IRGC to reopen its own high schools

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This article was originally published on the AL-Monitor website on February 24, 2015. You can read the full article and access additional information by following this link.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), announced at a commemoration of the martyrs of Sepah High School that “the issue of reopening IRGC high schools is now part of the agenda; the fate of the plan to reopen the IRGC high schools, which have been closed for a decade, will become clear after the conclusion of the necessary studies and professional reviews.”

The IRGC is not only looking to prepare military forces but also plans to educate a class of faithful and effective forces that follow the IRGC ideology through the founding of high schools and colleges associated with the organization. Sepah (IRGC) founded the first of these schools, a high school, in 1361 (1982). This high school was established by Commanders Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr and Seyed Jamal Aldin Dinparvar, the heads of IRGC’s educational division, to educate a loyal cadre and future devoted forces.

This high school was located in Tehran, on the premises of the former embassy of the United States. To extend the mission to attract and educate more forces, high schools were also opened in other cities, focusing on large cities and areas where the IRGC lacked local forces, such as Tabriz, Urmiyeh, Kerman, Sanandaj, Zahedan, Shiraz, Rasht, Yasuj, and Bandar-e Abbas. The IRGC is among the most pioneering organizations in training loyal forces from the middle school level onward.

In the 1980s, due to the needs of the Iran-Iraq war and the requirement to train fighting forces for the war front, students were mostly trained as soldiers of the IRGC (“pasdar”) and sent to the war zones. However, after the war’s end, while some still entered the rank and file, others were sent to become part of administrative units and officers in IRGC-related colleges such as Malek-e Ashtar, Defense Sciences and Technology College, and Emam-Sadeq University.
The IRGC administrators said the Sepah high schools were dissolved in 1378 (1999) through a directive of the Joint Chiefs office. During the 16 years of the high schools’ existence, their graduates entered the organization of the IRGC. But starting with the 1377-78 class, the graduates entered the Basij militia, and this continued until 2001.

To enter these high schools, students must satisfy two requirements. The first is to pass an aptitude exam, covering subjects studied in middle school. The second stage is a beliefs exam, focusing on religious and ideological matters. After this, and with the school faculty’s acceptance, the student is allowed to register.
In these schools, all personnel, including principals, deputies, and most teachers, are members of the IRGC. All subjects, most importantly the ideological ones, even the morning formal slogans, are carefully designed to prepare the students as loyal and ideologically fitting cadres of the IRGC.

However, despite the need for training such forces, the IRGC decided to stop these training high schools. This was likely due to the fact that in 1984 the United States placed the IRGC in the list of terror-sponsoring organizations for the first time, serving as a warning to the IRGC. The IRGC, wishing to send some of its members to study scientific and technological fields at foreign universities, could not achieve its goal while being included in this list, as no foreign university would admit students who had graduated from colleges connected with the IRGC.

In the introduction to the founding charter of the IRGC-connected university, there is a reference to the words of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his collected works (“Sahife-ye Nour,” volume 7, page 81) written in 1358 (1980), where he encourages the founding of universities. Among the universities connected to the IRGC is Imam Hossein University, founded in 1365 (1986), whose head of the governing board is the supreme commander of the IRGC. Students are selected after an ideological interview and admitted for majors in military command, engineering, and administrative services.

Viewing the IRGC as merely a military organization is quite one-sided. The IRGC, as an ideology-driven organization, aims to train loyal and ideologically uniform cadres from an early stage to create a unified, dedicated force.

On April 24, 2014, the governing body of Imam Hossein University held a general meeting, the first in seven years, to attract new recruits. In this meeting, in addition to approving new internal regulations and the organizational budget, it was agreed that 832 new students and 100 new faculty members would be recruited.

The IRGC’s infiltration of the Iranian educational system has not stopped at the level of founding high schools and universities. The University Basij was founded during the last year of Ayatollah Khomeini’s life (1388) and with his direct orders. Considering that the Basij is organizationally part of the IRGC, the founding of the University Basij force, aside from an attempt at creating the “20 million strong army,” was an effort to allow the IRGC to train and recruit more members and extend its ideology further into the educational system.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) influence on education in Iran is a complex and multifaceted subject. From the establishment of high schools and colleges to the training of ideologically aligned forces, the IRGC’s role extends far beyond traditional military functions. As discussions about reopening IRGC high schools gain momentum, it is essential to understand the historical context, the ideological underpinnings, and the broader implications of these educational initiatives. In this article, we will explore the intricate relationship between the IRGC and the Iranian educational system, shedding light on a subject that has profound implications for the country’s future.

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