A students day gathering and ceremony in a university in central Iran, meant to honor a soldier killed by the Islamic State group in Syria, turned into a dancing event, enraging the close advisor of Iran’s Supreme Leader.
Ali Akbar Velayati, ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s senior advisor, who also heads the network of Free Islamic University in the country, wrote a harsh letter to the dean of Najafabad’s campus, calling the ceremony an “utmost vulgarity”.
Thursday, December 7 was official Students Day in Iran and the university in Najafabad, near Esfahan, organized a ceremony to honor the memory of Mohsen Hojaji, a native of the city, who was captured and beheaded by ISIS in Syria, last August.
The Islamic Republic used Hojaji’s death as a big promotional opportunity to gain public support for its policies in Syria. Many gatherings and ceremonies were held to elevate Hojaji as a martyr and even the notorious commander, Qassaem Soleimani weighed in, issuing a threat of revenge against ISIS.
Velayati sent his letter after a short video clip emerged showing male students dancing after the first part of the ceremony, where Hojaji’s family was also present. Female students are seen looking on and taking photos and videos on their phone.
Dancing is officially regarded as a social vice by conservative religious leaders and their followers, but people often disregard the dogma and even dance in the streets, to show their happiness about something.
This is not the first time that dancing takes place at a university student event, but this is the first instance in which a high ranking official writes a lengthy letter condemning it.
This year, Students Day triggered protests on many campuses against a variety of Islamic Republic policies and the way it treats student needs and demands.
Gender inequality, rising tuition and the repressive measures of security and intelligence organs against university students and professors were the main reasons for the protests.
In his letter, Velayati tells the Najafabad campus dean that Student Day ceremonies are meant to make sure “we don’t lose our path”, a reference to Islamic Republic’s ideology.
But he goes on to express his dismay that only part of the ceremony in Najafabad was consistent with “the values of the revolution”, followed by “vulgarity”.