Paris, 10 Jul (IPS) As security forces arrested several students staging a peaceful sit in to commemorate the students uprising of 9 July 1999, Iranian authorities, in a new wave of crackdown of the media, accused the non governmental press of waging a "creeping coup" against the Government of the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad.
According to some report from Tehran, security forces arrested at least six members of the Central Council of the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), the largest organization of Iranian students who were staging a sit in at the gate of the Amir Kabir University to commemorate the revolts of 9 July 1999.
On the occasion of 9 July student's revolt, several students were arrested.
“Immediately after this first arrest, plainclothes men stormed with great violence the office of the Alumni’s Organisation of the OCU very early in the morning, fired in the air, broke the doors of the Organisation with outmost brutality and arrested all those present, menacing them with clubs and taking them to an unknown place”, the Advarnews site reported.
On 9 July 1999, the government of the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, on strict orders from Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, attacked with unprecedented violence thousands of Iranian students who, backed by the people, were protesting for five consecutive days the brutality of security forces during a night raid on students dormitories against some 200 to 300 students denouncing the closure of “Salam”, a popular newspaper for being the only independent voice among the media.
At the night, the plainclothes men had smashed students rooms, beaten them, burned some of them with cigarettes, and threw one of them from the window of the third floor.
Police, backed by the basij militias, anti-riot units and plainclothes men from the Intelligence and Interior ministries battled with students for several hours, made hundreds of arrests and ended the protest movement in blood.
The event became also the final divorce between Mr. Khatami and the students who, in 1997 presidential elections, were, along with women and the youngsters had played a major role in the surprise victory of Mr. Khatami, then an obscure, middle rank clergyman promising some freedom and democracy.
The Monday 9 July 2007 attack on the students at both Amir Kabir University and the Office of the student’s Alumni is part of a bigger crackdown undertaken by the “military-security government” of Mr. Amadi Nezhad against all his opponents, including scholars, economists, intellectuals and the press.
The government dismisses such charges, saying it allows free speech. Nevertheless, officials have spoken of a so-called "soft revolution," a perceived U.S. effort to use intellectuals and others to undermine the Islamic Republic's system of government.
Last week, the General Prosecutor of Tehran and the Islamic Revolution tribunals ordered the closure of Ham Mihan (compatriot), a pro-reform newspaper that had reappeared in May after an absence of seven years under the ownership of Mr. Qolamhoseyn Karbaschi, a former Mayor of Tehran.
At the same time, the staff of Labour News Agency ILNA stopped working following the resignation of its director, Mr. Mas’oud Heydari, who, because of its defence of the workers, it’s reporting of the miserable situation of the workers, teachers, small factories etc.. was considered as a “dark horse” by the Government.
In a letter carried on ILNA's website, Mr. Heydari indirectly hinted that he was resigning because of growing pressures from "those who oppose and want to restrain transparent reporting".
“I decided to resign in order to protect the agency from damages. ILNA has reflected the news of civil institutions, it knows about their problems, pains and demands", he wrote.
"There are some signs of a creeping coup in the press", Mr. Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi, the Islamic Guidance and Culture Minister had warned one day after the closure of Ham Mihan.
"When we say a creeping coup in the press, it means a person is moving within a framework of an action to overthrow (the system)", Mr. Saffar-Harandi, a former deputy Editor at the hard line dailyy “Keyhan” had said, adding: “When we say coup, it does not mean that some people in a garrison prepare an attack. It means people who are trying to destabilize the regime, the Government”.
In a new wave of crackdown, the independent media was accused of waging a "creeping coup" against the Government.
Earlier, the same Minister, a close friend of Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, the Editor of Keyhan and an advisor to both the Leader and the President had accused the independent and pro-reform press like Ham Mihan, Sharq or E’temad Melli (National Confidence), of playing he “cards of the enemy by waging a soft attack. (against the Government). The flag bearer of this attack is the media”.
Mr. Saffar Harrandi was echoing other accusations by the President’s advisors for the press.
“Creeping coup” was used by Mr. Mehdi Kalhor, one of the several such advisors, adding that “some newspapers inside the country are propagating ideas of the enemies. They are the front runners, the platoons of the enemies’’ cultural assault on our Islamic values and sacred system. They are in a creeping coup against the Government”.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the Head of the President’s press bureau was also accusing the press of “attacking the Government with the clear idea to uproot it. We don’t have to protect such a damaging press. Obviously, our support would go to the media that is not against us”, he had added.
"The black, unclean propaganda and the daily plots against the government plans and actions have turned into direct insults and mockery of the President", Mohammad Jafar Behdad said, quoted by the pro-reform “Shargh” newspaper.
Activists and analysts say because of rising international pressure on the country as a result of an escalating row with the West over Iran's nuclear activities and Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad’s inability to honnour his promises of a better life for the poor, the authorities have become increasingly intolerant of dissent, turning the screws on pro-reform students, campaigners on women's issues and labor movement figures.
“At a time that the Government must make itself ready for facing growing pressures both at home and abroad, it has lost confidence in itself. A recent poll by Baztab website shows that 80 per cent of the people who had voted for Ahmadi Nezhad say they regret their vote”, Mr. Abbas Abdi, a political analyst and journalist told the Adwarnews, the site of the Iranian student’s Alumni.
Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the spokesman for the Association for the Defence of Press Freedom and a veteran journalist who edited several popular newspapers all shut during the presidency of Mr. Khatami says the warnings of Mr. Saffar Harandi and other advisors of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad are “old and counter-productive”.
“Every time governments fail to deliver their promises, they try to create tensions and to evacuate the crisis via the press”, he told the Prague-based Radio Farda, the 24 hours Persian service of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty.
On direct orders from Mr. Khameneh’i, the Judiciary, which like all major institutions of the theocratic regime, is under his direct control, has closed more than 150 publications, most of the independent and pro-reforms.
According to Advarnews, some of the students arrested by the plainclothes security men at the Amir Kabir University are Mohammad Hashemi, Ali NikouNesbati, Mehdi Arabshahi, Bahareh Hedayat, Hanif Yazdani and Ali Vefqi.
Those arrested at the Office of the OCU Alumni are Abdollah Mo’meni, spekesman and member of the Central Council of OCU, Bahram Fayyaz, member of the Central Council, Habib Haj Heydari, head of the Public Relations, Mojtaba Bayat, former member of the OCU, Ezzatollah Qalandari, Morteza Eslah chi, Mas’oud Habibi, Sa’id Hoseyn Nia, Arash Khandel and Ashkan Abbasvand. ENDS CREEPING COUP 10707