TOPICS : Iranian youth unfazed by arrests, suppression

When six members of Iran’s largest students’ organisation, ‘Office to Foster Unity’, risked arrest and indefinite imprisonment to stage a sit-in demonstration last week, it was a measure of their determination to take on the suppressive, hardline regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As expected, security and police officials arrested the six outside Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT) on Monday as they demonstrated to commemorate the anniversary of the July 9, 1999 crackdown on the student movement.

The offices of former members of the student body still active under the name of Office to Foster Unity Alumni Organisation were raided later and ten more activists were arrested. Security personnel fired in the air, smashed doors and took away documents and computers, Advar News, the alumni organisation’s news portal reported. “A day before the anniversary of July 9 the AUT’s public relations announced the electricity would be caught off the next day for repairs and the university would be closed, but it was obvious they just wanted to upset students’ plans to commemorate July 9,” a student activist said.

“The sit-in of the Office to Foster Unity central council members who were holding placards commemorating July 9 and protesting the continued detention of eight AUT students began six in the morning. They were arrested and whisked away around,” he said.

Eight years ago on July 9, 1999 the campus of Tehran University was raided by the police, security people, plainclothesmen and vigilantes. Dormitory rooms and students’ belongings were destroyed or burned and the students themselves, many of them sleeping in their rooms and unaware of the happenings outside, were brutally beaten. Some students were thrown out from windows and rooftops. Tens of students were seriously injured and one student was shot dead by vigilantes.

“There are two reasons for suppressing students. One is that the hardline fanatics are repulsed and angered by the youth’s indifference to their values. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the President’s hardline mentor, recently complained about what he considers moral corruption among university students. Their other motivation is fear of losing the coming parliament elections,” an analyst in Tehran requesting not be quoted by name said.

“Hardliners failed to unite and they lost a considerable number of seats to reformists in the city and village council polls a few months ago. Winning in parliament elections is even more vital. If hardliners are to win the next elections, they’ll have to do everything in their power to silence rivals,” he said.

“Reformists, encouraged by the results of their unity in the previous election, are successfully gathering around Khatami whose popularity is on the increase again. Hardliners have no other choice than suppressing the pro-reforms students and putting pressure on political parties and the press to guarantee themselves a hassle-free victory,” the analyst added. — IPS