“Islamic Republic will not surrender to documents such as UNESCO's 2030 and its implementation is forbidden,” Iran's supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared, on Sunday May 7.
Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with a group of Iranian teachers and education specialists, his official website reported.
The Iranian leader also admonished the government of president Hassan Rouhani for signing, implementing and promoting ‘Western influenced’ United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO’s education plan.
“This is wrong. To sign a document and begin to implement it in silence is wrong. It is absolutely forbidden.”
Furthermore, the supreme leader said: “The basis, in this country, is Islam and the Quran. This not a land where the defective, corrupt and destructive Western lifestyle will be permitted to expand its influence.”
Expressing his unhappiness and disappointment with Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, Khamenei said: “They should have taken care of it and prevented it from getting to where it is now; so that we would not have to take action and block it. It is the Islamic Republic here!"
Khamenei did not elaborate on his opposition to the UNESCO’s plan, but conservative commentators in Iran have already criticized it for promoting gender equality in education which, they say, contravenes Islam.
The document adopted in May 2015 at the World Education Forum 2015, represents the firm commitment of countries and the global education community to a single, renewed education agenda. The document highlights the importance of gender equality and inclusion in education.
Conservative allies of the supreme leader say that implementing the plan paves the way for foreigners to infiltrate into Iranian educational system, promoting and spreading Western life-style and liberal values in Iranian community.
In an open letter published last year, the head of Basiji Professors Organization, Sohrab Salahi, went farther and said: “U.S. spies have deceived Iranian simpleton officials through UNESCO’s Educational Project to surrender Iran’s ‘great cultural capacity’ to the Americans.”
Calling the project "a joke", he did not elaborate on the details or present any evidence indicating the presence of U.S. spies behind it.
Earlier, conservative and hardliner media outlets, including the daily Kayhan, had also criticized UNESCO’s agenda as a project intended for infiltrating Iran’s education system.
President Rouhani’s cabinet endorsed a resolution in August 2016, assigning the Ministry of Education to formulate UNESCO’s 2030 agenda for Iran. The formulated document needs parliament's endorsement, according to UNESCO’s National Commission chairman, Sa’dollah Qaydari.
None of UNESCO’s statements, recommendations and conventions are legally binding and if they were in contradiction with "values, national targets and documents", blocking their implementation would be publicly announced; said Mr. Qaydari.
During the current presidential campaign in Iran and days before the vote takes place, this statement by the supreme leader can be seen as a rebuke to the incumbent. Mr. Rouhani is seen as more moderate compared with religious conservatives and hardliners.