Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Iranian Regime Arrests Scores of Student Activists

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The Washington Times

Iranian authorities have rounded up scores of student activists in a bid to head off what several young people said will be massive demonstrations on university campuses across the country Monday. Monday is National Students Day, named for the day in 1953 when armed forces entered the campus of Tehran University and killed three students protesting the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The predicted protests would follow a pattern of using officially sanctioned holidays to show opposition to the June 12 election results that gave a tainted victory to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the months since the election, demonstrators have broadened their targets to include Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary Basij forces, which are exerting increasing control over the Iranian political system. Manouchehr Hassan Zadeh, a student at Ferdowsi University in the eastern city of Mashhad, said students are preparing for Monday and keeping in touch with counterparts on other campuses across the country. "We are connected to students in Mazandaran, Shiraz, Shahr Kurd and Rasht universities, share ideas and encourage each other," he told The Washington Times. "Many of our classmates are now in danger and if we quit they will be punished for nothing and will lose their faith in our valuable movements."

Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said at least 90 students have been arrested in the past three weeks. Milad Asadi, a member of the Central Council of the Student Union to Foster Unity, Iran's main student organization, was arrested at his home Tuesday. "The government has rounded up well-known activists," Mr. Ghaemi said. "Still, we're expecting large demonstrations. The movement is truly grass-roots and picking up these opinion makers will only make the protests more unpredictable and spontaneous." A student at Azad University in Tehran who asked to be identified only by his first name, Ahmad, said he was arrested last week for holding a banner that read "Live free or die!" The quotation, among the most popular in Iran since the 1979 revolution, sounds like an old American mantra that became the official motto of New Hampshire. It is also a saying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. Revered by Shi'ite Muslims, he was martyred in a seventh-century battle near Karbala in present-day Iraq - an event commemorated each year on Ashura, a religious holiday that falls this year on Dec. 27 and will provide another opportunity for anti-government protests. "The opposition has decided to continue the cat-and-mouse game utilizing official holidays," said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, director of the Middle Eastern studies program at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He noted a steady stream of protests on campuses even as mass street demonstrations have ebbed."The students are going to come out no matter what," he said. (Read more...)