Thursday, September 24, 2009

Iranian Universities Will Not Be Silent

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Rooz Online

The trend of summoning, interrogating and barring student activists in Iran from continuing their higher education has picked up momentum as universities are scheduled to reopen shortly. These measures to deprive students are so appalling that Iran’s largest student organization, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat (DTV), issued a statement condemning the trend and calling it “student apartheid.” We discussed this issue with DTV’s secretary, Mehdi Arabshahi. Noting that the “country’s social and political affairs have turned into a complete mess since June 12,” Arabshahi tells Rooz that, “The regime is now extremely anxious. Given that people’s protests haven’t subsided after one hundred days of protests, and because witnessed people inadvertedly coming out on their own on Qods Day (a day of solidarity with the people of Palestine), the regime is concerned that the opening of universities will inject fresh blood into the green movement’s veins.” Commenting on the possibility of closing universities for a semester, Arabshahi says, “The first priority of Islamic republic authorities is the security issue. If they have concluded that popular protests will grow when universities reopen, then they will consider closing them.

But I believe they are pursuing a different approach which is that they have summoned 20 students to disciplinary committees at every university and at some universities such as those in Zanjan and Hamadan, they have issued default judgments that bar students from continuing their education for a semester or even as the students weren’t aware of such a decision against them.” According to Arabshahi, student activists from Tehran University have also been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and pressured to remain silent. Arabshahi warns against the danger of a second cultural revolution, which is allegedly in process. “In light of the discussions that have taken place about the humanities,” says Arabshahi, “it is possible that the regime will purge universities of professors and students, and will administer fundamental changes in the textbooks.” “Iranian society paid for similar measures in the 1980s and fell behind in research and technology for several years.

It can’t afford to go through the same issues again. I have no doubt that there will be serious protests against such measures should they come,” he said. Meanwhile, DTV issued a statement yesterday blasting the recent treatment of student activists. The statement was released while a court in the city of Babol sentenced eight students to 33 months of prison, 60 months of probation and a 25-year suspension from pursuing higher education. The statement notes, “Coup forces have focused their oppression on universities and university students” ahead of university’s new term that opens on September 23. DTV writes, “Student apartheid practices that were vehemently denied by the administration and its ministry of sciences until now have become a regular occurrence and enjoy the farce legal backing of the judiciary.”