President Ebrahim Raisi's wife, Jamileh Alamolhoda

Appointment of Iran President’s Wife to University Board Sparks Outcry

Sunday, 05/05/2024

The appointment of Jamileh Alamolhoda, the wife of President Ebrahim Raisi, to the executive board for faculty recruitment at Tehran University has stirred controversy.

Political figures close to the government have voiced their discontent for the appointment of Alamolhoda who has denied the oppression of women in Iran They labeled the appointment as an act of nepotism and favoritism at the university known as a hotbed of government-appointed loyalists. She also does not the academic credentials to be part of such a committee.

She is the daughter of firebrand Shiite cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda, who has close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and known for his extremist views on foreign policy and mandatory hijab.

In response to mounting pressure, the public relations department of Tehran University's Family Sciences Department issued a statement defending Alamolhoda's appointment, citing her "legal” right to the appointment.

The controversy unfolds against a backdrop of political turmoil within Iranian academia, especially at Tehran University, where numerous professors have faced expulsion, suspension, or forced retirement under Raisi's government.

Last August, Etemad newspaper published a report documenting the expulsion of 157 professors from Iranian universities, indicating a trend that commenced with Raisi's assumption of office in 2021. The wave of suspensions and expulsions has prompted student councils to denounce it as part of a broader effort to purge universities nationwide.

The phenomenon of "political purification" extends beyond academia, with regime hardliners targeting rivals across various organizations and institutions. Coined by former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, the term describes efforts by ultraconservative allies of President Raisi to consolidate power by sidelining other politicians and officials.

The trend of purges within academia traces back to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency and has persisted through Hassan Rouhani's administration and President Raisi's tenure. Over the years, successive governments have systematically expelled experienced professors for their perceived "secular views" and other political reasons.

The second wave of purges, intensifying shortly after the protests of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in September 2022, has escalated with the support of senior officials.

In addition, the Raisi government has been widely criticized for its poor record in managing the economy, blamed partly on the appointment of incompetent hardliner loyalists to important positions.

Alamolhoda is also known for some of her unusual actions and statements, such as expressing her aspiration to write a book similar to that of Michelle Obama. “They asked me to write a book similar to this one. I read the book, and it was very beautiful, captivating, and influential. I even showed some parts of it to the president, and he said that writing a book in this field is the right thing to do.”

She was thrust into the limelight last September when she accompanies her husband to the UN General Assembly. She spoke to some of the world’s top media, including ABC and Newsweek.

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