IRAN: Ahmadinejad fires Mousavi from arts academy; faculty members threaten to quit
Iran's Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution announced late Tuesday that it had removed opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi from his position as head of the Academy of Arts, apparently at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mousavi, a successful artist and architect, had been the head of the academy since it was founded in 1998 and even designed the building that houses it. Although he has kept his post on the Expediency Council, Mousavi's removal from his post at the academy has provoked outrage from his colleagues, with 27 of 30 faculty members threatening to resign in solidarity.
The council replaced Mousavi with the pro-regime poet Ali Moallam Damghani and introduced amendments to the academy's constitution giving the government greater control over the body, news media reported.
The academy offers seminars in music, drama, traditional arts, architecture and philosophy of art, in addition to hosting exhibitions and producing publications and a radio program.
The move was not unexpected, but may have been spurred by renewed protests Monday and Tuesday during the funeral of dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Opposition website kaleme.org reported that Ahmadinejad interrupted a regional tour of Shiraz to preside over the council's session. The government has struggled to stamp out opposition since the disputed presidential election in June, which sparked widespread unrest across Iran.
The council also appointed three new members to the academy: the actor Jahangir Almasi, poet Mostafa Rahmandoust and Ahmedinejad advisor Mehdi Kalhor. Almasi supported Ahmadinejad in the presidential election and Rahmandoust's brother Mojtaba is a top aide to Ahmadinejad.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Top, an review from 2008 of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's art at the Academy of Arts, which he headed for 11 years. Bottom, the Academy of Arts building, which Mousavi designed. Credit: Academy of Arts website