IranIIT Exclusive NewsImam Ali KhameneiLeaders of UmmahMiddle EastScience

‘We should move on the path to making Iran a source of science within 50 years’

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on November 17, 2021 by Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in meeting with a number of the academic elite and top scientific talents of the country.

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All praise is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master, Muhammad, and upon his pure Household, especially the remnant of God on earth.

I am happy to see that praise God this meeting is taking place this year. Of course in previous years, we met with outstanding students every year, but last year we were not able to do so. Today’s meeting was beneficial for me. I have truly benefitted from what our friends and dear ones – both the boys and girls – have said here. Now, the next step is to judge the accuracy, depth and correctness of the statements. One needs to reflect more on what you have said. But overall, what I have heard here was useful for me and I have benefited from this meeting. I am very thankful to these friends who took the trouble to talk here.

I will first mention a few points about the academic elite and being outstanding in general. If there is enough time left at the end, I will also mention a few points about knowledge-based companies.

Being outstanding is a divine blessing for which one should be grateful to God

The first point, my dear ones, is that being outstanding is a divine blessing and gift which one should thank God for. The first thing that you should think about is thanking God for this blessing, “And give thanks for Allah’s favors if it is He Whom you serve.” [Holy Qur’an, 16:114] This is in the chapter “The Bee.” The phrase “And give thanks for Allah’s favors” can be found elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an as well. This is a perpetual duty. Later on I will expand on the way one should thank God. But the first point is to think about thanking God for the blessing and gift of genius.

Using capacities is a condition to becoming outstanding

The second point is that what makes outstanding people outstanding is not merely talent and mental capacity. There are many people who have talent and mental capacity, but these are wasted in them. These capabilities are never discovered in them and they do not use them in a proper manner at all. Thus, they do not turn into outstanding people. What makes outstanding people outstanding is appreciating this truth and this blessing in addition to having talent and mental capacity. This blessing should be appreciated, and due to one’s appreciation of this blessing, one should work hard. If a talented, resourceful person does not use his/her talent and if he/she shows laziness, indifference and negligence, he/she will certainly not become an outstanding person. An outstanding person is one who appreciates his talent, uses it and builds himself into an outstanding person by showing determination and diligence. This person himself is the one who should primarily appreciate this talent in himself and then secondly his environment is responsible for appreciating this talent in him. The environment means the government, the officials of the country, parents at a certain age and teachers or university professors at another age. These people should appreciate his genius, but the main part of appreciating one’s talent falls on the outstanding person himself.

The soft war waged by the colonizers against nations’ talents

Of course, this was with regards to outstanding people in general. However, this also applies to the country as a whole. Our country has a higher average intelligence than the global average. This is not a mere claim, rather it is a proven fact. In other words, the people in our nation have the potential to be outstanding. One important part of the soft war waged by the colonialists at present and at all times has been to cause the Iranian nation or any other talented nation to forget about their talent, become indifferent about it or to cause them to deny that talent. They keep saying, “You can’t. You can’t. You can’t” until these nations believe that “We can’t.” and say this themselves. This has been a common practice on the part of the colonizers. Since colonialism was brought into these countries, this has been one of the things they have done. Great civilizations existed in Africa – in West Africa and other parts of that continent – but these civilizations were completely annihilated and eliminated. In his memoirs, “Glimpses of World History, an Autobiography,” Nehru wrote that before the English entered India, India was a self-sufficient country in terms of its own domestic industries – the industries of the early 19th century. However, when the British entered – first the East India Company and then the British government – they caused the people of India to feel that it was impossible to live except with British and foreign products. This means the denial of a nation’s capabilities.

The same was true in our own country. We too suffered from the same plight for two hundred years until the victory of the Revolution. As you have heard, when the issue of the nationalization of oil was brought up and when it was said that the Iranians could manage their own oil, the Prime Minister of the tyrant regime [Haj Ali Razmara] criticized the idea saying, “The Iranians should go and make clay watering cans [lolahangs].” You have not seen this kind of watering can. A lolahang is a watering can that is not even made of tin, rather it is a watering can that is made of clay. In those days when we were teenagers, clay watering cans were still common. It was a watering can made of clay. He said, “Iranians should go and build clay watering cans.” In other words, they relegated the nation to such low levels.

