Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Student Movement in Iran

Six decades ago, on such  days in 1953, a few months after the CIA engineered coup d'etat which toppled the nationalist government of Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh and re-installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the heroic resistance of young students made history. Richard Nixon, who was then the American Vice President  traveled to Iran to consolidate the shaken relationship and give the impression that everything in Iran is under control. Iranian students who were furious following the severe crackdown  of the coup d'etat and the return of dictatorship, protested against this visit. Nixon's visit was an indication of the continued interference and control of the American government in Iranian affairs.
In Tehran University, students from the engineering college  stood up and protested against this event. Fearing a generalized uprising, the monarchy ordered a severe crackdown and gave security guards and police orders to fire on the students. As a result, three students were killed in the College of Engineering campus and many more were injured.
My late father Professor Taghi Ebtekar, a junior student at that time, was present as was the martyr  Dr. Mostapha Chamran who was also an engineering student in those times.  I have heard their eye witness accounts of the event. From that day onward the 16th of Azar has been commemorated as the Day of Students in Iran.  Students have voiced their protests and concerns on this day during the past decades.

University students have played a serious role in all phases of contemporary Iranian history. Their perseverance and resistance against oppression, dictatorship and foreign intervention has had deep implications for the Iranian society. This progressive approach gave the student movement  a major role in the development of the Islamic Revolution in 1978, during the takeover of the American embassy in 1979 and during the 8 year war against Saddam Hussein. A small part of the non Islamic students had kept their criticism of the Revolution during those years.
During the new reconstruction era, the majority of the student movement in Iran voiced their criticisms as they felt that political and social freedoms were gradually limited. Pressures on the movement augmented and reached their climax once in 1999 and again in 2009. After the disputed presidential elections in 2009, pressures have augmented and the situation has deteriorated.
After 3 years, I  finally agreed to  take part in a debate arranged by the National / State Television. I spoke about the concerns of the student movement, the pressures and limitations on their activity and freedoms.
My comments have been welcomed by many people who believe that the Islamic Republic was established to uphold basic freedoms and respond to the concerns and expectations of the people.

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