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Iran Removes Girls' Image From Math Textbooks

Iran--Third-grade math textbook no longer features images of girls.
Iran--Third-grade math textbook no longer features images of girls.

A new version of the third-grade math textbook no longer features images of girls in school uniforms on the cover. Meanwhile, the schoolboys' image has been kept untouched on the cover of the newly-published textbook for the new Iranian academic year.

The previous version of the boom for the eight to nine-year-old students showed images of three boys playing along with two girls under a tree.

Iran's decision to remove the girls' image has triggered a barrage of criticism on social media, including Instagram and Twitter, with some users calling the move "misogyny" and "gender discrimination.

Private and public schools in Iran are legally bound to use textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education, and the textbooks' content must highlight so-called "Islamic values and lifestyles."

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader's ultraconservative leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly insisted that girls' education should not be focused on subjects such as math and science.

Nonetheless, Iranian girls have shown extreme interest in math in recent years, especially after their self-exiled compatriot, Maryan Mirzakhani, became the first woman to win Fields Medal, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize for mathematics."

A Harvard University Ph.D., Mirzakhani died at age forty in 2017, three years after winning the prestigious award. She had already won other reputable prizes, including the Blumenthal Award (2009,) Satter Prize (2013), and Clay Research Award (2014.)

The illustrator of the older version of the math textbook, Nasim Bahari, said in an Instagram post that apparently, since one of the girls on the cover looked as if she were running to hug one of the boys, Iranian authorities decided to remove the girls' images.

A thorough revision of all textbooks in Iran began immediately after the pro-West monarch's downfall and the Islamic Republic's emergence, and attention has intensified on the subjectin recent months.

In a note published in the IRGC-run Tasnim news agency on April 11, Ali Shirazi, an outspoken cleric who supervises Iran's Qods Force, blasted the Iranian authorities for permitting a reference to the UNICEF activities in a fourth-grade textbook.

"The enemies of Islam are pursuing their aims through international and public educational institutions," Shirazi said.

Shirazi has insisted that the United States vehemently wants to change the "lifestyle" in Iran and uses UNICEF as an instrument to achieve its ends.

In a series of tweets last February, Adel Barkam, an expert in educational affairs, also shared that some of the topics related to Russia's historical crimes against Iran were removed from the second volume of the eleventh-grade Persian textbook.

Barkam circulated images of the book's pages on Twitter and noted that not only some of the paragraphs related to Russia had been dropped, but others had also been edited.

In the latest version of the textbook, Barkam noted that the word "Russians" has replaced the term "Russian Army."

In another example, Barkam highlighted a paragraph in the older textbook that says, "Soon, the flag of Russians was raised over the soil soaked with the blood of innocent people."

The sentence in the new edition of the book was changed to, "Soon, the Russian Army conquered the region."

The apparent changes, all in favor of Russia, also triggered a barrage of criticism in Iran.

Iranian officials have repeatedly played down the changes, dismissing them as "minor amendments.”