Neglect is an introduction to plundering nations

When neglect of one’s capabilities becomes dominant in a nation, plundering that nation becomes easy. Notice that neglect and plundering increase one another. Neglect is the introduction to plundering, and plundering increases neglect. Neglect and plundering come together. This holds true about countries that were directly colonized and also about countries like ours that were not directly colonized. That is why they want us to neglect our capabilities. In the Qur’an, the issue of neglect is an interesting matter. It has been explicitly explained there. Regarding saying the daily prayers during times of fear [for one’s safety], God says, “The disbelievers desire that you may be neglectful of your arms and your luggage, so that they may then turn upon you with a sudden, united attack.” [Holy Qur’an, 4:102]. The enemy wants you to be neglectful about your weapons and your assets. Notice how they bring up the issue of our drones, missiles and the like as being a fundamental issue. The enemy wants you to disregard these capabilities so that he can easily attack you. This was about the issue of missiles. But I do not want this issue to distract us from the main issue, which is about the academic elite.

The need for the academic elite to feel responsible about the affairs of the country

The next point about the academic elite and outstanding people is about their sense of responsibility. Of course, the governing body of the country has important responsibilities toward the academic elite. There is no doubt about this and we hope that, God willing, the country’s officials, myself and others will be able to fulfill this responsibility in the best possible way. But the outstanding youth must also feel responsible toward the country. Sometimes, it is even necessary for the academic elite to deal with the existing hardships. This is one of the most important ethical points to consider. The notion that everything must be ready and in place for the academic elite to be able to work is not a correct viewpoint. Sometimes you may have to fight obstacles, which was touched on by some friends in the meeting. Of course, some unfair actions may take place. In the various administrative and executive organizations of the country, outstanding people are sometimes treated unkindly. I am completely aware of this, but these things should not dissuade outstanding people from continuing their way and their activities, and they should not be discouraged. Some individuals say, “We went to such and such an office or university and they treated us unfairly.” These things should not discourage outstanding people. They should feel responsible, work hard and pursue their plans.

This is the kind of gratefulness that I mentioned previously. Being grateful to God for the blessing of being outstanding includes doing this. They should be thankful to God. And being thankful in practice involves working hard. Of course, another part of being thankful is that they should use this blessing of being outstanding that has been given to them by God, the Exalted. And every good result that the academic elite obtain, should be used in accordance with God’s will and satisfaction. This is very important because it gives direction to the movements of outstanding people.

The role of outstanding people in helping the country reach the frontlines of global science

Another point about the academic elite is that scientific personalities – as our discussion is about scientific personalities – must look to the future, the horizon drawn for science in the country and pay attention to this. I have said before that we should move in such a way that in a reasonable period of time – a few years ago, I spoke of 50 years – Iran will be a source of science in the world. In other words, if people want to know about the latest scientific findings, they will have to learn Farsi. This is possible to happen in the future. You should not be surprised at this. It was like this one day in the world. Once at a point in history, our scientists were at the pinnacle of knowledge in the world. Their books received careful attention and were cited in all the universities of the world, in the universities of the west and the east – India, China, and the like, which were also centers of knowledge at that time. We must look to this horizon.

A depiction of the stages for reaching the pinnacle of science in the world

Of course, there are certain stages needed for this. The first stage is to bridge the gap between us and other countries in terms of science. We have a large gap to fill. Of course, we admire the scientific progress we have made as our statistics, which are based on global statistics, prove. This scientific progress is commendable and we have truly made progress. However, we are far from being on the frontlines of science in the world and this is due to the fact that they have kept us behind for two hundred years. After the victory of the Revolution, a movement took place. And starting about two decades ago, a faster movement began. We have made good progress, but we are still a long way off. The first step is to fill this gap.

The second step is to progress past the borders of world knowledge. In other words, we should be able to offer new scientific aids and new scientific discoveries to the world. I will expand on this later on. And the next step after this is to pursue a new Islamic civilization. Certainly, one of the most important foundations of any civilization is science – beneficial science – and when we keep speaking about “a new Islamic civilization” we should know that one of the foundations of any civilization is scientific progress. We must prepare ourselves for this. If your eyes are set on this horizon, you as one of the academic elite, your scientific movement will naturally move in the right direction. And the problems that are sometimes brought up – such as the issue of scientific articles as mentioned by the friends in the meeting – will be solved. That is, the right direction will be clear and the right progress will be made.

