Tehran, 29 May (IPS) In a major uprising against the policies of the new fundamentalist President, Iranian students renewed with their protest movement, dealing Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad his major blow.
According to Iranian analysts, the new students unrest is in response to Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad’s crackdown on the reformist press and the intelligentsia community, his unconsidered statements and hard line foreign policy that is endangering the security of the population and the integrity of the nation as well as his policies to islamise the society.
The new students unrest is in response to Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad’s crackdown on the reformist press and the intelligentsia community, his unconsidered statements and hard line foreign policy that is endangering the security of the population and the integrity of the nation.
Besides having jailed Mr. Ramin Jahanbaglou, a respected Iranian scholar, philosopher and researcher on dubious charges that have so far not been made public, the authorities have shut down at least three publications, amongst them the “Iran Daily” published by the official news agency “IRNA”, curtailing the pro-reform Labour News Agency ILNA by forcing the expulsion of tens of its staff and closing or filtering scores of internet sites and weblogs.
The reason for the closure of Iran Daily was the publication, two weeks ago, in the children’s page its Friday supplement of a cartoon that the Iranian Azeri (Turkish) speaking community considered as insulting to them, resulting in days of unrest in most Azeri cities of the north-western provinces of Eastern and Western Azerbaijans, including in the universities of Tabriz and Urumiyeh as well as in Tehran, where thousands of Azeris demonstrated in front of the Majles, or the Parliament against the cartoon – a baby cockroach addressed by a baby asks him in Azeri “what you say?”.
In Tabriz, were the anti-cartoon protests had turned into anti Government demonstrations, authorities banned all gatherings, but eyewitnesses said in violent clashes between angry mobs and the anti-riot units backed by Hezbollah militias, at least four people were killed.
The incarceration of Mr. Jahanbaglou, how has also a Canadian citizenship, has triggered a wave of national and international protests, with hundreds of Iranian scholars and intellectuals in side and outside the country signing petition calling for his “immediate and unconditional liberation”.
Contrary to statements by the Iranian authorities, several universities in the Capital Tehran and other major cities continue to be the theatre of a new wave of student’s unrests and score of students activists have been arrested.
Eyewitnesses reported that students were chanting anti-regime slogans, such as "We don't want nuclear energy" and "Forget Palestine - think of us" or “Tanks, machineguns, have no impact” etc.. prompting university officials to call for the security forces and the pro-government basiji students to face the demonstrators.
Though the local press had been ordered not to report the unrests at the universities, some media however, mostly outside the country, confirmed rioting of the students against the Islamic authorities and clashes with security forces, backed by the so-called basiji students, who are on the government’s payroll.
According to the pro-reformist internet daily “Rooz” (Day), more than 500 members of riot-control units have besieged campuses at the main Tehran University as well as Amir Kabir and Sharif Polytechnic universities, where members of the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), Iranian student’s largest organization, clashed with the Basijs and police forces.
According to well-informed sources, the students started demonstrating after the new dean of Tehran University, Ayatollah Abbas’ali Amid Zanjani, installed by the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, purged the Faculty of Law from several respected and popular professors known for their pro-reformism.
What angered the students was that Mr. Zanjani, whom the students say can barely read and write, ejected the professors on 2 Khordad, (coinciding with 23 May), the day Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami was elected for the first time nine years ago and started the reform movement.
The authorities blamed the unrest on trouble-makers disguised as students and the ultra-conservative daily “Kayhan”, a mouthpiece of Ayatollah Khameneh’i, called the student leaders "representatives of the American Congress in Tehran University" and said that the “rioters” had come from outside the university.
Revolutionary Guard General Morteza Tala’i, commander of the Greater Tehran Police told the Iranian Students News Agency “ISNA” that no more than 100 students had gathered at the campus gates, and 20 or 30 of them started throwing stones, sticks and firebombs at security forces and homes in the area".
“The police reacted with restraint and made great efforts to curb the demonstrators throwing the firebombs... but [the students] paid no heed... Only in the morning did the police raid the university, making arrests and clearing the area, with the help of municipal forces... During this activity, three students were injured while attempting to climb onto the roof of the dormitory building".
The cartoon published in Iran Daily was a spark, but the real reason for the unrests in Azarbaijan is that people´s demands have not been met.
Contrary to previous news reporting more than 40 students arrested during the riots, Mr. Tala’i said only eight student leaders were arrested, and, according to eyewitnesses quoted in Rooz, 25 of those under siege in the campus were wounded, five of them severely.
Also, while the authorities claim that only 100 students were involved in the riots, independent sources on the scene said 3,000 of the 4,000 students attending the main campus, and another 2,000 from the law and political science campus were taking part in the protests.
According to other eyewitnesses, "police riot-control units entered the campus with helmets, shields, and clubs, and beat students so severely that many can't even walk." A campus security guard told a Rooz reporter: "We were told that we were permitted to use violence against the students, but not to hit them on their heads or their faces, in order to avoid leaving marks. We were told not to be respectful towards any student, unless he is a member of the Basij student union."
They also reported that Iranian security forces fired live bullets, and that shots were fired at homes outside the university. One of the students told Rooz: "The university campus is on fire, raids are being conducted throughout the campus, and the students are in fear and anxiety... Gunfire is heard from all directions... There is blood everywhere". The university's telephone lines were reported to have been cut.
The new wave of students unrests started a month ago when, on the proposal of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, the government decided to burry remains of “martyrs” of the Iraq-Iran War in the campuses of universities across the nation.
The action triggered immediate protest from students, refusing campuses becoming the playground of zealot islamist and families of the martyrs, with the aim of opening the doors of the universities open to security forces.
Like in the case of universities troubles, or the unrests in several provinces like the oil-rich Khouzestan, Sistan and Balouchistan or Kurdistan, situated respectively in south-west, north-west and east of the Capital, the authorities blamed the situation on “foreigners’ agents” and “professional trouble-makers getting orders from the enemies” instead of accepting the fact that the regime is unpopular and the rulers discredited.
The "enemy", for the Iranian ruling officials is, besides the Great American Satan" the dynamic, active, prosperous Iranian Diaspora with which Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, on advises from the leader, is trying to cut all links.
“The cartoon published in Iran Daily was a spark, but the real reason for the unrests in Azarbaijan is that people´s demands have not been met”, said the representative of Urumiyeh in the Majles, resuming the problems the regime faces. ENDS STUDENTS UNREST 29506