By: Mir M.Hosseini
On 12 June 1980 the Cultural Revolution shut down Iran's Higher Education system for over a year to completely Islamize it, purging many students and faculty members. Only a few months after toppling the despotic Pahlavi monarchy, Iran was undergoing a systematic elimination of all voices of dissent. This was somehow a victory for dark powers working in-line with US imperialism that feared a progressive Iran would become a model eventually leading to regional awakening.
The so-called Cultural Revolution (1980–1987) was a period following the 1979 Revolution in Iran where the academia of Iran was purged of Western and non-Islamic influences to bring it in line with Shia Islam. Some of the masterminds of this bigoted ideological trend such as Ayatollah Montazeri and Abdolkarim Soroush later became victims of their own hypocrisy. Then started a wave of a brain drain that was unprecedented in the modern Iranian History; practically taking Iran decades back in terms of civil liberties and social justice.
Directed by the Cultural Revolutionary Headquarters and later by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, the revolution initially closed universities for three years (1980–1983) and after reopening banned many books and purged thousands of students and lecturers from the schools. The Cultural Revolution involved a certain amount of violence in taking over the university campuses since higher education in Iran at the time was dominated by leftists opposed to the imposed theocracy.
Culture can be defined as the universal human capacity by which individuals are introduced to sets of values from which patterns are dynamically adopted and applied as lifestyle and therefore evaluated within courses of history. Culture seeks excellence in everything including arts and manners through constructive interaction. Anything that does not view collective wisdom and cannot honor the social mosaic as the framework of cultural development can be conceived as brainwashing propaganda of some minority usually perceiving themselves as the elite or chosen ones.
One of the main costs of the Cultural Revolution in addition to interrupting the education and professional livelihood of many, and striking a major blow to Iran's cultural and intellectual life and achievement was that; it contributed to a systematic brain drain.
In the 1977-1978 academic year, about 100,000 Iranians were studying abroad, of whom 36,220 were enrolled in US institutes of higher learning; the rest were mainly in the United Kingdom, West Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. In the 1978-1979 academic year, the number of Iranian students enrolled in the United States totaled 45,340, peaking at 51,310 in 1979-1980. According to the Institute of International Education, more Iranian students studied in the United States at this time than students from any other country.
According to the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, right before the revolution and subsequent closure of all the universities in 1980, there were 16,222 professors teaching in Iran's higher education institutions. When the universities reopened in 1982, this figure had plummeted to 9,042.
Similarly, the Iran Times estimated that one out of every three (5,000) physicians and dentists left after the revolution. In addition to the reduction of manpower, studies estimate that the flight of capital from Iran shortly before and after the revolution is in the range of $30 to $40 billion.
In the year 2000 alone, Iranians submitted 34,343 asylum applications, the highest rate since 1986.
At the end of 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated there were 111,684 refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other persons of concern from Iran. The countries hosting the largest populations of Iranian refugees were Germany (39,904), the United States (20,541), Iraq (9,500), the United Kingdom (8,044), the Netherlands (6,597), and Canada (6,508).
In January 2006, the International Monetary Fund claimed that Iran ranks highest in brain drain among 91 developing and developed countries, with an estimated 150,000 to 180,000 educated people exiting per year. According to a 1999 study, the brain drain from Iran to the United States, measured by migration rates of the individuals with tertiary education, is the highest in Asia. The majority of those leaving are scientific scholars and university graduates. In fact, as many as four out of five of those who recently won awards in various international science Olympiads have chosen to emigrate to the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. Among the factors contributing to the brain drain are economic well-being and better educational prospects abroad. The inability of the home country to respond to its citizens' needs, coupled with high unemployment rates and a general lack of intellectual and social security, all contribute to the brain drain. Additionally, self-censorship prevents people from thinking and writing freely, a limitation that makes both scientific and social science research extremely difficult.
Near the end of the 20th century as the World Wide Web evolved, Iranians became inter-connected and a cultural advancement began. One of the most widespread and effective means of group expression for Iranians has since become the creation of a virtual community through chat rooms and blog websites. Estimates suggest that Iran has more than 75,000 bloggers, making Persian the fourth most widely used language on blogs in the world. According to a June 2004 report by Reporters Without Borders, the Internet has grown faster in Iran than in any other Middle Eastern country since 2000. Despite restrictions of access both by Western countries and the Iranian government, some of the top online resources are created by Iranians from all over the world, taking the Iranian Cultural Revolution to the next level.