STUDENTS CELEBRATES 9 JULY ANNIVERSARY AMIDST ANGER AND FRUSTRATION
By Safa Haeri
PARIS 9 July (IPS) As students in Tehran and their supporters outside Iran prepare to commemorate, in various forms and ways, the second anniversary of the pro-reform students "uprising" of 9 July 1999 in Tehran, Tabriz and other campus, a students leader warned the authorities to change their attitude or face "terrible consequences".
The uprising, the most serious and widespread since the victory of the Islamic revolution on 1979, the protest movement had started after the Law Enforcement Forces, backed by pressure groups and special units of the Intelligence Ministry attacked some 200 to 300 student who were protesting on July 8 the closure of the popular "Salam" daily, the pioneer of the reformist publications.
Started after a savage night raid, the protest movement was crushed six days latter, as it had turned gradually into an open protest against both the regime and itís leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenehe'i, whose posters were torn and set afire.
Press reports at the time said the number of fatalities and injured was much higher. Rioting was eventually put down on July 13, after the intervention of the LEF, the Basij forces and the Ansar Hezbollah militants, all of them under the authority of the leader.
What appalled the students was the siding of President Mohammad Khatami with the conservatives in condemning the movement.
Two years latter, while several students are still kept behind bars, including Mr. Ahmad Batebi, a young student arrested after his picture, demonstrating a blood-stained T-shirt of a wounded friend, appeared on the front page of the influential weekly "The Economist" of London, no one among the attackers was punished, despite repeated calls from students and pro-reform press.
According to Mr. Batebiís father, though the health of his son is deteriorating, yet he refuse to demand for pardon, as "this would prove that my son is guilty", he said recently.
Mr. Davood Soleimani, a former Deputy Chancellor of Tehran University and a present deputy from Tehran who was the witness of the savage night raid, some 70 students are still in prisons.
The Interior Ministry said Saturday that no group had asked permission to stage demonstration on July 9.
A spokesman for the Office of Consolidating Unity (OCU), the largest students organisations, confirmed, saying his group had decided to hold some "peaceful and civilised" ceremonies inside the University campus, including offering President Khatami a "peace and friendship" award!
"This gathering will be held on 9 July, named as the "National Day Against Violence" and in co-operation with the Office to Consolidate Unity", the pro-reform daily "No Rooz" quoted Mr. Hamid Choubineh, a member of Tehran University's Islamic Student Association, as sayings.
Quoting an Interior Ministryís source, Tehran Radio said any anniversary rally outside the campus would be illegal".
But some organisations, including the Association of National Iranian Students and Alumni (ANISA) are planning to stage demonstrations "in front" of the University.
Mr, Manoochehr Mohammadi, the leader of ANISA was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, charged by the authorities of "intelligence" with foreign countries and Iranian "counter-revolutionaries" abroad.
Arrested after returning to Tehran from a trip made to Europe and the US, a visibly tortured Mohammad "confessed" to his "collaboration with the enemies".
Commenting the events, its aftermath and students expectations for Iran Press Service, Mr. Mohammad Ganji a spokesman for the Association of National Iranian Students and Alumni (ANISA) blamed Mr. Khatami for the demise of Iranian students movements.
"Unfortunately, from 18 Tir (9 July 1999) until now, Mr. Khatamiís government never showed a favourable reaction to this case. Actually, his silence was one of the reasons leading to the ferocious suppressing of the students movement on those bloody days. The left faction (pro-reform) also emptied the rear of the students, collaborated with the reactionaries. Not only Mr. Khatami and the left wing did not supported the students, but also they back stepped, changed even their language concerning the students", Mr. Ganji said.
In his view, since Mr. Khatami is himself an "integral part" of the clerical leadership, therefore, he cannot speak for the students.
"His so-called support of our demands was not because his respect for otherís opinion, but a reaction to both the public and the press pressure", he added.
"The same with the so-called reformist-dominated Majles (parliament) that started work with promises never upheld, like that of investigating the 18 Tir crime or military forces entering the universities. Two years after the tragedy, they have done nothing", he observed, insisting that two years after the "tragic and bloody" events of 9 July, the studentís demands for justice have not changed.
"We still want all those who ordered the police and other thugs to attack on the night of 9 July and those who directed the operations to be identified and tried in open courts", Mr. Ganji said, speaking from Tehran.
"What we are after is the unconditional release of all the students and other political prisoners, a free and open trial, with the presence of lawyer and the press, for all those accused of activities against the regime", he said.
Asked if the students have still any hope to see the authorities satisifying their basic demands, Mr. Ganji sounded pessimistic.
"The fact is that after two years of the tragedy, we see that no one has been presented as culprit, responsible for the crime. While everyone agrees that a crime had been committed, yet no criminals have been arrested and brought to justice", Mr. Ganji pointed out.
Asked why therefore students continue to support him, Mr. Ganji said one must not forget the 30 percent of the voters who did not vote, "among them a majority of students", he explained.
Expressing the students "despair" of the leadership "revising and correcting" its attitude following the "debacle" of July 1999, Mr. Gani said the "salute" would come "only" after the students have organised themselves into a united front, becoming the locomotive of reforms.
"Until now, our hope was to see the regime proceeds to auto-criticism of its behaviour and actions, to modernise itself, to revise. But after a laps of two years, I honestly donít think any sound and logic soul would insist on the same futile hopes", he said.
However, he put most of the blames on the students.
"Unfortunately, the students are very divided. Our actions are not co-ordinated. We dramatically lack understanding and tolerating of each other. At the same time, while the public media are monopolised by one special faction, the absence of the independent press has increased our distance with the society", Mr. Ganji further observed.
Conceding that the regime has infiltrated the studentís organisations in order to prevent them forming a "strong, united force", Mr. Ganji regretted that seeking reforms had become a "monopoly" of pro-Khatami groups.
"Right now, all the studentís groups that call for real democracy and freedoms instead of reforms version Mr. Khatami, are accused as traitors, their guilt being of not fully abiding by his reforms", he argued, suggesting to "end this shameful process of tagging".
"As a conclusion, we think that neither this government or the Majles are of any help to our cause for the opening up of the political climate, the introduction of democracy and freedom. Past are the days the students would carry Mr. Khatamiís poster on all occasions, going as far as comparing him to Dr. Mosadeq (the nationalist Prime Minister who nationalised Iranian oil industries and was toppled in 1953 in a CIA-Intelligence Service sponsored coup). ENDS STUDENTS UPRISING 9701