Leader’s Speech in Meeting with Students from Zanjan Province

The following is the full text of a speech delivered on October 14, 2003 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with students from Zanjan province.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The time I have spent among you today has been very enjoyable for me. The reason is that first of all, I am in the company of you dear students, professors and academics and second, I am truly thankful to Allah the Exalted for the comments that were made in this meeting. I see today that all the things that I wanted to be promoted in academic environments are currently highlighted in the minds and comments of our academics and in the intellectual atmosphere of our universities and this will bring us closer to fulfilling the wishes that we have been cherishing.

For these reasons, this meeting has been very enjoyable for me and I express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of you dear students and honorable professors and government officials. Beyond all the beauties that exist, there is the beauty of God's mercy and blessings for which we cannot thank Him enough.

Today I am fortunate enough to have the honorable Minister of Science in this meeting. An hour before this meeting, I had the honor of meeting him for the first time. Having heard his remarks, I am now more hopeful about the future of our universities than I was before. Of course, I have never lost hope and I have thankfully remained hopeful in all conditions.

At the beginning of my speech, I would like to tell you dear youth that your presence in different arenas in the country is one of the greatest blessings that Allah the Exalted has bestowed on this nation. Whenever I meet with you young people, I remember this line from Hafiz:

Morning breeze, its fragrance will exhale
The old world will once again youthfully sail

As far as the Iranian nation is concerned, this promise will come true to a great extent and you young people- who are one of the factors that can make the world "youthfully sail"- will make efforts to increase dynamism, hope and youthful energy among our people.

On one level, rejuvenation is related to the coming of new generations in society. A country with a young population owes its youthful energy to the large population of young people who live in that country. Our country has a young population. On another level, rejuvenation is related to new aspirations, strengthened willpower and finding new hope to start a new movement and we were blessed with this thanks to the Islamic Revolution.

Today all tentacles of the arrogant powers are at work trying to take away our nation's youthful energy and dynamism. But they have been unsuccessful. It is clear to me that there is a youthful spirit and youthful energy and dynamism in our country and this was not possible under the oppressive and disgraceful rule of kings or in the shade of humiliating dependence on the enemies. We owe what we have achieved to the liberated people of Iran.

After going through long periods of dictatorships and monarchies, our country and our people entered a new stage of their history while on the one hand, the era of dictatorship had not come to an end in Iran and on the other hand, the era of dependence on foreigners had just started. If you take a look at the years before the Islamic Revolution, you will realize what conditions we were in when the Islamic Revolution gave rise to that historic change. In this way, we would be able to have an appropriate understanding of our current conditions. During the decades before the Revolution, autocratic rule was combined with dependence on foreign powers.

Of course, dependence on foreigners did not happen abruptly, rather from the last years of the Qajar era, economic and political dependence started gradually by constantly giving privileges to foreigners, which was against the interests of the Iranian nation. Later on when autocratic governments were weakened as a result of the Constitutional Movement and certain other things, the evil and disgraceful banner of dependence was suddenly raised by the Pahlavi regime. That was when the era of foreign-imposed policies and contracts started by order of the rulers and political personalities who had been installed by foreigners and were obedient to them. Of course, there was dictatorship as well and it was growing more dangerous and oppressive on a daily basis.

The Islamic Revolution achieved victory in such conditions. That is to say, the people of Iran started a great movement that was both against dictatorship and autocratic governments that had ruled our country for many centuries, and against dependence, obedience to foreigners and powers that were outside the borders of our country. The Islamic Revolution countered these two deep-rooted and dangerous problems that our country had suffered from for a long time. Therefore, the revolutionary movement was faced with a difficult mission.

If the Revolution had not relied on religious faith of the people, it would not have managed to achieve victory. It was religious faith of the people that started this revolutionary movement and helped it persist. Before the Islamic Revolution, all the other movements that had been carried out over the previous 150 years had failed in the end. The Islamic Revolution managed to continue its path in a powerful way and overcome the factors that were in the way of its victory. Why? Because the Islamic Revolution had new things to say, things that could gain ground in the world and particularly in the world of Islam. A major portion of what the Islamic Revolution had to say was related to monotheism in its deep, accurate and comprehensive sense. Monotheism means the rule of divine values in society and rejection of taghuti, autocratic and corrupt governments that rebel against human and noble values. Therefore, monotheism was the spine and the main pillar of the message of the Islamic Revolution.