The role of the academic elite in making scientific discoveries

As for the point that I said I would expand on, it concerns scientific discoveries. This is important. Many scientific activities are taking place in the country today, but these activities are often the byproducts of the scientific creation of others. For instance, someone discovered nuclear energy and we are working on it today. What is needed and should be pursued is the creation of science. You have to be creative. You have to produce science, and this often happens as a result of discovering a certain force in nature. That is, innovation in science results from discovering a valuable law that exists in nature and that has not been discovered to this day. On the basis of this law, science is produced and many technologies are created. We must pursue this. Our outstanding youth must pursue this, creativity in science. For example, there was gravity – these are common, old examples that I have been using for a long time – someone discovered this and science was created based on it. There was the power of electricity in nature, but no one knew about it until someone discovered it. Based on this discovery, this vast field of science and technology was created. The same is true of new sciences such as nanotechnology, stem cells and nuclear energy. The discovery of a truth in nature, of a tradition, a valuable law or an element in the nature and science created by God can help you to realize a scientific point. Then that point will become science. Information will be compiled, improved upon and lead to technology and other such things.

The need to be problem-oriented

Another point about the academic elite, which I have mentioned once before as well, is that one of the goals of the country’s scientific community – not just the academic elite but all of the scientific community – should be to think about the issues troubling the country and work in a problem-oriented way. Of course, in the case of the academic elite, this is even more necessary. Being problem-oriented is important. The country has fundamental issues which must receive attention. These must be solved scientifically. There is a solution for every problem. Right now, our friends have raised a few of these issues and suggested solutions. Of course, I said that judging these solutions requires reflection and deliberation, but it is possible to find a scientific solution to all the problems of the country. So one should confidently try to eliminate these problems.

For example, one of our current issues is the issue of water in the country. This is one of the problems. One problem in the country is the shortage of water, and this will become a more important problem in the world in the very near future as well. Well, a scientific solution should be proposed. The same is true of environmental issues and even the issue of traffic. These are problems in life.  When you travel from one corner of Tehran to another, you have to sit in the car for an hour or an hour and a quarter, and this is truly difficult. Well, there is a solution for this. The solution must be found through science. There are also solutions for social problems and the problems of addiction, divorce, marginalization, migration from villages and the destruction of villages. Sometimes a manager is not sympathetic and does not want to look at these issues at all, but that is not the point of discussion now. Let us assume that managers want to solve the problem, then a scientific solution must be found, and a solution definitely exists. The same is true in other areas of management, the problems related to banking, the financial and tax system and the obstacles in the way of production. Well, this year’s slogan is “Eliminating Obstacles.” There are scientific solutions. These solutions should be determined scientifically. Later on, I will explain this more. There are tens of other matters that you should think about as well.

I was given a report showing that in some developed countries of the world, universities are often non-governmental and are private, but these non-governmental universities receive much funding from governments. How does this happen? The governments don’t just hand over great sums of money to universities. No, they speak of certain matters with the universities and ask them to find answers. Universities receive funding from the government in proportion with their ability to solve those issues. Well, this is very good. This is a problem-oriented approach in scientific areas, and this is an important, essential matter.

The need for the country to progress in the area of artificial intelligence

Well, I have written the word artificial intelligence in my notes under the heading “problem-oriented approach” so that I can discuss this matter with you. As it happens, one of the friends in the meeting raised this subject as well.  I suggest that artificial intelligence should be one of the issues that receives our serious attention, because it will play an important role in governing the future of the world. We should either work on this topic with the President’s Assistant for Science and Technology or in universities. We must be sure to be at least among the top ten countries in the world in terms of artificial intelligence, but we are not at present. Today, among the leading countries in the area of artificial intelligence – apart from the United States, China and the like that are at the top – there are some Asian and European countries as well, but we are not among them. Of course, there are more Asian countries apparently. Among the 10 top countries, there are more Asian countries. We must work to reach to being at least among the top ten countries in the world in this area.

Discouraging the academic elite and urging them to migrate to other countries is betraying the country

Another point regarding the academic elite is the issue of migration, which was also touched upon by one of the friends today. Well, sometimes a student wants to go to study in a country because of his intellectual needs or family reasons. This is alright. I have said many times that there is nothing to prevent doing this. The main issue is that they mustn’t forget that they are indebted to their country and that they should go study and come back. But what is wrong with urging people to migrate. I have been told – of course not today, this matter has existed for a long time – that there are individuals in some universities that encourage the academic elite to leave the country. I explicitly say that this is treason. This is enmity with the country and this is not befriending the youth. Today in our country, outstanding youth can grow. At some point, they can go to another country and come back. But if we disappoint a young person about the future of the country, discourage him and portray a dark picture of the future while urging him to migrate, I truly consider this to be an act of betrayal and this should be looked into.

