THE BLOG
09/16/2013 12:52 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Sociology Professor Fired in Iran for Discussing Homosexuality?

The former president of the biggest social science university in Iran told a newspaper that he decided to sack a sociology professor because she discussed homosexuality in her class.
In his lengthy Sept. 4 interview with Kayhan newspaper, the controversial Hojatol-Islam Dr. Sadr-Aldin Shariati defended his decisions to fire a large number of professors by accusing them of being morally corrupt. The former president of Allameh Tabbatabii University told the paper:

One of those professors went to the class and told her students that homosexuality is a good thing.... She is a sociologist.... [W]hat should I do with her...? The Quran tells me [that homosexuality] is a moral decay ... is satanism.... Now, are you telling me that I should let this professor stay on faculty? No way....

Dr. Shariati is a radical Shiite clergyman who was appointed as the president of Allameh Tabatabai University in October 2005, shortly after former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power.

During his tenure as president of the university, Dr. Shariati gained notoriety for his so-called "Islamization" of academia, which included purging the campus of faculty and students who were perceived to be uncommitted to state ideology, enforcing sexual segregation of classes, and eliminating courses that were deemed unnecessary, including courses in tourism and hospitality.

Despite widespread protests from students, Dr. Shariati's measures were met with praise from Ahmadinejad's administration, earning him the official title of "Best University President" by the Iranian Ministry of Science for two consecutive years.

Mr. Shariati's eight-year reign of terror came to an end on Sept. 2, 2013, when the new Minister of Science under new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decided to let him go.

Although Dr. Shariati did not mention the name of the sociology professor in his interview, as early as October 2008, a group of religious students were complaining about one of the professors for discussing homosexuality in class. In a blog post titled "What Is Going On at Allameh University?" the authors claimed:

Dr. A runs a family planning class, which she uses as a platform to officially promote homosexuality and to encourage female students to engage in sex before marriage.... [S]he also tells her class that abortion is a natural right for all women and recommends it.... [S]he passed a list of gay cruising areas to her students so that they can visit them....

In January 2011 Dr. Shirin Ahmadinia, a faculty member in Allameh Tabatabai University's sociology department who taught medical sociology and health, wrote a blog post announcing that the university had decided to cancel all her classes. Dr Ahmadinia earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Warwick University in 2000 and has authored a number of books, including The Sociology of the Female Body. She is currently the head of the medical and health section of the Iranian Sociological Association.

Victims of homophobia are not only members of the LGBT community. Dr. Ahmadinia does not identify as queer. In fact, on her professional webpage she is described as a heterosexual woman who is married and has a child. But that becomes irrelevant when you live in a society where no one -- gay or straight -- dares to challenge the suffocatingly conservative and pseudoconsecrated institution of patriarchal heterosexism.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post ended with a translation of an excerpt of a blog post by a student of Dr. Shirin Ahmadinia. Because of the high potential for misinterpretation as a result of cultural differences, this excerpt has been removed from the post.

Subscribe to the Queer Voices email.
Get all of the queer news that matters to you.