Iran's science minister has called for universities to enforce strict sex segregation, saying allowing men and women to mingle on campus is a sign of the influence of alien western values, media reported on Wednesday.
Strict laws adopted after the 1979 revolution which founded the Islamic Republic bar any contact between men and women, but implementation of those rules varies widely. Conservative politicians have often called for stricter observance.
"The problem is our universities were built based on western values ... that are not compatible with our Iranian-Islamic values," Science Minister Kamran Daneshjou was quoted as saying by Javan daily.
Segregation affects some parts of daily life in Iran. Women have to travel in the rear section of buses, and can opt to take women-only shared taxis and visit specially assigned public parks where men are not allowed.
But most university classrooms are not segregated.
"The gender segregation law must be carried out if it does not bring a halt to routine activities," Daneshjou said.
The minister suggested male and female students use areas such as laboratories or computer rooms at separate times if it is not possible to provide separate facilities.
Universities have always been a battleground for varying interpretations of Islamic norms in Iran. The Education Ministry announced last October it was restricting certain disciplines deemed too "Western", such as sociology, philosophy, psychology and political sciences.
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