Sunday, December 6, 2009

Iranian Gov Imposes Students’ Day Crackdown

Via Times Online UK -

December 7 is traditionally the date when the Iranian Government stages rallies to commemorate the deaths of three student demonstrators killed by the Shah’s security forces in 1953. The tables have now turned. Today the security forces will attempt to crush student demonstrations against its own brutality and repression.

On campuses across Iran, students outraged by the regime’s alleged theft of the presidential election in June, and the subsequent suppression of the opposition, will attempt to hijack the state-sponsored Students’ Day rallies — just as they did last month’s commemoration of the US embassy siege and the annual Palestinian solidarity rallies in September. The regime cannot cancel these events without losing face, but it is doing its utmost to stop today’s protests.

Yesterday security forces began to seal off campuses in Tehran and warned nearby householders not to open their doors to protesters or let anyone take pictures from their roofs. The regime has cut internet services to hamper the opposition’s preparations, and banned journalists employed by foreign news organisations from working on the streets. Dozens of student leaders are understood to have been arrested.

Police, military and clerical leaders have warned that they will deal mercilessly with unlicensed demonstrations, and Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, the hardline leader of the Guardian Council, used his sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran to warn Iranians against doing “anything that pleases the United States”.

The regime declared Saturday and Sunday public holidays to encourage students to go home, and there were reports of cuts to water and power supplies at some student dormitories. It has sent text messages warning people not to demonstrate. One pro-government website has even claimed that foreign agents will use “poison ampules” to kill students and blame the regime for their deaths.

More broadly, the regime is said to be imposing a “cultural revolution” on Iran’s universities, which are traditionally seats of unrest and have been smouldering since June’s disputed election. The volunteer Basij militia has recruited students to inform on their peers, with troublemakers facing expulsion or arrest. It is campaigning against female students wearing what it considers un-Islamic dress and men with long hair.

Students say that some Western-orientated courses have been replaced with Islamic ones, and there is talk of segregating universities by gender.

Forced underground, opposition activists have been waging their own battle to ensure a big turnout today. Kaveh, 27, a mechanical engineering graduate, told The Times how his cell of 40 activists sent out 5,000 e-mails a day, using internet cafes to avoid detection.

At night they place flyers on car windscreens, stick up posters and daub green paint on portraits of Ayatollah Khamenei. Sympathetic printing shop owners produce the posters and flyers for free.

“We want to send a message to the people that we’re here, and join us, and to the regime that you have lost as we will not be silenced,” Kaveh said. “We are not like many of our Middle Eastern neighbours, whose people have succumbed to dictatorship. The more [President] Ahmadinejad and Mr Khamenei beat the nation, the more people will stand up and bring about their end.”

Although the protests in Tehran are much smaller than they were after the elections, Kaveh claimed that they had spread to many other cities. The goal was not to overturn the Islamic Republic, simply to remove its illegitimate leaders, he said.

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