Students in Iran: ‘I will get martyred friend’s vote back, even if I die’
June 19, 2009
Tehran University students stiffen their resolve to continue protests in the face of heavy-handed assault
The shuttered gates and police cordons outside Tehran University told only part of the story: the institution was shut and would be for the foreseeable future.
For the other part of the story – how one of the most brutal episodes of the stand-off unfolded – there were as many theories as there were students filing through the streets of Tehran .
“We have not been allowed to go to the university since Friday; we really don’t know what has happened exactly,” said Hossein Salehi, 22, one of thousands marching to the university’s dormitories to denounce the death of students at the hands of pro-regime attackers on Sunday night. “One of my friends who was present at the dorm complex that night and was able to escape … said that he was beaten by three riot police while he was pushed to … the ground. I saw his injuries on his legs and his back by my own eyes.”
He said the anger felt by millions at the heavy-handed assault – blamed by some on riot police and by others on plainclothes pro-government militia – would generate the biggest protests of all tomorrow, when a rally called by the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is due to take place in protest at the violence against his supporters. “Mousavi has asked us to protest on Thursday to mourn for people who were killed, and I think tomorrow millions of people in whole Iran will do that,” Salehi said.
The risks are growing as a regime crackdown spreads, and many students are concerned about parents who cannot reach their offspring in Tehran because the mobile network is blocked.
But for many, the knowledge that acquaintances, coursemates and friends of friends were caught up in Sunday night’s ugly scenes is enough to stiffen resolve. “Iman, one of the students who was killed in the dormitory, was a friend of my friend,” said Mohammad Sepehri, 25, another student.
“My friend is feeling devastated today; we couldn’t keep him calm, he was just crying. I will get my martyred friend’s vote back, even if I die for that. They killed the students while the students even had nothing to defend themselves, even stones.
“Years ago they easily killed students and nothing happened but this time it’s not just students who are protesting, it’s Iranian people including young, old, men, women, secular, Muslim, everybody.”
Maryam Beheshti, 23, another student, said: “We will continue this till we get our votes back. I don’t afraid of being killed while many of my friends have been shot to death by this dictator government. My friends have cried today when they saw the pictures of the dead students in front of Tehran University carried by ordinary people. How can I be indifferent and just ignoring what they are doing? This time it’s different from before, we will not get silent by any means, even if they continue to kill us.”
The authorities know that the attacks on students reflect badly on the regime, and have announced an inquiry. Some within the hierarchy are openly questioning the tactics. “What does it mean that in the middle of the night students are attacked in their dormitory?” parliament speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
The main concern of the regime is that attacks on students will mobilise a far broader corps of regime antagonists.
Samaneh Promazaheri is a restaurant worker with little apparently in common with students at the university. But his house is near the dormitory complex and he says he could hear shooting the night the students were killed. “I’m going to attend Friday’s prayers this week and denounce the killing; they can’t kill people easily in mosques and Friday prayer gatherings,” he said.
“Look at people, look how people are sad and frustrated, that’s because Iranians care about their own, because they have always been caring for years.
“My father told me last night that he’s recalling revolutionary days in 1979 when people were supporting Khomeini by shouting Allahu Akbar [God is great] on rooftops. These people are still the same, they want justice, they want true Islam, they want peace not war.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009