Iran’s Islamic leaders have often warned about the dangers of a “cultural invasion,” and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, voiced outrage in 2016 over the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, said in that speech to teachers, “That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but (this is the) promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.”
“Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism … the best and the least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to the text of the speech posted on Leader.ir, a website run by his office.
While there was no mention of the announcement being linked to recent protests against the clerical establishment and government, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have blamed foreign enemies for fomenting the unrest.
Iranian officials said at least 21 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested during the protests that spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, as thousands of young and working-class Iranians expressed their anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.
A video of the ban announcement was widely circulated on social media on Sunday, with Iranians calling it “the filtering of English,” jokingly comparing it to the government’s blocking of the popular app Telegram during the protests.