Sunday, May 28, 2006

Student Unrest in Tehran

Dana Shahsavari, Rooz Online:
In the third day of the protests of students at Tehran University, the casualties already include 18 students who have been temporarily fired and 5 teachers or professors who have been coercefully asked to retire.

Toorang, police’s public relations officer for the Greater Tehran told ISNA news agency that a group of “pseudo-students” appeared among students at the Tehran University campus and by taking over the control of a section, engaged in attacking passing vehicles and public property. He added that those who were directing the violence were not university students.

Tehran’s police chief too spoke of the arrest of 8 “pseudo-students” in connection with yesterday’s student protests, claiming that between 20 to 30 opportunists participated in the violence. READ MORE

On the other hand, Gamsari, the student deputy of Tehran University has said that some of the student demands were raised under the cover of other demands, but they had crossed the government’s red line of tolerance.

And while there are no reports in local publications or news agencies, the conservative pro-government Keyhan newspaper carried a story under the heading of: The violence of Representative of the American Congress in Tehran University.” In its special report, it wrote, “Yesterday using the pretext of the resignation of some teachers from the College of Law of Tehran University, a group of students belonging to Daftare Tahkim Vahdat (Office of Student Solidarity which is the largest student organization in Iran) staged a protest and disrupted classes on campus. A few days earlier, this group which is led by Ali Afshari and Akbar Atri who had gone to the US Congress and given a speech against the regime and the Iranian nation, thus adding another shameful chapter to this student organization, has been trying over the past few days to disrupt the calm atmosphere of the scientific centers of the country through violence and clashes.”

Students on the other hand, report a completely different story. In short, they say that students from Tehran University staged a demonstration outside the campus to commemorate 2 Khordad elections (i.e. the day when on May 23 of 1997 Mohammad Khatami was elected president and launched a reform movement in the country) and to protest the transgressions of university authorities into student and teacher domains. Students chanted slogans such as We do not want nuclear energy” and “Leave Palestine to itself, Focus on Us”. They also requested a change in the management organization of the institution and the manner in which the university community was treated.

One student who had climbed the fence of the campus told Rooz Online that there were clashes all over the campus and that students lived in fear. He added that at the entrance to the campus, there were many shoes and sandals, and that there was a lot of blood that had been spilled. He further contended that there were at least 12 individuals who had been hurt in the clashes 5 of whom were in critical condition, while there was no way to take them to a hospital. We students have not wanted any clashes, but the law enforcement force acts in a way as if it wants to deny us any peaceful event. While we want both sides to retreat, they strive to assault and enter the campus,” he said. “If they retreat, we too shall return,” he added. He also said that the police was extremely brutal in its attacks so that many students could not even walk away from the scene on their own.

Last Wednesday too most of the universities in Tehran witnessed unrest. Campus police whose force has tremendously increased in size since the beginning of the Persian year (March 22, 2006), and during the last 48 hours has put more officers in the field. Being novices may partly explain the extreme brutality used by the force in these events. Azeri students who had staged their own demonstration to protest the publication of insulting cartoons in pro-government Iran newspaper also joined the students in their calls. They began their strike at the Pardis College of Literature and continued for a few hours.

Reporters who had been assigned to cover the event were stopped by the campus police and not allowed to enter it, even though one can always talk to students through the railed fence of the school. Azeri students demonstrated on the campus of Tehran University under a banner that read “We are Turks” and ended their march after issuing a declaration in which they called for the restoration of the suppressed rights of Turkish speaking Iranians.

Yet another protest was staged at Tehran University’s College of Law and Political Science in which some 2,000 students participated. These students protested the assaults on the students on campus and the arrests of other students. This group which began gathering at about noon, ended its demonstration at about 7pm with an ultimatum that if student demands were not met by Saturday, they would again stage new protests.

Observers have estimated the size of these protests to be the largest since the unrest two years ago this month. Students from Allame-Tabatabai, Amir Kabir and Khaje Nasir universities too joined the protesting students from Tehran University.

Students ended their protest and demonstrations after reading their statement of demands, which included the return of dismissed teachers. They also demanded an apology from officials for violating their student rights, the release of 5 arrested students, the removal of security measures on campus, recognition of their right to organize and remain active, an investigation into the situation of the dismissed students and also the group summon of students before the university disciplinary committee.
A must read.