Tehran students defy arrest threats

A communist student from Tehran reports on the December 4 student demonstrations

Tuesday December 4 saw demonstrations to mark Student Day at the University of Tehran. During the lead-up left activists were condemned by the government, and students were warned not to attend.

Student Day has been commemorated for 54 years in honour of three martyr comrades killed by the former shah regime at the engineering faculty of the University of Tehran during protests against the visit of Richard Nixon to Iran. In view of this, and most importantly because over the past year every social movement - whether of workers, women or students - has been suppressed, the students decided to defy the government by staging our demonstration.

On Saturday December 2, while student activists were preparing for Student Day, the government made its move. The arrests started at 9am when Mehdi Gerailoo and Nader Ahsani were kidnapped from their own homes by the security forces and taken to an unknown place. In the afternoon two students of the sociology faculty at the University of Tehran - Victoria Jamshidi and Anoosheh Azadbar - were arrested at their home without any explanation. The arrests continued until Student Day itself, when to my knowledge 26 students from various universities were rounded up, many of whom are still being held.

But despite all this the demonstration, organised by Radical Left students, went ahead exactly on time - at 12 noon on Tuesday in front of Tehran University's engineering faculty. It began with the singing of revolutionary songs by students holding up placards with their demands and slogans: "No war", "Hands Off the People of Iran", "The university is not an army garrison", "The liberty of women is the liberty of society", "Free the political prisoners", "There is an alternative", "Free our classmates", "The students movement allied with the workers' and women's movements", "We want independent unions" and "Freedom and equality!"

There followed a number of speeches. Behzad Bagheri (archaeology student) spoke about the pressures of the past year and in defence of those arrested. Bita Samimizad (physics student) spoke out against the threat of war on Iran and about the activities of the women's and workers' movement of the past year. Bijan Sabbagh (a chemical engineering student at the University of Mazandaran) talked about the arrested students at the University of Mazandaran, Tehran and Ahvaz, whilst Kaveh Abbasian, a student of cinema and representative of students who had been prevented by the government from continuing their studies, spoke of the problems they faced, and of how he narrowly escaped arrest on his way to Tehran for the demonstration. He reminded the government that a movement that is supported by the people cannot be defeated by those who run the system.

Then Roozbeh Safshekan read the declaration of the Radical Left students (immediately after the demonstration he was arrested at the university by security forces). There were also speeches from Peyman Piran (ex-political prisoner), Ali Ajami (student of law) and Kamran Akhshi (political science).

The demonstration continued in front of the university main gate, as the students resumed their singing and yelled out their demands so everyone in the street could hear: "Free the imprisoned students", "I'll kill whoever kills my brother", "Taking part in elections is betrayal", "Down with the dictator", "No to government and police brutality", "Ahmadinejad - Pinochet! Iran will not be another Chile!"

The demonstration ended outside the faculty of law and political science and half an hour later the security forces started to make their arrests - especially targeting those who had made speeches. They first snatched Roozbeh Safshekan, who had read out the Radical Left declaration, and his wife, Mina, who was released some hours later. The security forces also tried to arrest Kaveh Abbasian and Bijan Sabbagh in front of the engineering faculty, but they were unsuccessful because other students surrounded them, allowing Kaveh and Bijan to run away. By 7pm many activists had changed their appearance and clothes and managed to leave the campus. As I write, many are in hiding, but government forces are still trying to arrest them.

However, no matter how many they arrest or whatever they do to us, our movement will not be stopped.

To our brothers and sisters in Iran

We wish to send our greetings of solidarity to your December 4 student demonstration. Your brave struggles and protests in the face of threats, intimidation and arrests are an inspiration to us all, and underline that it is you who are our natural allies in the struggle against imperialism, sanctions and war, not the Iranian theocracy.

Unlike some on the British left who deny the existence of movements like yours against imperialist war and against the theocracy, we will continue to support your struggles and call for the release of the incarcerated students and other political activists in Iran. We will continue to build links with your movements and look in the future to coordinate international actions and protests with you.

We hope that your day of action is successful in getting your message across to the world in these increasingly unstable times. Rest assured that we will do our utmost in the fight against imperialism and provide our full support to your political demonstrations.

Yours against war and repression in Iran, and in the struggle for socialism,

Communist Students national executive (affiliate of Hands Off the People Of Iran)