Overview: University Unrest
Tehran Bureau / Golab B.
28-Oct-2009 (one comment)

The first major government offensive against students that I am old enough to remember took place on the night of July 9, 1999. Earlier that day, students at the University of Tehran clashed with police as they protested the closure of the reformist-run Salaam newspaper. Late that night, once they were back indoors, their dormitories were raided by militiamen. Clashes persisted for another two days on North Amirabad Avenue.

All political factions within Iran had to react. Abdollah Nouri (the impeached interior minister), Mousavi Lari (the interior minister of the time), Mostafa Moin (minister of higher education) and Hadi Khamenei (the leader's brother), visited the protesting students. The leader made a speech in which he compared the assault on the dormitories to people going into homes without permission. He famously said, "Even if some rip my photos, do not react," prompting the audience to burst into tears.

That year, the final exams, which take place at the end of July, were pushed back three months and the University of Tehran was closed and the dormitories emptied.


An inevitable process

by FG on

Iran's culture of opposition continues to grow irreversiby, aided by regime tactics and coverups whose effect recalls a man trying to put out a campfire with gasoline.   Although I can see parallels to America's youth "counterculture" in sixties what appears to be developing in Iran goes much further in terms of numbers and increasing depth of radicalization for three reasons: the regime's incomparably greater brutality, its special claims to moral leadership, the total incapacity for reform and an ongoing economic fiasco (incompentence combined with 80 percent ownership of the economy by clerical or security force hardliners) with no counterpart in sixties America.  

Iran's hardline clerics and its securty and judicial officials make Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Nixon look saintly by comparison.  A privileged class can fool the people for years only if it can enforce total censorhip and totally sealed borders, as the Soviet nomenklatura managed until the regime's final decade.  However there are no fig leaves to hide the "private" doings of Khamenei and his thugs.

The most striking similar with sixties America lies in the pattern in which opposition has spread.  America's sixties counterculture  started at the elite universities, gradually penetrated to ordinary colleges and then even to high schools--once non-political, with the strongest effect at the most academic and sought after high schools.   Eventually it spread to the larger society. 

As Iran's students graduate, they carry their new values with them, creating potential sources of resistance or resistance cells everywhere.   The counterculture of resistence begins to spread far beyond students into wider society.   That's one of the things you can see happening in Iran today compared to the past when students fought virtually alone against tyranny.

In time the regime will find fewer and fewer people it can trust--especially among the best and the brightest. 

Another avoidable effect of the student counterculture is the way it co-opts is that children of Iran's top leaders who can hardly be deprived of higher education.  In school they gain new insights from other students into how corrupt, brutal and unworthy are leaders of the Islamic "republic" including their own privileged parents.  They see the regime beat up, imprison and murder friends they have made personally.  Socially they would find themselves ostracized if they continued to believe in the Supreme Leader and his thugs after all that  Who would want an Ahmadinejad Junior or a Mojtaba at their parties?   The young girls look at them with contempt unless they reform.

Of course one can always find a few people with no ethics who can be bought off by the regime's perks and privileges.  A perfect example is Ostaad, the regime propagandist who has been assigned here by the interior ministry.  His type an only turn to Basilj types for "confirmation" that he is still a human being since no one else things so.   As a die-hard supporter of the worst abuses and disinformation specialist for the regimr, an Ostaad is naturally despised by the majority of Iranian society.