Leader's Address to Engineers and Researchers

The following is the abridged text of a speech delivered by the Grand Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei in a meeting with a large number of engineers and industrial and technical researchers on February 23, 2005. The meeting was held on the occasion of the Engineering Day.
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

This is a very valuable and useful gathering. First of all, a group of intellectuals and specialists have gathered here. Second, today has been designated as the day of commemorating Khajeh Nassiroddin Tousi, a brilliant scientific luminary in the glorious history of our country. Third, some senior officials of the executive branch of government are also attending this gathering, and they made some useful remarks. I also intend to mention a few points.

The first point is that our most talented students have always studied at our technical colleges, whether before or after the Islamic Revolution. As far back as I remember, the most intelligent and most dynamic students were always admitted to various engineering colleges and similar centers of higher education.

Now let us consider this along with another reality, i.e. the high intelligence quotient of the Iranian youngsters, which is something proved, not a mere assumption. Based on the research conducted in the world and statistical data, the intelligence quotient of the Iranians is greater than the world's average.

In the past, the Iranian scholars were known for their scientific achievements, and the Iranian culture and civilization in different historical epochs was a yardstick for other nations in the world. In the Islamic era, the Iranians obtained different branches of knowledge, including philosophy, consolidated them based on sound logical principles and then transferred them to other world nations. This is something widely acknowledged.

Now, consider a highly talented and intelligent community whose most gifted and brilliant children usually continue their education at technical and engineering colleges. What results do you expect? Naturally, there are high expectations. Unfortunately, such expectations were not fulfilled in the years before the revolution for the reasons that I will explain.

My next point is that when a country is experiencing political, social or scientific decline, the most serious damage suffered by that country is that its assets are not utilized in an appropriate manner. This is the main feature characterizing a period of decline.

We have passed behind a very deplorable period of degeneration that lasted for almost one hundred years. It began from the middle of the Qajar rule and continued until the end of the Pahlavi rule in this country. In other words, even under the Pahlavi rule, which was described by the officials of the time as the era of modernization of the country, our nation experienced a period of regression and decline.

What is worthy of mention here is that although the Iranian nation did not make considerable progress in different scientific and industrial spheres in the early Qajar period, I do not refer to that time as the time of decline. But the period of regression started in the middle of the Qajar rule. What is the reason for this?

The answer to the above question is that in the period of decline, our nation stopped its move forward because it was enchanted by the various enticements of the West such as its industrialized civilization and scientific progress. Although this progress and development proved beneficial to the West itself, it caused a great deal of harm to nations like our nation and others in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. By enchanting these nations, the West prevented them from continuing their advancement at an ordinary pace.

As of the middle of the Qajar era, the signs of European progress began to appear in our country. The liberal-minded individuals in Iran were the ones who had traveled to Europe and observed and studied the European way of life. As a result, they had become familiar with the progress made by the European countries and felt humiliated and abased in the face of that progress.

Liberal-minded individuals around the time of the Constitutional Movement held the view that the Iranian people would have to absolutely imitate Western nations in all spheres of life if they wanted to make progress. Remarks to this effect are recorded historical facts. It is clear that those liberal-minded individuals did not attach any significance to the innovation, originality and creativity of the Iranian nation. They did not believe that the Iranian people could make scientific and industrial progress by counting on their own capabilities.

Western countries, for their part, relying on their industrial and scientific revolution, were trying to dominate other nations and devour their resources in order to increase their own power. By this time, some hundred years had passed since the beginning of colonial era. Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch and other European nations had laid their hands on other regions that were rich in natural resources like the Persian Gulf region, the Indian Ocean, the Indian Subcontinent, Indonesia and Africa and exploited their abundant resources.

As far as European characteristics and qualities are concerned, some of them are positive, while others are negative. I do not agree with those who reject every European quality as negative. They also have positive features, among which are bravery, readiness to take risks and perseverance. They embarked on their ships and navigated to remote countries and regions and virgin lands, which were abundant in natural wealth. They conquered Asia, Africa and also the lands that were later called the United States.

As mentioned earlier, at that time our political thinkers held the view that the Iranians should utterly imitate Western nations and follow in their footsteps in all areas of life. This could be beneficial to us if the Westerners treated us fairly and on an equal footing, i.e. if they did not aim to dominate us and plunder our resources. But the reality was that Western countries did not intend to treat us on an equal footing; instead, they thought of using our natural resources in order to increase their own wealth and power.

Consequently, they entered our lands and exploited our natural resources, but did not transfer their science and technology to us. Neither did they try to promote our culture and education, like a dedicated tutor that educates his pupils.

In the era described as the modernization era, the Iranians acted like laborers who were at the service of architects and engineers. What can a manual worker do? Of course he plays a role in the construction of a building, but a role that is merely manual and has nothing to do with intellect. From this perspective, that period is the era of decline of the Iranian nation.

