by S. Parsa
Up to 2000 left wing student activists demonstrated this weekend in various parts of Iran, on the annual “Student day” (16 azar/6 December). The Freedom & Equality Seekers, the main left student group in Iran, protested in universities of Tehran, Urumia, Mazandaran, Shiraz, Isfahan and also in the Kurdish regions.
Behrouz Karimizadeh, an active member of the group Freedom and Equality Seeking Students, who now resides in London, has told us that their group was under much pressure this year: “Last year over 70 of our members were arrested. This year we were under a lot of threats and pressure and decided instead not to call for demonstrations ourselves”. Many of the official demonstrations were only called by the Tahkim Vahdat organisation (Office for Strengthening Unity), and their post-graduate group Advar. Both of the groups are semi-governmental and the only officially recognised and legal student bodies in Iran.
the freedom and equality group’s slogans at mazandaran university read “freedom of women means freedom of society”; “student movement: in solidarity with workers’ and women’s movements” and “free thinking is our right”
“These groups are the same militant groups that murdered our communist comrades in the last decade” explains Behrouz, referring to the actions of Tahkim vahdat in the mass-murder of thousands of Iranian communists in the 1981 and 1988 mass purges by the Islamic Republic. Since the cultural revolution, they are no longer armed.
The demonstrations this year caused a lot of panic in the Iranian government. Last week there were announcements on plans for many of the main Islamic Republic figures to attend the main universities to give speeches on the student day, including the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, chairman of assembly of experts, Hashemi Rafsanjani and the former president Khatami.
“All were cancelled..” says Behrouz. The government did not dare to go ahead with these plans. “Instead they focused on threatening active students and their families not to get involved in last weekend’s protests”.
The demonstrations faced violent reactions in some areas, including in Hamedan where tear gas was used against the crowd of students.
The Iranian left and radical activism has grown rapidly in Iran during the last few years mainly because of the failure in the reform movement.
“In the last 3 years lefty students have become very active”, explained Behrouz. They risk facing very heavy sanctions, often resulting in them being expelled from their universities.”