Student Day Marked by Nationwide Protests
by JOSH SHAHRYAR
07 Dec 2010 20:09
Video: University students protest in Ghazvin
[ dispatch ] For the second time since the disputed presidential election of June 2009, Student Day in Iran was marked by a number of protests across the country. Even though the government had increased security in many cities, and in the vicinity of university campuses in particular, thousands showed up at schools far beyond Tehran to voice their discontent with the political establishment and to call for the immediate release of illegally imprisoned political activists.
Even though reports out of Iran were scarce today because of Internet and cell phone jams created by the government, activists managed to get out news of protests in Tehran, Tabriz, Ghazvin, Gilan, Zahedan, and possibly in Mashhad.
Early in the day, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had words of encouragement for their supporters. In a speech published on his Facebook page, Mousavi characterized hope as the loudest form of protest, and Karroubi told followers at a meeting in his home that victory for the Green Movement was near, though there were still hurdles to overcome.
Soon after the release of the statements, students in several cities left their dorms or turned up on their campuses to protest as planned.
The largest protests were reported at Tehran University's Faculty of Medicine, where students and professors held a demonstration about a thousand people strong -- they demanded political rights and the release of political detainees. A gathering of around a thousand students at Amir Kabir Polytechnic University sang patriotic songs and called for political prisoners to be freed.
Smaller protests were held at Tehran's Elm o San'at and Sharif universities.
In the northern city of Rasht, several hundred students gathered at the Polytechnic University. They were singing "Yaare Dabestani" when paramilitary Basij forces reportedly entered the university and tried to disrupt the protest. When that effort failed, the Basijis took three students hostage and declared that they would be released only if the others gave up and went home, according to the opposition Tagheer website. The protest continued with anti-government chants.
Protests of several hundred students were also reported at Tabriz University and Ghazvin's Azad University. In Ghazvin, protesters openly chanted the popular slogan "Death to the Dictator," before they were forcefully removed from the campus by security forces. The situation was even more tumultuous in Gilan, where at least three students were reportedly arrested in a gathering of hundreds at Gilan University.
Four students were arrested at Amir Kabir University in Tehran and another four at Tehran University, according to witnesses. One female student was also arrested at Darvazeh Shiraz in Isfahan, according to a source. But there were no news of protests at Isfahan University. In all, more than a dozen students were arrested; the final number may be significantly higher as more reports come through opposition sites and from independent witnesses.
Since yesterday, Tehran and other parts of Iran have witnessed an upsurge in security forces. Basijis, Revolutionary Guards, and city police were mobilized although there have been no reports of Guard forces taking part in clashes with students.
Students started protesting yesterday, a day before Student Day, but their numbers were small. By the early morning hours today, Tehran University resembled a crime scene with dozens of security forces stationed outside the school gates and black tarp covering the adjoining metal barrier walls.
Most students entering campuses in Tehran were asked for their identity cards and their names were registered by campus security, aided by security forces guarding the gates. Many of the students who entered the university reportedly took part in protests, even though their names had been written down. Even students who did not take participate could be arrested for being on campus on a day when there were anti-government demonstrations.
In Isfahan, however, the government took no chances and sent security forces to the city's largest campus, Isfahan University, to take control and keep students from gathering or taking part in protests. There were also reports that several hundred students attended a protest in Mashhad, but that could not be independently confirmed.
In Hamedan, students protested outside the gates of Bu-Ali Sina University, as security forces had entered the campus and were not allowing any students to enter.
Scattered reports of clashes kept coming from Iran through text messages, tweets, and opposition news sites and one source reported the use of tear gas in an alley next to Amir Kabir University. However, no injuries or deaths were reported from any city.
Marked annually on December 7, Student Day gatherings in the past used to be regime-sponsored. They were an occasion to commemorate the anniversary of the brutal killing of three Tehran University students by Iranian police in 1953 during the now defunct monarchy. But since last June's disputed election, this is the second year in a row that opposition supporters have hijacked the occasion to make demands for political reform and the release of political activists.
Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau