Orwellian 'New-Speak', Iranian Style
By Nir Boms
June 26, 2007
This article was composed for The Henry
Jackson Society by Nir Boms, Vice President of the Center
for Freedom in the Middle East, dealing with the alarming
findings of recent research on Iranian school textbooks.
- An examination of the Iranian curriculum under former
President Mohammad Khatami, considered a moderate and
reformer, demonstrates that there has been no change in
the values taught in Iranian schools since the time of
- The indoctrination of Iranian children in the Iran-Iraq
war is celebrated by references to their martyrdom. This
"martyrdom" involved their committing suicide
by running into minefields along the border areas in order
to reach paradise.
- The Millenarian patterns of thought of the Iranian leadership
can be seen by constant references to clashes between
the Islamic State and the "Oppressors" (i.e.
the West). Seen in this light, President
- Ahmadinejad's international statements acquire an even
more sinister resonance.
Iran's continued use of such a curriculum demonstrates
the leadership's mindset is not a benign one and that
it sees education as a tool of its control mechanism.
"Ignorance is power," wrote George
Orwell in his famous book 1984, referring to the information
police that kept bad ideas from good people. Our world is
not immune from this logic that reversed "good"
with "bad" and "war" with "peace".
Some of our darkest moments in history resulted from that
very same type of indoctrination. And another such moment
may be approaching.
While the international community may be
busy in initiating yet another round of negotiations regarding
Iran's nuclear aspirations, or the lowering of benchmarks
for nuclear acceptability, Iran's leadership is busy preparing
itself for an imminent war. Iranian students are taught in
their educational curriculum that they must fight to bring
about a global Islamic victory or accept collective martyrdom.
This is one of the key findings in a study of 115 Iranian
elementary and high school textbooks and teachers' guides
that was recently completed at the Center for Monitoring the
Impact of Peace. These books were all published under the
apparently "moderate" former President Mohammad
Khatami, and all reflect the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini,
founder of Revolutionary Iran.
- In Islamic Viewpoint, Grade 11 (2004) p. 29,
Imam Khomeini is quoted, "I am decisively announcing
to the whole world that, if the World Devourers [i.e.,
the United States and the Soviet Union] wish to stand
against our religion, we will stand against their whole
world and will not cease until the annihilation of all
of them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the
greater liberty which is martyrdom… Either we shake
one another's hand in the joy of victory of the world
of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal
life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success
- In Defense Readiness, Grade 10 (2004) pp. 9-10
it recalls, "During the eight years of Holy Defense
[the war with Iraq, 1980-88] more than 500,000 school
students were sent to the fronts. 36,000 martyrs, thousands
of missing-in-action, invalids, and liberated [prisoners
of war] of this sacrificing section were offered to the
- In History, Grade 8 (2004) p. 76, it states,
"Israel does not want the Koran to be in this state
[i.e. Iran]. Israel does not want the Muslim clergymen
to be in this state. Israel does not want the Islamic
law to be in this state. Israel does not want scholars
to be in this state. Israel pounded the Feyziyeh [tr.
religious] college by the hand of its black agents. It
pounds us. It pounds you, the nation. It wants to take
possession of your economy. It wants to eliminate your
commerce and agriculture. It wants to take possession
of your wealth. Israel wants these things that are an
obstacle to it – these things that are a barrier
on its way – to be removed out of the way by the
hand of its agents."
- In Islamic Culture and Religious Instruction, Grade
7 (2004) p. 29, "As for martyrdom, a new ideal
is brought to light: collective martyrdom. The war is
unavoidable and is part of the Islamic Revolution itself
– Now, in order to continue the Islamic Revolution,
it is our duty to continue with all [i.e. our] power our
revolt against the Arrogant Ones and the oppressors…
But victory is not guaranteed!" One may even find
in Khomeini's vision of the global war a suicidal mood.
The textbooks paint an alarming picture of
a regime that divides the world between "good" and
"evil" forces that are destined to clash. According
to the textbooks, since the evil and arrogant West seeks to
destroy Iran, a war is inevitable. Iranians are therefore
tasked with a religious mission to fight "evil"
until it is eradicated, or, until the "good" camp
is wiped out.
The "evil" camp, also called "the
Oppressors" and "the Arrogant Ones", is comprised
of the entire West under the leadership of the United States
and its allies. "Now, in order to continue the Islamic
Revolution," reads a passage in a seventh-grade textbook,
"it is our duty to continue with all [i.e. our] power
our revolt against the Arrogant Ones and the Oppressors, and
not cease until all Islam's commandments and the spread of
the redeeming message of 'there is no God except Allah' are
realized in the whole world." This type of war is called
"Initiative Jihad" (Jehad-e Ebtedayi),
and it is explained in further detail in an eighth grade textbook.
Apparently, that war has already begun. According
to Iran's educational syllabus, the West uses culture as a
weapon for world domination. Westernization is given the epithet
"Westoxication" (Gharbzadegi). Students
are warned to keep away from Western influences since they
seek to divert them from reaching the next stage of the struggle.
Verses from the Koran are used to complement
the teaching of military drills. During a weapons and explosives
course entitled "Defense Readiness", is taught to
ensure vigilance against all enemies of the Islamic revolution.
This is taught to grades eight and higher. Passages in the
course textbooks foster a siege mentality among students,
warning them of imminent attacks by their enemies.
The books in the educational curriculum also
indoctrinate students to prepare for war by encouraging martyrdom.
The spirit of martyrdom-seeking (shahadat-talabi)
is inculcated in the minds of youths through various means.
This includes verses from the Koran, quotes from Shiite Imams,
stories and poems that glorify past and present martyrs, and
reading aloud martyrs' wills that are also posted on school
walls. The motif of the martyrs' blood and its symbol –
the red tulip – are prominent features of the textbooks,
and are expressed both verbally and through illustrations.
Most of the hate literature and war indoctrination is found
in books for higher grades, but manifestations appear in textbooks
for lower grades as well. One horrific outcome of indoctrinating
Iranian youths with this type of literature was during the
Iran-Iraq war whereby children chanted quotes from these books
while running towards minefields.
The textbooks in question did not begin with
Ahmadinajad, but all date back to the era of President Mohammad
Khatami, who was considered a moderate and reformer by many
in the West. Aside from the development of new textbooks,
Khatami's reforms included Iran's nuclear drive and a record
in the arrest of students and dissidents in Iran during his
tenure between 1997-2005. This should serve as an indication
that the ideas expressed in these books should not be associated
with a particular personality but rather should be viewed
as the principles that guide the entire Iranian regime.
These principles have not changed since the
1979 revolution that sought to create a world order dominated
by Islam. Education became an essential to a revolution that
sought total devotion up the point of convincing Iranian students
to clear Iraqi minefields in order to help the Iranian army
during its war with Iraq. 36,000 such children, all wearing
a plastic "keys to heaven", were sent to their deaths,
a tale that receives a prominent mention in the Iranian curriculum
as a model for the future.
George Orwell's 1984 was written as a warning
about the future that would come about if the world did not
stop those who used ignorance to gain power and saw war as
the only means to hold onto it. It spoke about Nazi Germany,
Stalinist Russia, and Imperial Japan who, like Iran today,
manipulated ideas to nurture commitment to war and self sacrifice
in their quest for world domination.
If the world wishes to ensure this new dark
empire and the war that it seeks to create, then more needs
to be done for the people of Iran and for those Iranians who
call for a change in their country. And faster please...before
2008 becomes a realization of 1984.