper the last time a boycott was mooted, saying "Academic freedom has never been the property of a few and must not be manipulated by them ... mixing science with politics and limiting academic freedom by boycotts is wrong".
The UCU's general secretary says that the boycott is not supported by the union's 120,000 members.
Meanwhile, Iranian academics are feeling the heat from another boycott, this time instigated by their nation's own security forces. Iranian officials say that US contacts have lured academics into spying rings. An espionage network of British and US agents was cracked last week, they say.
Academics are being prevented from teaching and studying at overseas universities, while travel to conferences is being severely curtailed.
Iranian academics disagree with the charges of espionage. Some told the Guardian that they suspected the special forces were "purging" universities of academics believed to hold liberal or secular views. Many academics have been retired or removed from their post in what observers believe is part of the build-up to another "revolution" instigated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is said to believe universities have become dangerously secular environments, and his thugs have cracked down on tie-wearing and percieved moderation in international issues.
--Wendy in Washington