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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


July 6, 2000

Marginal issues

Thank you Mr. Jamshidian ["Serious omissions"] for taking time to react to my article ["Wake-up call"] on the student movement in Iran. You have raised several concerns to which I would like to respond.

1. Let me begin by saying that the article is about the student movement and not Soroush or Khatami. An assessment of these individuals' politics and performance deserves a separate examination. This article was written for a scholarly journal, thus had to focus on the topic and avoid any issues marginal to that topic. One of requirements of journal articles is to stay focused on the main topic and within the page limit given by the editor. Thus, it was not my task to deal with Soroush and Khatami, and activities of all groups.

2. Soroush's statement about lack of enthusiasm was made in 1991. His participation in the Council of Cultural Revolution was in the early 1980s. The conditions governing the Iranian universities in the early1980s were not the same as the early 1990s. Nor was Soroush's position relative to the Islamic Republic. An assessment of this change requires a different inquiry and was not my task.

3. With regard to the fact that Khatami "ordered the ban and the crackdown on the student demonstration," I should mention that the order was issued by the National Security Council of which Khatami is a member. He certainly did want the disorder in the streets stopped. Some of his supporters have argued that he knew that the disorder was created by the hardliners in order to create a sense of national urgency for crushing the student movement. His opponents take the statement by the NSC and Khatami's comments as indications of his willingness to crush the movement. Both these agreements have merits and flaws.

My task in this paper was not to settle this matter. The issue was not pertinent to the nature of discussion in the paper. His order did not matter much anyway. If he had not issued the order, the crackdown would had taken place, as had happened in previous confrontations between students and the Ansar. As a president, he had to say something. His presidency was on line and no serious politician expected him to get away with the situation without making some gesture or compromise. Surely he managed to survive and the students were the losers in that particular battle. However, his and all other battles continue in Iran and we need to stay tuned!

4. With regard to the DTV (The Office of Consolidation of Unity), you are right that they were involved in activities associated with the Cultural Revolution. I have mentioned that the Islamic Associations were engaged in these activities and the DTV was a part of the association.

Ali Akbar Mahdi


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