News & Views
Students clash outside Tehran University
The following is a first-hand account and analysis of today's events from an observer in Tehran posted to Columbia University's Gulf2000 members:
On April 14, there was a clash between students and the security forces outside Tehran University. Despite the Khatami Government's call two days ago for not going ahead with the planned political rally orgainized by the leftist Islamist students (ostensively for protesting Mr. Karbaschi's arrest ten days ago but entitled "unity of people, power of Khatami") and the apparent cancellation by the organizer yesterday in response to it, several hundreds students showed up outside the Tehran University main gate at 1:30 pm.
Soon after they began chanting slogans, a police vehiecle approached to dispel the students. Then the core part of the students left the site and began demonstrating along the Enqelab Street. About 5-600 hundreds of students and by-standers followed the demonstrators. In about 20 minutes when the demonstrators reached the corner with Keshavarz and Shunzdah-e Azar Streets, about 200 securities forces with a truncheon in hand suddenly appeared and began physically dispersing the demonstrators. Most of them ran away. Only a dozen seemed to have been arrested. Apparently the authorities hadn't expected this to happen and kept calling in additional forces including a couple of units of the Revolutionary Gurads. About an hour later, some domonstrators managed to go back to the main gate and started shouting the slogans. But again they were dispersed. Nobody seemed injured.
Several observations. First, although CNN reported that students protested against the arrest of the Tehran mayor, I heard no slogan chanted in relation to it. Actually, they shouted slogans expressing their strong support for President Khatami.
Second, the fact that these students showed up and demonstrated depite the announced cancellation of the rally indicates, at least, that some young people don't listen to even what President Khatami tells them not to.
Third, there were hundreds of by-standers who came despite the announced cancellation of the rally, expecting that something may happen. Among these were ordinary students who didn't look like those committed political activists whom we call the "leftist Islamists." Once the chanting of slogans began, these ordianrily-looking students (including female ones) ran up to site and joined the demonstration.
Fourth, after being dispelled by the security forces, hundreds of students tried to resume the demonstration, only to be dispelled by the security forces once again. Actually, they repeated this several times. I wondered that things like this ever happened since the Revolution.
Fifth, it looks like a new situation is emerging on the ground level, that is, especially after all these political rhetorics by Mr. Khatami emphasizing the pivotal role of the youth in the future of Islamic Republic, the young people may be running out of their patience. At the same time, they are gradually realizing their own power.
The events like the last year's elections' turnouts, the public show of jubilatoin on the day Iran secured its entry to World Cup succor, and today's demonstration, seem to be establishing a new political ground. And each time the young people get to feel more confident. It should look somewhat worisome even to a reformer like Mr. Khatami.