Cultural obstacles are the most important obstacles preventing production

The next issue is “Eliminating Obstacles,” which I wanted to explain and which is the slogan of the year as well. I have written down that cultural obstacles are more important obstacles to preventing production than problems in operation and material obstacles. This means having a feeling of hopelessness, incapability, boredom, indetermination, having harmful entertainments and feeling there is no future. These are things that truly hamper production. In other words, a young person who can establish a knowledge-based company, do an important part of the work that needs to be done, and by doing so, create income for himself and for the country, might resort to harmful hobbies instead of doing hard work. Many individuals become busy with computers and the like. Many of them surf the net day and night, or night and day, without any aim, without any purpose, and without gaining anything from doing this. Being lazy, lacking determination and lacking the power to take risks are serious obstacles preventing production.

The need to be strict in the case of knowledge-based companies

Regarding knowledge-based companies, fortunately they have achieved good growth. Of course, based on statistics, I thought that there are about 6,000 of them. But today Dr. Sattari [the Vice President for Science and Technology] stated that there are 7,000 of them. Praise God, this is an important achievement and their number should continue to increase. But regarding their number, I think it was in the same meeting that I said that there should be strict regulations for being a knowledge-based organization. It should not be this way that we easily increase their number without paying attention to quality. Being knowledge-based requires certain regulations that should be complied with.

Of course, our large industries in the country are not knowledge-based, and this is a big drawback. Experts have told me that these small knowledge-based companies can be effective and they can also turn the large industries in the country, such as the automobile industry and the like, into knowledge-based organizations. If this is possible, it must be done.

The conditions for strengthening knowledge-based companies: Promoting their products and banning the import of their foreign counterparts

A necessary requirement for strengthening knowledge-based companies is to promote their products inside the country – later on, I will explain the issue of exports as well. Their products should be used inside the country. The way to do this is to ban the import of such products that are manufactured by foreign companies. Some people should not cause a commotion, such as in the case of household appliances, by saying, “Why did you say that the household appliances of such and such a country should not be imported?” The requisite to improving and strengthening domestic companies, with the ultimate goal of helping them to stand on their own feet, is to create a market inside the country for them. The domestic market is not a small one. This market should be given to domestic producers, in particular with regards to the administration and large organizations, which are their biggest customers. The administration, which is the biggest consumer of such products and industrial goods, should buy the things it needs from domestic knowledge-based companies so that imports do not break them. Of course, when we say that imports should be prohibited, this is for the sake of helping domestic factories and producers. However, domestic producers have certain duties as well. They should not raise the price of their products and lower their quality. Otherwise, such a recommendation will be completely useless.

The importance of exports and the role of various organizations in boosting them

So, one issue concerns the domestic market and another concerns the issue of exports. If there are no exports, there will not be the progress that there should be. Knowledge-based companies themselves can be active in this regard, and more importantly it is the administration that should be active in doing this. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry can help find foreign markets. The IRIB can help as well. There are some countries that have a good impression of Iran, but if they are asked to name two Iranian products, they cannot. The foreign section of the IRIB should promote these products. So, this is another issue.

The need to increase the share of knowledge-based companies in the GDP

Another issue is that I have been told that according to what Dr. Sattari has said, the share of knowledge-based companies in the GDP is less than one percent. Well, this is too little. This share of domestic production must definitely increase. It should at least reach five percent in the course of three to four years. They should make an effort to do this, God willing. I hope that God will help all of you. The time for the Call to Prayer is close and I will finish my statements.

The academic elite should be given managerial roles

I hope that God will bestow success on all of you. You should know that the future belongs to you. Our country belongs to you. You are the ones who will build the future of this country, and you are the managers of the future of the country. You must prepare yourselves and prepare the country as well. You can do this. Of course, I recommend that the officials and ministers in the country benefit from the youth. I frequently made this recommendation to the previous administration as well, but in certain cases, it was ignored. I make the same recommendation to the present administration. They should employ the youth in various managerial posts – including mid and low managerial positions that play an important role as specified by one of the friends in the meeting. They can employ them in high managerial positions as well. I make this recommendation to the administration in the hopes that it will be carried out. However, you too should prepare yourselves and find your own place. You yourselves should find your place and the role you wish to play in helping the country to progress. Your genius should show itself here as well. You should determine what your position will be and then, you should place yourselves in that position, struggle and work.

I hope that God, the Exalted, will protect you, God willing. You are the hope of the country and the nation. You are the dear children of the nation. God willing, God will keep you for the country. God willing, the pure souls of our martyrs and the immaculate soul of our magnanimous Imam will be pleased with us, and I hope that all of us will benefit from the pure prayers of the Imam of the Time (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake).

May God’s greetings, mercy and blessings be upon you.

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