June 16, 2003

IRANIAN FACULTY ARE ACTUALLY DOING what some American academics delude themselves into thinking they're doing -- standing up for freedom against a fundamentalist dictatorship:

TEHRAN, Iran More than 250 university lecturers and writers in Iran signed a statement calling on supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search) to abandon the idea that he is God's representative on Earth.

In a statement made available to The Associated Press on Monday, the intellectuals say they stand behind liberal legislators' call last month for democratic reform.

The statement comes after a week of protests and riots in Tehran that saw pro-democracy demonstrators clash with police and vigilantes who support the hard-line clerical regime. Protesters said Khamenei should be hanged, an unprecedented call in a land where criticism of the supreme leader is punishable by imprisonment.

Khamenei has the final say on all matters. The ruling clerics regard him as God's representative and say his word cannot be challenged.

"Considering individuals to be in the position of a divinity and absolute power ... is open polytheism [in contradiction to] almighty God and blatant oppression of the dignity of human being," the statement said.

"People [and their elected lawmakers] have the right to fully supervise their rulers, criticize them, and remove them from power if they are not satisfied," said the statement, which was published in the reformist newspaper Yas-e-nou on Monday.

Sadly, you could probably get 250 faculty in America to demonstrate in favor of the Iranian government, so long as you could cast it as an anti-Bush event.