On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament rejected the fourth person that President Hassan Rouhani has nominated to lead the Ministry of Higher Education, the latest example of the moderate president’s agenda being hampered by conservative factions within the country.
Universities have of late been hubs of pro-democracy activism in Iran, creating conflict over top education jobs. In February, Farhad Rahbar, the controversial chancellor of the University of Tehran, was ordered to step down by Reza Faraji-Dana, who at the time led the Ministry of Higher Education. Rahbar was notorious for forcing reformist professors to retire and cracking down on student protests after Iran’s controversial “stolen election” in 2009. Students who protested Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s ’09 re-election were brutally beaten and dragged from their dorms by police; 133 were arrested and 5 were killed.
After Rahbar was removed, though, Reza Faraji-Dana was himself impeached and removed by parliament—he’d drawn ire for his perceived tolerance of politics in the university sphere and leniency towards students involved in the election protests. His Ministry had also begun investigating fraudulent and illegal scholarships under the previous administration, apparently granted to more than 3,000 ineligible candidates. So President Rouhani is now saddled with the task of trying to sell parliament on a replacement. This week, in the case of Fakhroldin Ahmadi Danesh Ashtiani, Rouhani’s pitch didn’t take and parliament voted 171-70 to reject his nomination. On to the next one!