Students, MPs Protest against Rouhani’s Nominee for Iran’s Science Ministry

Reformist MPs and Iranian university students have come out strongly against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee to head the Science Ministry, Mansour Gholami, claiming he supports conservative policies and had previously collaborated with security agencies, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reports.

The protests against Gholami heading the ministry, which sets policy for higher education and university affairs in the Islamic Republic, began after reports emerged of his possible nomination.

“The news that the head of Bou-Ali University has been nominated for the Science Ministry has led to a wave of criticism and concern among academics and students alike,” tweeted reformist member of Parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi, on October 18, 2017.

According to Article 133 of Iran’s Constitution, “Ministers will be appointed by the president and will be presented to the Assembly for a vote of confidence.” According to reformist MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh, Gholami was Rouhani’s 20th choice.

Students at two campuses in Tehran—Amirkabir University of Technology and Allameh Tabataba’i University—held protests against Gholami’s nomination on October 22. Another protest was held at Qazvin University, west of the capital, also on that day, according to ILNA.

Students and political activists also protested on social media using the Persian hashtag «دانشگاه تنها ست».

In tweets published on October 20, student activist Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, who studies law at Tehran University, described Gholami as an “ineffective conservative” and accused him of reinstating a Bou-Ali University security official widely known for suppressing student protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election.

Student activist Sina Qelich tweeted on October 19 that Gholami had suspended a student even though he had been acquitted of anti-state crimes in court.

“Introducing Gholami for the Science Ministry is a mockery of all the hopes students had when they campaigned during the elections. Wake up Mr. Rouhani!,” added Qelich.

On October 18, 2017, more than 500 student journalists signed an open letter to Rouhani urging him to introduce a minister who supported the moderate policy positions Rouhani touted during his election campaign.

“We must bluntly inform your excellency that some of the nominees mentioned for the Science Ministry have a dark history in suppressing student rights and freedoms,” said the letter.

In a second letter, several student organizations accused Rouhani’s latest choice for the ministry of science not only responsible for the academic “downfall” of Hamedan University, but also for the suspension of many students who were supporting political reforms in the country.

Students also accuse Gholami of preventing reformist students from having publications and associations.