Under those circumstances, the talented and intelligent Iranians had to choose between two alternatives. They either had to resign themselves to the prevalent conditions, or leave their country and serve other nations. In the military and aeronautic industries, in which we have made considerable progress in the past few years, our engineers who now manufacture aircraft and most sophisticated equipment were only expected in the past to check the parts of airplanes based on their checklists. If something was wrong with a certain part, they only had to remove it and hand it over to a foreign engineer, so that he might take it to the United States by airplane at our expense and repair or replace it there and then bring it back. They were not allowed to do anything beyond this. Our talented and intelligent engineers either put up with this situation or left their country and worked for other nations.

Under the former regime, our engineers were not provided with an opportunity for constructive work, research and scientific growth. I remember I once said this in an interview following a visit to the Dez Dam that our engineers were not even allowed to operate dams and power plants after their construction. For example, when some foreign companies built the Dez Dam, the operation of its power plant was entrusted to several Iranian engineers. Later an American company was asked to double the power plant's capacity. When the American contractors noticed that the power plant was operated by Iranians, they stipulated that the Iranian operators should be dismissed. Consequently, the operation of the power plant was handed over to an Italian company. Then, the American company started its work to double the power plant's capacity.

This was an example indicating the fact that Iranians were not allowed to engage in any type of technical work, not even operational work. As a result, we lagged behind in various industrial and engineering areas, despite the fact that our engineers at that time were as talented and intelligent as they are today.

Today, our engineers and scientists build dams, power plants, highways, railways and different factories. They design airplanes and military equipment. They have even developed nuclear technology. All these achievements and breakthroughs in science and technology are the results of the Islamic Revolution. The great service rendered by the revolution was that it infused the Iranian nation with self-confidence. This sense of self-confidence manifested itself in the words of our late magnanimous Imam as "we can".

I remember that back in 1965, some 14 years before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, I was visiting a friend in Mashhad. A Parliamentarian also happened to be in his house. I talked about Iran's dependence on foreigners, the foreign domination of our country and so on. In response, the Majlis deputy said, "There are no reasons for objections. We have oil and we are wealthy; we pay the Americans and Europeans to work for us, to produce for us, to construct for us. Why should we take the trouble?"

This was the logic of a Parliamentarian under the former regime! This is what I described as the period of decline and degeneration. The logic of this period was that why we should produce, why we should construct, why we should learn so long as we have money and can pay others to work for us! The logic of those running the country was that we have money and, thus, we should live a luxurious and comfortable life, instead of putting ourselves to trouble! Consequently, the Iranian nation experienced a period of regression.

The Islamic Revolution changed the trend. Some other factors such as the sanctions that were imposed by the West against our country after the victory of our revolution have also proved beneficial to us. I remember in the early years of the Iraqi aggression against our country, we needed barbed wire and purchased it from a foreign country. The consignment had to pass through the former Soviet Union in order to reach our country. Since the former Soviet Union supported Iraq in the war, Soviet officials did not allow the consignment to pass through their country! Barbed wire was not a weapon like cannons or tanks. Still, it was withheld from us.

As a result of these sanctions, we are now among the first 10 countries in the world in the field of anti-armor technology. In the area of uranium enrichment, we are among the first 10 or 11 countries in the world that possess this technology. Our nuclear technology is domestic. We are different from those countries that received the technology from the former Soviet Union because they were in the Communist camp. Even China received considerable technological assistance from the former Soviet Union over the first 10 years after its revolution, when the two countries were not at odds yet. However, no country has ever extended any technological assistance to us. We have developed whatever we have ourselves.

Before the revolution, I remember our country bought wheat from the United States, and silos for storing wheat were built in our country by the engineers from the former Soviet Union. In the early years after the revolution, during a visit to the southern part of the country I noticed that the Construction Jihad engineers and technicians had built a small silo there. I knelt to pray to the Almighty on the spot. Building a silo is not so easy, since it has a complicated structure. Today, we are one of the major silo-builders in the world. We have built large silos in many other countries. Thus, we have benefited from the sanctions that were imposed by the West against our country.

The third point I would like to mention is that the progress we have already made is by no means enough. We still have a long way ahead to catch up with the science and technology at the international level. Of course this gap was much wider in the period of decline. We have managed to narrow the gap, but we will have to move further ahead in order to close the gap completely.

We should try to open new horizons in the field of science. Of course it is a difficult task. We should try to introduce new technologies to the world. We should introduce inventions that are one-hundred percent domestic. We have so far made very good progress. There is no doubt about it. However, the achievements already made are not enough for the Iranian nation, a nation whose physicians, astronomers, philosophers and scholars of the last millennium shone in the world for several centuries after their death. This is why the progress so far made is not enough for this nation.

Today, modern science and medicine may not make use of the research and investigations that were conducted by Avicenna around one thousand years ago, although I believe they can be useful even today, but they are still admired and highly valued. The same also holds true about the research conducted by other Iranian scholars and scientists like Mohammad-ibn-Zakaria Razi, Khajeh Nassiroddin Tousi, Khayyam and Kharazmi. Therefore, considering our glorious past, our present scientific achievements are surely not enough.

The president of an Islamic country, which I do not intend to name here, at a public gathering recently held in his country in which some foreigners and European guests were also participating stated that "we Muslims are proud of Iran, proud of both its present and its past in the Islamic era." He said that it was the Iranians who promoted, or in a sense founded, the Islamic knowledge and civilization.

