Saturday, June 17, 2006

Universities Not Become Military Camps

Dana Shahsavari, Rooz Online:
In their first press conference, the new student members of the Islamic Association of Amir Kabir University warned that they will not allow universities to be turned into prisons or military camps. They stressed that they would resist such moves to the end and protect the life of the academia.

This press conference was scheduled to begin at 10:30am on Tuesday, but university officials ordered the campus police to prevent any visitors who did not display a university ID card from entering the campus buildings. As a result, many guests, university teachers and parents face the rude gatekeepers who simply turned them away. READ MORE

Faced with angry reaction by students and some members of the association, university security agents claimed that they had been ordered by the university intelligence office to prevent suspicious individuals from entering the university.

For their conference, the new members of the association moved to the eastern wing of the campus and, putting up two tables close to the university fence, spoke with reporters about their demands and issues.

Students at Amir Kabir had been on strike for some 8 days now, protesting a ban on the elections for the association officers, and also the arrest of Abed Tavancheh and Yashar Qajar. Matin Meshkin, the secretary of the association’s election office said that many individuals had tried to block the debates over the elections and minister of education and his representatives inside the university were among them.

He pointed out that the main battle was between the university students on one side and the Basij (para-military force that is organized under the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards) and the representative of the leader of the Islamic regime (i.e. ayatollah Khamenei) in the university on the other. He told reporters that students were determined to work in the spirit of cooperation while the other side wished to dissolve the student association, which eventually led to the student protests and strikes.

He warned that protesting students would not allow the university to be turned into a military camp. We believe interference in student affairs is an assault on student’s independence and request Mr. Ahmadinejad to spare the university of his mercy", Meshkin said in a reference to what the president has said are his policies.

Pointing to students' protests and strikes, Alireza Gharegozlou, another member of the student association said, "Student protests on May 20 were spontaneous and they called for their legal and professional rights, while the association believes that the university’s management is responsible for the illegal misconduct that provoked the protests".

According to these student leaders, when officials failed to ban the student association elections, they arrested Abed Tavancheh and Yashar Qajar. Officially, no one has taken the responsibility for their detention in Evin prison, according to Ali Azizi, an elected member of the association.

He warned that students would not remain silent or passive if the student arrests led to the broadcast of fake and forced confessions on national television, practice that is common by governments in Iran.

Another new student association member Mehdi Saeedpour said that while students used to be accused of secularism, university officials have gone overboard in accusing students of having relations with foreigners or linking them to Jondollah terrorist group.

Somayeh Mirershad, an elected member said that the university would blossom only if it remained independent from power players, adding that the new association would pay special attention to cultural and legal rights of students.

Pointing to the new trend of cracking down on university students and professors, Abbas Hakimzadeh, another member of the new central council warned, “If we do not achieve our goals through government agencies, then we will refer the issues and our demands to international bodies.”

This unprecedented press conference continued while former and new members of the student body entered their eighth day of strike. Their demands were not too complicated. Their banners simply read: "Free Asher and Abed", "Don't impose intelligence views", etc.