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Middle East

Anti-Western clerics deployed in schools

The Iranian government said it would send hundreds of clerics into Tehran's schools this autumn to fight Western influence and the appeal of the political opposition.

The move is seen as an attempt by the government to tighten its grip on the schools in the aftermath of last year's disputed presidential elections in which many young Iranians flocked to the opposition.

Mohammed Boniadi, the deputy director of the Tehran education department, said 1,000 clerics would descend on the schools of the capital to make students aware of "opposition plots and arrogance", a reference to the attitude of Western nations. He described the clerics as "officers" in an ideological war with the West.

Tehran has become increasingly concerned about foreign encroachment and the threat of Western-backed "soft revolutions" after months of domestic protests that followed the controversial election.

Authorities have repeatedly emphasised the need to battle the influence of Western media, opinions and culture. Mr Boniadi said that the Iranian education department had previously failed to "reform and renovate the thoughts" of students. "We have to take full advantage of this opportunity," he added.

Although Iran had previously pledged to install religious teachers in classrooms, this appears to be the first concrete step in a wider drive to insert more religion in education.