This is what we expect of ourselves. We should try to reach such an advanced stage in science and technology that the Iranian nation deserves. This expectation is not motivated by national pride or by racism. It is motivated by a philanthropic attitude toward the entire humanity. The reason is that if we attain an advanced scientific level, considering that we have no expansionist objectives similar to those of the West nor any intention of exploiting other nations, our scientific progress will benefit us and other nations as well.

During his recent trip to several African countries, our president discussed several plans and projects with the officials of those countries. He told me that the Islamic Republic has the ability to carry out those projects easily - even in a better way and at a lower cost than the Europeans do. Therefore, our progress in science and technology will be beneficial to other developing nations and the entire Islamic world as well.

But it is quite clear that we need to promote research. We should allocate the necessary funds for this purpose and encourage greater efforts. There should be closer links between universities and industrial centers. These are the necessary measures that we should take. It is true that the main responsibility rests with us, the officials, and the government. But it is you who are the main players on the scene. The work force eager to make progress finds its way forward, like a plant growing on rocks that sends down its roots. You should try to revive the spirit of progress and innovation in the engineering and technical circles throughout the country.

The last point I would like to talk about relates to architecture and the design and construction of buildings in urban and rural areas. This is something very important. We should not think about the problem only after an earthquake strikes. We should try to learn from experience and what has happened in the past. Around one and a half years ago, a devastating earthquake hit the city of Bam. Shortly after, another earthquake struck the city of Baladeh in northern Iran, inflicting considerable loss and damage on the region. But, compared with the earthquake that hit Bam, it did not attract so much attention.

Following the recent earthquake in Zarand, another earthquake may hit any other part of our country any moment. What we are expected to learn from these incidents is that we should pay greater attention to the structure of buildings, their strength and their resistance to earthquakes. The people should feel secure in their homes.

We have a glorious past in the area of building construction. In the past, the Iranians constructed magnificent buildings, ranging from those built in the pre-Islamic era in Persepolis and Ctesiphon to impressive buildings constructed with a different architecture in the Islamic era. In the construction of these buildings, several criteria such as strength, beauty, good quality of materials, harmony with surroundings and, above all, economy were taken into consideration, the same criteria that are observed today in modern architecture.

I remember when I was a child, a part of our old house, which was then about eighty or one hundred years old, needed some repair. I was about ten or twelve years of age at that time. I remember the old bricks were so hard that it was not so easy to break them. However, the bricks that were newly made were not so hard. This is a sign of the period of decline which affects everything. New materials came to the market, but of lower quality. The harmony with surroundings, which was observed in old architecture, is not often observed today.

But do not get me wrong. I am not saying that we should construct our buildings today by following the style and method of design and construction that existed one hundred and fifty years ago. Of course we should utilize modern methods and techniques and introduce innovations. We should also pay attention to environmental issues, which were not discussed in the past. We should try to economize on energy and use new materials and tools that did not exist in the former times. There is no doubt about this. But we should also show the same motivation, care and attention that our ancestors and ancient Iranians did. We should avoid carelessness and negligence.

What our engineers and technicians are expected to do is to observe the rules that have been prescribed by the Engineering Regulation Organization. You should not allow such rules to be neglected and fall into oblivion. The engineers who are supposed to supervise the construction of buildings should feel more responsible. A supervising engineer should be trustworthy, like a physician that diagnoses the disease and prescribes the needed medicine. Now if the physician does not prescribe the needed medicine or prescribes a harmful medicine instead, or if he is not careful enough and makes a mistake in the diagnosis of the disease, his conscience will be troubled by feelings of remorse and guilt, and he will be blamed by others as well. In the same manner, the supervising engineers and technicians involved in the construction of buildings should really feel responsible.

Beauty is one of the necessities of life. It makes the life pleasant and the environment tolerable. It is also an important criterion with regard to the construction of buildings. The observance of domestic norms and Islamic criteria also bears significance in city and community planning and building construction. I have told the officials in charge of Bam's reconstruction that besides firmness of construction and economy, which are very important factors to consider, they should pay due attention to the appearance of buildings, so that they may look beautiful. These criteria should be observed in the construction of residential areas throughout the country.

Nevertheless, we should prioritize the tasks that need immediate attention, tasks such as the renovation of dilapidated buildings. There are many cities like Bam, on which an earthquake with a magnitude of about six on the Richter scale may inflict great loss of lives and damage. I have traveled to most cities in our country and visited their different districts. If, God forbid, some of these cities are hit by an earthquake, the resultant damage and loss will be worse than one can imagine. This is something that needs immediate attention. Due measures should be taken to solve such urgent problems.

Last year, following the devastating earthquake in Bam, I had several discussions with government officials. Certain measures have since been taken, but greater efforts should be made. Several hundred people lost their lives in the recent earthquake. This reminds us of the heavy responsibility that we shoulder.

I am happy that I met a group of intellectuals, specialists and experts today. I am sure that you and I still had many more things to say, but unfortunately we ran out of time.