Friday, October 30, 2009

The Movement Awakened

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Security offices and disciplinary committees have become a hub of activity at Iranian universities these days. The lines of accused students waiting to be processed for taking part in protesting the election outcome are creating a veritable traffic jam outside the doors of these offices. This traffic jam is indicative of one clear truth: those who ordered the crackdown on the students' movement, unaware that the sword they have been wielding has never been able to make a single cut, are still trying to take coercive measures instead of entering into dialogue with students. The student movement in Iran has a sixty-year history. For Iranians who experienced the fruits of the inauguration of the country’s first university, it was no less grand a political and nationalist movement as that of the nationalization of the oil industry. This was a movement whose leaders had mainly risen from the ranks of professors, students, and graduates of the university. With the expansion of higher education, this movement today enjoys greater power quantitatively, although previously it had regressed as a result of frustrations caused by the failure to develop an open society.

The student movement in Iran has three critical and momentous phases. The first phase of alliance led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, however this victory proved to have not been an auspicious beginning for the student movement. In subsequent years, the Islamic Republic started its crackdown and purge of those parts of the movement which adhered to leftist, liberal, and secular ideologies. The second phase of alliance, which formed on May 23 (2nd of Khordad), 1997, precipitated the presidential election victory of the liberal Mohammad Khatami. However, this time, too, in-fighting and the failure to secure equilibrium between reformists inside the establishment and those in civil society, who were asking for fundamental reforms, caused the student movement to formally announce its withdrawal from political activities. At this juncture, a segment of the student movement announced that it would continue to act as a human rights watchdog. (Read more...)