On December 7 of every year, Student Day is held in Iran to honor three student protestors who were killed in 1953 while demonstrating against the U.S. Now, Student Day has become a day of demonstration against the Iranian regime. This year’s protests were only a fraction of last year’s, but the students still stood strong in the face of tremendous security measures.
The activism for freedom last week has been described as “some of the worst civil unrest this year.” It is impossible to know how many students were arrested because the regime ordered a news blackout on all protests and arrests, but information coming out of Iran indicates it is in the dozens. The regime also slowed the speed of the Internet two days before the holiday to inhibit the transmission of news and especially pictures and videos.
The week before Student Day reminded the regime that it had to prepare. On December 1, students at Gilan University in Rasht disrupted a speech by the former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Sabzevar Rezai. There were strikes by factory workers, truck drivers and construction workers demanding they receive their wages that were 19 months overdue. Shortly before December 7, student activists at Kerman University released a statement that read in part, “Students’ Day is a day that students found their identity as patriots in Iran; the day that they learned that a responsible student should not stay silent and should act out and cry out constantly in the face of insults and inequality and force. We cry out in the name of jailed students that ‘we will fight, we will die, and we will take back Iran.’”
Known activists in Tehran reported receiving text messages that read, “Thanks for the calls regarding the assassination of professors. You can call 113 and the people should know that news and intelligence on any kind of movement will be given to the Ministry of Intelligence.” Of course, no one talked about killing professors. This was just a way of frightening students away from associating with other opponents of the regime and an excuse to send out a threatening text message warning that protestors will be watched. Security personnel also showed up at scenes of protests with video cameras as a means of intimidation and to identify protestors for later reprisals.
The Open University of Arak was closed for the day without any prior announcement and there are reports of some student activists being arrested at their homes before they even participated in any activities. Three journalists and a financial manager for a top reformist newspaper were arrested on December 7 after they put out a special issue in honor of Student Day.
On December 7, security forces encircled Tehran University, the hotspot of political protests. Reports from Iran estimate that 400 security personnel out of uniform invaded the school and set up obstructions inside and outside. Hordes of vehicles were parked on the street where millions gathered to protest Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent re-election and agents were dispatched to scrub off anti-regime slogans written on walls.
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