Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mass Arrest of Student Activists

Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir, Rooz Online:
Arrest of a large number of student activists and crackdown of students' and their affiliated organizations is a new scenario fully that is implemented by Iran’s paramilitary circles inside the universities, and by security and intelligence forces outside them. Based on recent reports, Peyman Piran, Farid Hashemi, Pouria Nematollahi, Yashar Ghader, Arash Gholizadeh, Farzad Khojastenia, Houman Kazemian, Omid Abbasgholizadeh and Abed Tavanche are among the students who were arrested in front of Tehran University and transferred to unspecified detention centers by security agents on Saturday. READ MORE

On Saturday, the third day of student demonstrations in Tehran University, students protested against the security atmosphere of the university, and the sacking of university professors. They are demanded the resignation of the chancellor of the university, the right to have student organizations and the end of the practice of summoning students to disciplinary committees. To confront the student protests, a large paramilitary and Basij (militia) force was called in and took a confrontational posture and measures. It is reported that more than 200 plain clothes security men, armed with cold weapons strolled the Law College of Tehran University and searching for specific students. They posted photographs of students they intended to arrest, while announcing, "This place is a military camp". Two students were reported to have been seriously injured by the clashes with the agents.

In an interview with Reuters, Abdollah Momeni, a former member of Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat, Iran's largest student organization confirmed the infiltration of security forces disguised as plain clothes men into the dormitory of Tehran University. According to him, more than 2000 students had gathered on the university campus, of which about 20 were arrested by the agents. Amir Kabir University student publication reported on Saturday that 100 soldiers were stationed at the university.

Students are also protesting the presence of the supreme leader's representative on campuses. In a letter addressed to the office of leader's representative in the nation’s universities, the Islamic Association of Amir Kabir University Students wrote, “The actions of the current cultural directors of the university have sparked angry reactions among students.” Restricting the activities of the arts and cultural centers, the unfair distribution of opportunities, the implementation of unreasonable policies on campuses, and the increasing pressures on independent student publications are among some of the issues, the letter stressed. Only a day after the release of the statement, Yashar Ghajar, a Polytechnic University student activist was arrested by security agents. Students responded the next day by carrying banners calling for his release. But the arrests continued. For example student activist Pooya Heibatollahi was arrested on his way out of Tehran University. Sazman-e Advar-e Tahkim news-site wrote this on the student unrest, “Pooya Heibatollahi was arrested by plain clothes men who carried firearms and was transferred to an undisclosed destination.”

The nation’s capital Tehran was witness to more student arrests during last week. Abed Tavanche, a member of Amir Kabir University Central Student Council has disappeared as of Saturday morning. Other students such as Farid Hashemi, Hooman Kazemian, and Peyman Piran were arrested at the Azeri speaking demonstrations in front of the Majlis (Parliament). According to Students Committee of Human Rights Reporters Ramin Sedighi, Hajr Soltani, Zohreh Mazloumi, Sadreddin Mousavi, Faranak Farshbaf, Yourosh Alibili, and Heydar Shadi are among other students who have been arrested.

Another report indicates that Sajjad Niknam who is the director of Urumieh University Student Association was also arrested by security agents last Thursday. According to these reports Niknam’s house was initially searched by intelligence agents who took his personal belongings with them in his absence. Later that day, government agents contacted his family members and asked them to instruct Sajjad to report himself to the Information Committee of the Intelligence bureau. Nasser Sobhani, the public relations officer for Orumie University Islamic Association told reporters, “Sajjad Niknam was arrested when he went to the Intelligence bureau and remains there till this moment.”

At the same time, student Salman Sima at Tehran Azad University was disbarred from continuing her schooling for one term by the university’s disciplinary board and was exiled to the Karaj campus of the university for another term. Mehdi Hassanzadeh the editor of suspended "Obour" publication of Razi University in Kermanshah has also been reportedly arrested. Hashem Mirzadeh and Yashar Hakkak were also student activists in Tabriz and Maragheh who are reported to be under arrest as of last week.

The turn of events during the last few weeks has completely changed the political terrain of Iran. While last year the head of Iran’s judiciary branch of government promised to free all imprisoned students, today the number of students behind bars, or those that have been banned from attending classes or even completely denied schooling has already risen several fold. And this despite the students’ initial pleas to government officials requesting them to attend to student grievances and requests relating to education issues.