IN THE autumn of 1978 the beleaguered shah postponed the autumnal return of Iran’s politically disgruntled students to their universities by several months. But when the institutes of learning eventually opened their doors, the students soon poured furiously into the streets in their tens of thousands, until, in the growing mayhem, the shah fled and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini replaced him. Could the same process occur all over again?
Today’s authorities are loth to take any risks. Iran’s students are still seething with discontent, following the disputed presidential election of June 12th. And the government sounds reluctant to reopen universities on their due date, September 23rd. But it also wants to show that everything is back to normal after the turmoil of the two months that followed the election.
The authorities are certainly preparing to take countermeasures in case students again revolt. At a recent Friday prayer, the quiet streets around Tehran University became rallying points for clusters of conservative worshippers, many of them wearing the characteristic untucked shirts of the vast paramilitary organisation known as the baseej, which has carried out much of the thuggery against opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was reinstalled as president last month. Many of Tehran’s students were prevented from taking their final examinations because of the disturbances in the election’s immediate aftermath. Now the baseejis <... >>>