Students go back to school after bloody summer
TEHRAN, Sept 22 (AFP) - Some two million Iranian students return Thursday
to universities which have been freshly refurbished after an outpouring
of violence in July left dormitories trashed and at least three people
On the same day, 19 million schoolchildren return to class in this country
where more 20 percent of the population are aged under 20.
In the Tehran university campus in the Amirabad district, where the
student movement was born on July 8 after the closure of the pro-reform
newspaper Salam, the atmosphere is studious but fraught with political
In the days following the closure, students protested at the heavy-handed
attitude of the authorities until police and the hardline Islamic militia,
the Basiji, clamped down on the demonstrators.
"I hope the school year will go normally. Any violence will play
into the hands of the hardliners, the right wing of the regime. What they
want is to prevent the February elections which they risk losing,"
said Kurosh Samiei, a film student from the northern province of Mazandaran.
Four people accused of being the main instigators of the student unrest
were sentenced to death last week in a closed-door session of the Tehran
The sentences have sparked strong reactions from reformist political
circles in Iran and also from the international community.
"I don't think the condemned will be executed. It's an attempt
to scare people," said Kurosh.
The campus, home to 6,500 students from the provinces and 130 foreigners,
is a small village with shops, cinema and theatre.
Its reopening on Saturday was a bid to turn the page on the summer's
troubles, with a ceremony attended by Tehran's mayor Morteza Alviri, the
head of the univeristy, Manur Khalili-Araqi, and the head of the presidential
office, Mohammad Abtahi.
They officially opened the doors of five damaged dormitory blocks, as
well as three other run-down buildings which were also repaired. Khalili-Araqi
said at the opening ceremony that the psychological scars left by the attack
must also be dealt with.
"The mental harm sustained by the students during July's unrest
must be compensated along with the material damage," he said.
Other leaders have tried to whip up feeling among students, one of the
driving forces of the 1979 revolution, against the leader of Iran's conservatives,
parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri.
President Mohammad Khatami has constantly extolled the virtues of the
role of young people in the country and the "indispensible dialogue"
On Monday the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the students
as a "source of inspiration" during an address in the western
provincial capital of Tabriz, also hard hit by the July disturbances.
"The political knowledge of the students prevents them falling
into the traps of those seeking power and from being manipulated by different
political groups," he said But he added that the "instigators
of the troubles" had acted on "vicious motives."
The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), chaired by President Mohammad
Khatami, played down the extent of the material damage inflicted on the
university in a report released last month.
It also accused several police commanders and members of extremist Islamic
groups of "provocation" and "direct involvement" in
Students and moderate newspapers said at least five people were killed
and dozens injured in the unrest, many of whom they said were later abducted
from Tehran hospitals by the secret police.
In Tabriz students said security forces opened fire on a student sit-in,
leaving 15 people with gunshot wounds, including three women.