In Iran, the national day of protest in solidarity with students struggle for democracy is approaching fast (July 9, 2004). What is in the cards?
The forth anniversary of the midnight attacks on Tehran University student dorms is approaching fast (July 9th). The eyewitness accounts of Islamists “student sacrifice” is chilling and still remains in people’s mind as vivid as the night it happened. The dreadful sequence of events is rehashed in the daily newspapers day after day. Eyewitnesses say that at about mid night on July 9th 2000, Islamists broke into the dorms barging into student rooms, bashing everything on their way (computers, desks, beds and bookshelves), and writing Islamic graffiti on the walls. Then they went on to grab a number of young student residents of the halls by their arms and legs swinging them in the air mercilessly and finally throwing them out of the windows of these tall buildings. All the while shouting violently “accept this sacrifice our mighty Imam”. The police had done nothing to stop the intruders and the incident left a number of students dead and many more wounded. Before this attack on the students, for many years December 7th was coined to honor student struggle against imperialist forces in Iran. On December 7th 1954 three university students were shoot dead by the then Shah of Iran’s army commandos. At the time, student protests had flared up as a result of Nixon’ unpopular visit to Iran.
Since 1954, much has changed in Iran and the country has gone through many social and political upheavals. Nevertheless, university students still play a major role in shaping the public’s social and political opinion. In today’s Iran the students start almost every protests and are amongst the leaders of the struggles for freedom and democracy in Iran. The student movement in Iran is respected for its strong commitment to liberation and its numerous sacrifices throughout modern Iranian history. Amongst the most recent and brutal Islamists attacks on students were the July 9th attacks.
During the latest wave of public protests that swept across Iran in June 03, four thousand protestors have been arrested. The Islamic government claims that a great majority of the protestors are “undesirable”, “anti revolutionary” elements that are being supported by foreign powers specially the United States. However, it is abundantly clear to the people I have spoken to that the reason for dissatisfaction with the Islamic regime is simply their record of governance during the past 25 years. And the undemocratic ways that unwanted, and in many cases publicly know frauds, are placed in charge of critical government posts. Many Iranian courts are currently attending to numerous such cases, which are often finally abandoned because of the political influence of high-ranking government officials who themselves have benefited from the circumstances.
At present, hunger strikes and student sit-ins continue across many universities in Iran (University of Isfahan, University of Mashhsd, Shiraz University, and Alameh-Tabatabaee University in Tehran). Student protestors demand the release of their fellow student detainees. The Islamic government continues to deny that the great majority of those who were arrested are in fact university students. The regime has gone a step further and announced that no permits will be issued for demonstrations or peaceful public protest to commemorate July 9th (the National Day of Protest and Solidarity with University students and their demands). Everyone I have spoken to is appalled at this shameless gesture of the Islamic regime, which has triggered terrible additional anger in the public.
At a time like this, the opposition groups (Student organizations, Women’s groups, and the nationalist religious groups) are trying to form a coalition, plan a strategy, in an attempt to direct people’s boiling anger towards constructive and useful political ends. However, it is unfortunate to say that after at least two months of continuous struggle to articulate demands nothing has transpired yet. Four days is left to the national day of protest and the various opposition groups continue their silence on a collective course of action to be taken by the frustrated public. A contemporary Iranian writer and columnist had a modest suggestion. He said, “why not call for a public referendum asking the people whether or not they sill stand behind the old Islamic Constitution?” Practically everyone in Iran knows that the answer will be “No” to the Islamic constitution and “Yes” to immediate elections of representatives to start writing the new constitution.