The other pillar of the Islamic Revolution was attaching importance to human dignity. A community of people who live in a particular area of the world enjoy human dignity and this dignity requires that they stay free and independent and develop their capacities. This dignity requires that they have control over their destiny, are not subject to humiliation and insult and stay true to their real identity. This was something that was ignored during the rule of autocratic governments and the Pahlavi family. Autocratic rulers had in some cases rendered great services to the people of Iran such as certain victories against foreigners and efforts to develop the country, but they had taken away the most important things that any human being values, namely freedom, independence and having control over one's destiny. This is the nature of all dictatorial governments.

Unfortunately, I would say that in many of the countries that do not carry the flag of dictatorship and claim to respect freedom, liberalism and votes of the people, the nature of government is essentially dictatorial and is based on suppressing the people. In fact, in many of the countries that promote the slogan of democracy in their policies, the people do not enjoy freedom of thought and they cannot make free choices, but these things are concealed under different layers of propaganda. This is something that outstanding intellectuals of the west - both in America and in Europe - are speaking about in an open way. Human dignity, the flag of which is being carried by the Islamic Revolution, is the exact opposite of this state of affairs.

Through their propaganda, the enemies are trying to pretend that they are encouraging Iran to move towards democracy. The Islamic Revolution brought about the freest kind of democracy for Iran. What is it that Iran is supposed to move closer to? Democracy means the rule of the people. It means that political methods and the way a country is managed have to be based on the votes of the people. This was the miracle that the Islamic Revolution caused in Iran, an achievement that could not even be imagined during all those years from the Constitutional Movement to the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Of course, during a certain era when there were free elections in the country, this aspiration was temporarily fulfilled in the country, but unfortunately due to the repeated mistakes by government officials of that time, this era did not last more than two years. In any case, the point is that except for that short period of time, the people of Iran did not have the freedom to build their destiny with their choices.

Thanks to the Islamic Revolution, the people of Iran managed to restore their dignity, think, make decisions and take action. Fortunately, the deep faith that the people of Iran had in Islamic principles helped them build a democracy on the pillars of religious thought, which is the best form of democracy. It is within the framework of Islamic and religious values that democracy can be supported in an absolute sense and this was what happened in our country in a smooth way because our people are faithful and their religious faith is not superficial.

Today you can see the presence of Islamic values in academic environments, in Islamic seminaries, in areas relating to labor and among our young and old people and our scientists. In my meetings with students and academics, I sometimes witness amazing manifestations of these Islamic values. There are some people who are trying to deny the fact that these beauties and this love and religious faith exist among youth and in academic environments. What is the reason? In many cases, this has nothing to do with political parties and meaningless political rivalry.

I received a report some time ago and I discussed it last night in the meeting with our religious scholars so that those honorable brothers are informed of the conditions of our universities. The report was about itikaf days in the universities of Tehran and it described the mystical state and enthusiasm of our dear youth during those days and the cooperation that exists among different student organizations despite the walls and boundaries that they appear to have built among themselves. When they consider different student organizations in a religious light, they do not see any boundaries and any difference between those organizations and they all join hands to work together. Therefore, those who try to encourage our young students to turn their backs on religious values are following the wrong path and of course they will fail in the end.

After the Islamic Republic was established on the firm pillars of religious faith, it was faced with a great challenge. Why? Because it was natural for the Islamic Republic to finally confront the dangerous tentacles of the arrogant powers. This confrontation did not mean that we wanted to start a war with America, England or any other country. You dear youth should know that over the past twenty-five years since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, there has not been even one single day in which the idea of starting a war against another country crossed the minds of the government officials of our country. This was never the case. Rather, the confrontation was due to the identity and essence of the Islamic Revolution. When a Muslim country at a strategic location in the world and with a rich culture steps into the arena, proposes an idea, does everything in its power to promote that idea and the signs of its success start to appear, then it is natural that the interests of the arrogant powers are jeopardized in the entire region. For this reason, the organizations associated with the arrogant powers had to counter the Islamic Revolution. At that time, there was the liberal and capitalist camp on the one side and the dictatorial and atheist socialist front on the other side. The interesting point is that these two camps had serious disagreements in the case of ninety percent of the issues, but they both agreed that it was necessary to extinguish the flames caused by the Revolution and to uproot the revolutionary sapling. You dear youth should think about such issues. These are not clichéd statements: they determine our future path.

