The UN currently counts 193 members, who presumably, at least externally, adhere to the purposes and principles of its charter. Iran, though, is a category on its own.
After President Rouhani’s cabinet endorsed the UNESCO education 2030 guidelines (2030 agenda for sustainable development), in August 2016, it was assumed that Iran was towing the line with the UN global vision of society and humanity.
The reservations began with the criticism of one of the Basij representatives, Sohrab Salehi, who, as reported in farsnews, claimed in written format that the UNESCO document expresses the will of “American spies to take control of Iran’s cultural institutions”.
Then came the supreme leader Khamenei expressing his binding opinion. It became clear that Iran could not even identify with the basic aim of “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
Khamenei rejected it outright and on principle. In his speech on this issue, quoted in al-monitor and in iranhumanrights, he preaches “It is the Islamic Republic here! Here Islam is the benchmark! The Quran is the benchmark! It is not a place where the deficient, destructive and corrupt Western lifestyle can infiltrate”. He is quoted: “The UNESCO 2030 education agenda and the like are not agendas that the Islamic Republic of Iran should have to surrender and submit to..it is forbidden”. As reported in khamenei.ir/news he also related to the UNESCO program as “a plot by arrogant nations to dominate nations”. Quite clear that the supreme leader of Iran sees the UNESCO educational guidelines as diametrically opposed to those of Islam.
Sa’id Peyvandi, sociologist and member of UNESCO’s Peace and Education commission, explained in iranhumanrights that the Iranian principled opposition to the document derives from the issues of gender equality expectation, the emphasis on the education of human rights and the requirement of educating towards international peace. He clarified that the Iranian educational value system is opposed to all three. Further ideological opposition arose from the issues of sex education (homosexuality) and ensuring access to higher education. In their eyes, all represent opposing world views and values.
As an Italian blogger noted, in nopasdaran2, the UNESCO values calling for gender equality and equal access to education would jeopardize taboo issues in Iran, which are built into the foundation of the system and touch on the ideological foundations of the regime.
The astounding fact is that as Iran rejects the values of UNESCO, the UN and the western world, they continue to seek senior positions in the echelon of the UN, including in UNESCO. If you reject the precepts, how can you fill senior representative positions in this body? Unless the idea is to work from within to undermine these values. It is quite stunning that the media and the UN itself do not raise this issue and contemplate conditioning membership and leadership positions on recognition and acceptance of the core values.