TEHRAN 7 Dec. (IPS) Hundreds of Iranian students celebrated the national Student Day on Sunday, calling for freedom of speech and the release of political prisoners.

Because the authorities had refused authorisation to organise demonstrations outside the universities and even in the open campuses, the students held their meetings inside auditoriums, preventing basiji students, the islamist vigilante who are on the payroll of the ruling conservatives from disturbing them, as they had done previously with Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace laureate for 2003.

The annual Student Day marks the death of three students during a protest at Tehran University against former U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to in 1970.

This year’s commemoration was named "Half a century of struggle against despotism".

Students have been at the forefront of protests against the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment in recent years, and a pillar of the surprise and landslide victory of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in both the May 1997 and his re-election in 2001.

But as Mr Khatami got closer to the ruling conservatives and the reformers who, thanks to the youngster’s votes, won the majority of the seats at the present Majles, or the Iranian Parliament, the students became more and more disillusioned.
For the second strait year, Mr. Khatami failed to show up at the ceremonies, bringing the divorce between him and the official reformists who support him to the point of no return, political analysts pointed out, as he offered a deft ear to the plight of hundreds of students arrested on orders from the Judiciary.
Under tight police security, protesters inside the Tehran University campus on Sunday carried pictures of their jailed classmates.

Eyewitnesses told Iran Press Service that police stopped thugs of the conservatives-controlled Ansar Hezbollah in plainclothes to attack students, but also prevented journalists and photographers to enter the universities.

"Also a lot of people tried hard to come to the University to check if anything would happen, something like the nightly demonstrations that took place last months when students, joined by local residents, would demonstrate against the regime, but were stopped by security forces", one Iranian journalist at the scene reported.

In protest to both Khatami and the reformists failing to stand firm to the conservatives stopping the application of the promised political, social and economic reforms, the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), the nation’s biggest student movement, withdrew its influential political support for Khatami and his allies.

According to political analysts, the bulk of the students would either refrain from voting in the forthcoming Majles elections, due next February, or if they do, they would not vote for the reformists, who faces a defeat similar of the one they suffered in the last February cities and villages elections.

''Reformists used our votes as a political tool and in return we got broken promises. They forgot us", Matin Meshkini, a student leader, told the British news agency "Reuters".
''Khatami and his allies will not receive our support due to Khatami's failure to use the opportunities to push the reforms ahead'', Meshkini said.

As the inside doors meetings and speeches ended, hundreds of students rallied outside universities doors, some chanting overt anti-regime slogans such as chanting slogans such as "Hashemi, Hashemi, Iran will not become Chili", referring to both Ayatollahs Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmood Hashemi Shahroodi, respectively hard line Heads of the Expediency Council and the Judiciary, or "Canons, Tanks, Basiji" would have no effects".

The students also denounced the attitude of the leader-controlled Radio and Television, shouting "The Voice and Visage of Larijani must be shut", referring to the openly biased policy adopted by Mr. Ali Larijani, the Head of the State-controlled public media, a former revolutionary guard who is also an adviser to the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.

In speeches at various universities, students denounced the violence of the pressure groups, including the so-called basiji students inside the universities, the regime’s injustices by dividing the society in the "khodi and na khodi" (those who are with the minority but ruling conservatives and the rest of the population), generalised corruption at the highest level of the theocratic system, free elections outside the control of the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians.

They also denounced the brutal behaviour of the authorities during the July 1999 students upraising that left several students killed and wounded and the arrest of hundred others on direct order of Mr. Khameneh’i and the approbation of Mr. Khatami. ENDS STUDENTS DAY 71203