WSJ: Iranian Students Stage Protests

Photo: Archive
BEIRUT—Iranian students staged antigovernment protests nationwide Tuesday, turning an annual commemoration of student political activism into an opportunity to voice opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the regime that backs him.

Videos posted online showed students marching across campus grounds with green banners—the color of the opposition—holding pictures of jailed students, and chanting "death to the dictator" and "free student prisoners."

Security forces responded with a heavy security deployment, and at least eight arrests, according to the student website Daneshjoo. Official media didn't cover the protests or report any arrests.

Riot police and security forces surrounded Tehran University, the epicenter of student activism, according to witnesses and online videos. Iranian law prohibits security forces from entering the campus, but students said as many as 400 plainclothes militia members had entered to intimidate students.

Security forces built scaffolding around the entire campus and covered it with tents, in an apparent attempt to cut off communication between student protestors inside and passersby outside, according to videos and witness accounts.

"The university is practically under siege, no one can get in and no one can get out safely. It shows the government is still very scared of us," said a student from Tehran University.

Security forces lined up cars, buses and motorcycles for miles along the tree-lined Enghelab Avenue, where a little over a year ago millions of Iranians staged protests for change and democracy, videos showed.

Authorities have responded regularly with heavy security-force deployments since protests erupted across Iran after the disputed 2009 presidential election.

Iranian students have commemorated National Student Day on Dec. 7th since 1953, when the Shah's forces opened fire on student demonstrations at Tehran University, killing three students. The day symbolizes struggle against dictators, and has drawn large protests against the Islamic Republic's regime in recent years.

Student activists in Iran said that under the past year's crackdown on the opposition and student activism, their demands have grown.

"A lot of students hoped until last year that the Islamic Republic could be reformed but many of us think this system needs a complete overhaul," said a student from a northeastern city in Iran.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, as well as former Presidents Mohamad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, issued statements of support for the occasion and encouraged students to not give up.

"You must have hope; you must try and not fear the heavy price you have to pay," Mr. Khatami said in a statement posted on Iranian websites.

Iranian human-rights organizations and student activist groups contend at least 100 students are in jail because of their political views and hundreds more have been banned from continuing their education.


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