The Islamic republic stood up against both the east and the west, but even in those days there was a view that we needed to negotiate with the arrogant powers. Those who were promoting this view were not bad people, rather they were simplistic and they were saying that we had to negotiate with the arrogant powers so that we could prevent their harmful actions against us. However, they were not prepared to answer these questions: how many concessions do we have to make? How long do we have to continue retreating against them in our negotiations? What should the Iranian nation do in order to satisfy America? How many of our values do we need to give up in order to convince America to stop its enmity?

Perhaps, some of them had no idea that the arrogant powers would not be satisfied with any amount of concessions. In the case of the recent controversy about Iran's nuclear activities, you saw that they demanded increasing concessions step by step. First, they said that Iran had to accept the Additional Protocol. Then they said that we had to provide information about certain things. Later on, they went even further and said that Iran must not have nuclear technology. Retreating against a camp that has material power and is devoid of morality, is not the solution. Morality can prevent a powerful camp from using its power in an unjust way. The only solution was to resist and our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) - that resisting and patient man who would never surrender - was the manifestation of resistance. And this was the only course of action that was available to the people of Iran. For this reason, even their military invasion proved futile.

The military invasion of Iran by Saddam's regime, which forced us to fight back and accept the problems that are caused by war, was not an uncommon course of action. Military invasion is constantly used by the arrogant powers against independent peoples who are after freedom. During the first few years of my presidency, Ahmed Sékou Touré, the President of Guinea - who was an outstanding revolutionary, respectable, scholarly and political personality in Africa and was respected in Europe and the entire world - visited Iran and in the meeting with me, he said that he was not surprised at Iraq's invasion of Iran after the Revolution. This is because judging from experience, one of the things that the arrogant powers do against the majority of independent countries is that they use military pressure in order to prevent them from the goals and values that they specify for themselves through engaging their financial and human resources in a war. This was the plan that the enemy had prepared against us.

The Americans and their current Secretary of Defense, who keeps saying nonsense against the Islamic Republic every few days, were among those who were closely cooperating with Saddam Hussein, the same person that they are trying to capture these days. They were providing him with scientific support as well as weapons and intelligence so that they could defeat Iran, but they were not successful. I would say that as long as you remain vigilant and as long as our government officials feel responsible in the real sense of the word, America and other superpowers will not be able to harm the people and government of Iran in any way.

Dear people, this new message - namely, monotheism, human dignity and social justice - found support in the world. These are the three pillars of our system. We need to consider all of our shortcomings in these three areas as extremely important. The more our government officials' behavior and actions drift away from monotheistic behavior, the more we lose respect for the lives, identity and dignity of the people and the longer we fail to eliminate class distinctions in society and pursue social justice in the country in the real sense of the word, the more shortcomings we will suffer from in these areas. All of our efforts must be focused on eliminating these shortcomings and the same general attitude should be promoted among the people as well. The reason I sometimes warn certain individuals - government officials and others - is because of these things.

I believe that trying to promote social justice and to eliminate class distinctions in society is our biggest responsibility. Fortunately, a group of our government officials are present in this meeting and I ask them to think about these issues. Today the most important issue in our country is to eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor. The greatest service that we can render to the youth of our country is to help them develop and utilize their capacities, provide the ground for their education and try to create employment opportunities for them. This is why I sometimes raise my voice and demand that secondary and controversial issues and political disagreements must not be made public. Otherwise, if two political parties disagree and fight about a hundred different issues without making it public, the country will not be harmed in any way. What I expect from the Majlis, the administration and our government officials at different levels is that they should truly try to identify the main issues of the country.

Some the dear friends spoke in this meeting. Both the honorable chancellor of this university and Dr. Sobuti delivered a speech in this meeting. I noticed that when Dr. Sobuti stepped up to deliver his speech, you expressed your love for him, which made me genuinely happy. When a scholarly personality is praised and honored by our youth, I feel happy. This behavior shows that our youth attach importance to knowledge. The demands that he made as well as the demands made by the two young students - the dear member of the National Elites Foundation and the representative of student organizations - are legitimate and it is necessary to follow them up. Fortunately, the Minister of Science, the Governor and a few representatives from the Majlis are present in this meeting. I will also ask my office to follow up the demands. Of course, I emphatically advise our government officials to follow up only the demands which can be fulfilled. This is because although they might originate from good and reasonable ideas, certain demands are made without taking the realities of our society into consideration.

Dr. Sobuti said that the people of Zanjan are worth more than two hundred billion. I believe Dr. Sobuti alone is worth more than two hundred billion. Also, each and every one of these youth who has a bright future, is worth more than two hundred billion. Is it possible to measure the value and dignity of human beings with money? But there is a question that needs to be answered: do our national budget plan and the Management and Planning Organization allow spending two hundred billion on constructing roads that lead to the city of Zanjan? After all, there are other cities in the country that need money. Zanjan does not just need roads, rather it needs universities and agriculture as well. In any case, I will ask our government officials to follow up the work and attach importance to it.

Also, I would like to give a piece of advice to all of our student organizations, no matter what their names are. As far as I am concerned, names are not important. Your political orientation does not matter. For me, it is not important who supports rightists and who supports leftists. What is important to me is that our youth and politically active individuals should see what position our country and our nation have in the world. They should see what they should do and what they should focus their efforts on. They should focus their efforts on the national priorities and they must not pay attention to what the enemy says because the enemy has prepared numerous plots to harm our country.

One of the things that the enemy does is play down the importance of what we have, just like experienced dealers who pretend that what they are interested in buying is worthless so that they can buy it at a very low price. The Islamic Republic is very important, valuable and great and the people of Iran have brilliant capacities, but the enemy always pretends that what we have is worthless. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said to one of his companions: "When you have a precious gemstone and you know its value, even if the entire world says what you have is a worthless pebble, you will not believe it. Similarly, when you have a worthless pebble and you know that it is just a pebble, even if everybody in the world testifies that what you have is a diamond, you will not believe it. " What is important is that you should know the value of what you have. All I am trying to do is convince the people of Iran what a great asset they have and what their value is in the world of Islam.

I said yesterday that our President will go to Malaysia and by Allah's favor, he will shine there. Some people asked why. My reply is, which country's president is welcomed in a foreign country in a way that the officials of that country are surprised? I visited Pakistan during my presidency. I was welcomed so warmly in Lahore and Islamabad that it attracted everybody's attention in the world and the news of the warm welcome was broadcast from all media outlets in the world. Similarly, the same thing happened in Pakistan and Lebanon during the presidency of Mr. Khatami. And during the presidency of Mr. Rafsanjani, the same thing happened in Sudan.

Today whenever our high-ranking government officials travel to an Islamic country, they are welcomed in a passionate and enthusiastic way by the people of that country. In what other country - Islamic or non-Islamic - do we see similar things? For example, if the president of America decides to visit Italy or some other country, local people start holding demonstrations one month before his arrival and protest that he must not go to their country. This is because America is absolutely evil. Hakim Hidaji is one of the outstanding personalities of this region and yesterday I recited a line from his poems in my speech. Now I would like to recite another line from his poems with a little bit of modification:

"Today you wicked man
Only oppress people in the world" [Speaking in Azeri]

Similarly, today the only solution that is left for the people of Iran is resistance. Of course, resistance does not mean moving forward without wisdom. I had written down a narration by the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) and I wanted to discuss it at the beginning of my speech, but different things came up and I could not. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) told Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, one of his famous companions: "Ibn Mas'ud, whatever you do, do it with awareness and wisdom." He told ibn Mas'ud to always proceed with awareness and wisdom. He did not specify any exceptions in this regard and it means that it is necessary to have awareness and wisdom when doing everything. This is an Islamic slogan.

This is while there are some people who want to teach Muslims - who have had this slogan in their culture for one thousand and four hundred years - to go after knowledge and wisdom. This Islamic advice is timeless and it will remain valid forever. "Do not do anything except with wisdom and knowledge." Muslims have been warned not to engage in any action except with knowledge and wisdom. Muslims have been advised that everything should be done in a calculated way. "The Most Glorious says: and be not like a woman who breaks into untwisted strands the yarn which she has spun, after it has become strong." If you do something without knowledge and wisdom, you have in fact wasted the capacity that Allah the Exalted has given you, you have in fact wasted your assets of knowledge and wisdom and you have regressed. We must not regress.

Resistance that is accompanied by wisdom is among the slogans of the Islamic Republic and our government officials will keep this point in mind. Of course, it is possible to analyze everything in different ways in order to make it look wise in one way or another. This is what the enemy does and there are a few people who promote what the enemies want without asking for anything in return for their service to him. They repeat exactly what the enemy wants. They act as if the enemy does not think, plan and act wisely. Of course, I do not want to say that our government officials never make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. Mistakes are an inseparable part of all of us. However, one's confidence increases when one knows that government officials of the country think and act wisely and consult with others, particularly in sensitive areas relating to high-level policy-making which is not directly in touch with executive affairs and only specifies the guidelines on the basis of accurate and constant evaluation and work. This is how the people of Iran must resist and it is this kind of resistance that has helped the Iranian nation move forward.

