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I smell ghormehsabzi
Students have spearheaded movements often blindly and emotively. Let's hope it's different this time

By Parkhash
December 8, 2002
The Iranian

Shortly after the fateful events of August 1953 (i.e.28th of Mordad 1332), the American Vice President, Richard Nixon, paid a visit to Iran. His visit was met by waves of protest from the student and bazaari activists.

On the day of his arrival (7th December 1953 or 16th Azar 1332) two such students who were the members of the banned Tudeh (pro-Stalinist communist party) threw stones at his car and motorcade from the roof top of a Tehran university building.

They were chased by an ordinary and frightened soldier who was put to guard the vice president's route (those days there were no such things as university guards yet). When the soldier eventually confronts them in the corridors of Fanni (engineering) building and orders them to surrender, they refuse and in the ensuing scuffle the two students get shot. [Editor: Three students were killed on that day: Ahmad Ghandchi (National Front) , Sharit-Razavi (Tudeh) and Bozorgnia (Tudeh)]

As regretful as the incident was, it became the symbol of the anti-Shah students movement for the rest of the Pahlavi era. From then on every year the political forces that had their interests in stirring up students unrest used this day to wreak havoc across the campuses of the country.

As a 70's student myself, I had some very unhappy memories of this day. Every year students like myself who did not wish to be dragged into some extremists political agenda of the radical Marxist or Islamic groups were hoping to pass this day in a non-violent manner.

On this day, the lectures and classes were all boycotted by the radical students. If you turned up at any lecture, you would have been terrorised by the extremists or were outcast for the rest of your student life.

Alternatively, if you stayed in your dorm or hostel and didn't go out, you could have been reported to the authorities by the ever dutiful dorm's caretaker! One could inadvertently end up in the middle of a radical students demonstration and eventually get falsely arrested for breaking the windows or stirring-up public unrest.

In sharp contrast to the present day students, the university students of the 70's Iran were enjoying some of the best of the facilities and technologies that could have been made available to them.

Their campus accommodation, books, and canteens were subsidised and the educators were from the cream of the crop of the Iranian graduates of the Western academic establishments. They enjoyed a range secure and relatively well-paid positions compared to the other sectors of the society.

In the last 5 years of the Shah's regime, the legislation passed by the parliament enabled them to go through a totally free education if they undertook to serve their country for a period twice the number of years they spent in higher education.

And yet, they spent most of their times plotting and protesting against the system that gave them those benefits. Why? Because for all the personal freedoms that they enjoyed for a typical academic society there was one missing: the political freedom (or should I say the freedom to abuse political freedom!).

But despite all their claims to intellectual superiority, student protesters of the 70's Iran, made a gross error in their cost-benefit analysis. The cost of unsettling the system hugely exceeded it's benefits.

This is why from those days onward, I was hardly trustful of any students movement, be it pro- or against anything. They have always spearheaded a movement, often blindly and emotively, and once they served their purpose, their leaders reaped the fruits of their harvest for their own ends leaving the rest to pick up the crumbs.

Many a hot-headed student activist of the 50's and 60's landed a well paid cabinet post in the 70's. In the 80's the best example of such movements was that of the fiercely anti-American "students following the line of Imam" movement who kept the American diplomats hostage and whose leaders are now either a pro-Khatami vice president or have adopted the US citizenship!

So it is such an irony that the same subversive tool that served the radical Islamists (as well as other groupings) in the last 25 years of the Shah's era, must now serve to rattle the foundations of their own existence.

But the student protesters of today's Iran have a great deal more legitimacy than their predecessors of three decades before. While I fully support the student protesters of today's Iran, I only hope they do not loose their historic memory and remember that their best of intentions may easily end up in a calamity of immeasurable magnitude as was witnessed in 1979.

I hope one day "rooze daneshjoo" will be celebrated not for the misguided adventurism of a few students some 50 years ago but for the heroic campaign of those students who began to put an end to the mullah's tyranny.

Editor's note: The title of this articles refers to a common Persian saying: "Kalash booye ghormehsabzi meedeh", in essence meaning someone who is a young "hot head".

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