Dear people, at the beginning of the Revolution, we were suffering from a shortage of university professors, physicians, scientists and researchers. The first reason was that there were few such people in the country to begin with. The second reason was that some people turned their backs on their own people and failed to help their people and the Revolution. But the Islamic Republic decided to resist. The result of this resistance is that for example, according to the report that was presented by the chancellor of this university, today in your province the number of students has increased by 250 times compared to the time before the Revolution. The graduate studies that have been started here, the young researchers who spoke in this meeting and the outstanding personalities who have come together in this province, are achievements that we cannot put a price on. All these achievements have been made thanks to the Islamic Revolution. Why would we paint a bleak and disappointing picture of all the activities that have been carried out by the Islamic Republic?

As I said yesterday in my public address, the lowest development rate that has been cited for this province is 500 percent and it will increase by 1200 percent later on. Therefore, all development indices in this province have improved enormously. There was a day when Zanjan province was a place for self-indulgence of feudal landlords and their families used to appropriate all the resources that existed in this province while the people had to live a miserable life in poverty. These feudal landlords existed in the Qajar era and during the Pahlavi era, they wore neck ties, put on perfume and entered into a partnership with the royal family in order to fulfill their needs. They wore special hats and re-emerged as a new force in Iran. As a result of the Revolution, these people were eliminated. Thanks to these efforts, Zanjan province has reached a point that in terms of certain indices it ranks higher than other parts of the country. For this reason, hope should increase in our hearts on a daily basis.

The enemy intimidates some people. He provides some other people with wrong analyses. He employs yet other people and makes them work for him. Such people do not have any option other than working for the enemy and promoting his message. The enemy encourages some people to be indifferent and go after material indulgences, particularly in the case of those who are a source of hope for the country. Other things that the enemy does include discouraging people from pursuing their values, destroying determination for reform in the hearts of people and creating chaos.

I support movements that are based on religious faith and piety. I support young people who step into the arena of politics, science and economic activities with religious motives. Those young people whose slogan is religious values are my favorite. They are sacred to me. Of course, I love all of our youth. But I have a lot more respect for those youth who attach importance to religious values. There are some people who pretend to be committed to religious values and yet they create chaos in society and I am opposed to such things. One of the things that I like about the universities in Zanjan is that according to what I have heard, different student organizations of Zanjan do not treat each other in an impolite, insulting or aggressive way. This is very good and my advice is that you should preserve this attitude. Every student organization should do its own work, but it should also be friends with other student organizations. Members of these student organizations must not insult each other. Of course, scholarly and intellectual challenges are good for making progress and for growth. The organizations that follow a certain political or social ideology, should arrange meetings with each other and discuss their issues. When they finish discussing their issues, they should invite another organization that does not agree with them.

"It is not the veins of the neck that should stand out in argument
But the proofs should be full of meaning"

It would be very good if they could do this and I would love it. Promoting chaos alongside the enemy is harmful: unfortunately, this was what we witnessed a few months ago in Tehran and of course, it fortunately happened on a small scale.
What is important is to remain domestically solid and strong. I raised this point a few months ago in a meeting with students and I would like to repeat it so that everybody knows that when a country enjoys domestic stability and strength, differences of opinion in that country do not turn different people against each other. In such countries, the people have respect for their government officials and the pillars of managing their country. This is because this issue plays a determining role. When the hearts of such a people are filled with religious faith - just as your hearts are - no power in the world will be able to defeat them and to force them to retreat. By relying on this source of support, we can counter all international challenges and move forward.

I hope that all of us will carry out our responsibilities. By Allah's favor, our students will specify and define their responsibilities more clearly than before and follow them up in a persistent way. I pray to Allah the Exalted to protect all of you. Now I would like to take this opportunity to pray to God, hoping that your pure hearts will help my prayers be heard.

Dear God, turn these honorable youth into valuable assets for the future of Islam and Muslims. Dear God, protect the dear children of our people. Dear God, help the people of Iran achieve victory in all arenas. Shine the light of understanding and servitude on our hearts more than before. Bring the hearts of our people and government officials closer to each other.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings