From A World to Win News Service

"This Is a Student Movement, Not an American Movement"

Firsthand report from Iran

Revolutionary Worker #1207, July 20, 2003, posted at

Editors' Note: The two articles from A World to Win News Service on these pages report on the upsurge of protest by students and others that rocked Iran's fundamentalist regime in June. According to news reports, the Iranian government arrested over 4,000 people during the June upheaval--and most are still in jail.

More recently, as the July 8-9 anniversary of the large student uprisings in 1999 approached, the regime shut down Tehran university--the hub of the protests in June--and arrested student leaders. Police helicopters patrolled the city, as undercover police and reactionary para-military thugs roamed the streets to clamp down on renewed protests. Still, hundreds of students reportedly clashed in the streets of Tehran with police and para-military forces.

Tehran, 15 June 2003. A World to Win News Service . This is the third day of student protests. They started from the Koyeh Daneshgah, the student quarters, 20 dormitories where 10- 15,000 students live. Unfortunately many of them have now returned home for the summer, but soon will flock back.

The protests and night battles are intense. There are many attacks by the Hezbollah (government religious militia) and undercover police. Students have dug trenches and beat them back. There are lots of skirmishes. This is completely contrary to the 1999 student uprising, which was mainly peaceful. Then the students were mainly for peaceful struggles. But the authorities unleashed the Hezbollah and savagely attacked them anyway. This time the students have resorted to the "language of violence." Almost all are learning this language. This is a good aspect of developments. They don't have illusions about "reforms." They want to resist and engage directly.

The slogan "Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran" is now very dominant. But the slogan "Down with U.S. imperialism" remains to be established in order for this student movement to really draw clear lines of demarcation with a variety of enemies of the people.

Right from the beginning three nights ago, there were engagements with the armed forces. The slogans were very hot: Death to Khamenei (the "spiritual leader" and chief of the Islamic Republic), Death to Khatami (the reformist president), Death to Rafsanjani (the so-called "real power behind the scenes," who has promoted official talks with the U.S.) and other arch-enemies. So far, the police have not dared shoot. Stones are thrown back and forth. The students make Molotov cocktails all the time, and throw them from dormitory rooftops at the uniformed and plainclothes police.

Last night the police used tear gas. They have closed all the streets around the student quarters within a radius of three kilometers and are trying to prevent people from joining up with the students. People from the suburbs who are well-off got the news from their satellite dish TVs (receiving broadcasts from stations run by the monarchists in the U.S., the forces favored by Bush and the U.S. ruling class). These stations broadcast the news live and are asking the people of Tehran to go help the students. Some of these people come over and sit in their cars and watch from afar. But the people of other districts and other student dormitories are forcing their way through as much as they can or are engaging the police forces in other quarters. For example, there has been fighting between the two sides in the Guisha district. Today, Friday prayers are held in the University of Tehran campus. Security is heavy. But when night falls the battle will be joined.

The students have arrested three plainclothesmen. They turned out to be carrying radios and IDs revealing that they are members of the Hezbollah and security police. The police hurled abuse at the students and said the students had been paid in dollars to carry out these acts, but the students told them that the Hezbollah had been paid in dollars by their Supreme Leader to suppress the students. The police shouted at the students, Hey you "villagers," you have come from the village to the city and this has turned you into rude people, go back to your villages. (Many of the students especially in the dormitories are from small towns in Iran.) The students responded, Death to Khamenei, and hurled abuse back at the police.

The Islamic Student Associations are nobodies now. They don't have any influence or say in this whole thing. A struggle is going on among their own ranks, because not all of them agree with opposing the student struggle.

Khamenei said he will suppress the students ruthlessly. One policeman on the scene was saying that they have orders to shoot, but this has still not happened. The police forces in the University area outnumber the students.

A lot of students have been arrested and wounded. The regime lies that they have released those arrested. At night the wail of ambulances is heard constantly. But the students fight on and continue to throw Molotov cocktails, and carry out hit and run actions. One of the tactics of the undercover police and Hezbollah is to run around with high-powered motorcycles, armed with knives and chains. But some of these cycles have gone up in flames.

Later: It is now 2:30 in the morning. The streets are full. People are heading towards the student quarters on foot and by car. The entire city is full of paramilitary forces. They are armed and are carrying batons and knives. They are stopping and searching the cars. But the people are still in the streets. They smile to each other and make the "V" sign for victory. The atmosphere is full of solidarity and unity. When the paramilitary, called "Basij," arrest somebody, people protest and honk. The police write down their license plate numbers, but they don't dare attack the crowd. One woman is waving her scarf in the air and people are clapping with happiness and saying: the regime is finished. The police force pushes the crowd of people. One yells through a mike, "It is in your interests to disperse and go home!" And the people respond, "We know our interests; it is not in your interests for us to be here."

The talk among the crowd is very militant. One person who came from Mashhad says that he received a call from there that the people have stormed the radio and TV stations and occupied them. Also that the Islamic Guards have emptied all Basij posts of arms so that if the people storm them no guns would be there to be taken. Another one responded, "But we have guns buried and we will pull them out." The young people who were not around to see the revolution of 1979 are very excited. They repeat, "The regime is finished; they are gone."

Latest news: Last night (14 June) one student was killed by the Basij in Shiraz University. Last night the attack on the student quarters was heavy. After the U.S. State Department issued a statement pretending to support the students, the students started a new chant now heard all the time: "This is a student movement, not an American movement."

Some people are also mindful of the "Tiananmen" scenario, a massacre, but such a crime would ignite all of Iran.

It is very important to make connections between the student movement in Iran and the global anti- war movement, especially people in the U.S.A. who have opposed their own government. This will help polarize the student movement in Iran in very good ways.

June 21 update:

It is more than 10 days since the students of University of Tehran sparked off the struggle. Now the University is calm, but the struggle is raging every night in different corners of Tehran as well as in the country's large and small cities. It is no longer a student movement but a general movement of the people against the Islamic Republic.

The University itself and University Alley are now occupied by the police forces. The families of students gather in front of the gates of the University every day to protest and demand the release of their kids as well as other students who have disappeared. Even the son of the Prime Minister has been arrested. This is a PM from the so-called reform faction of the regime. He said, even I have to turn to the people to demand justice because this is a totally brutal regime.

Every day the families of the arrested gather in front of Evan prison. The families who come to search for their loved ones include not only parents who come for their student children, but also youth who are searching for their arrested fathers. These gatherings are becoming another front in the struggle. The families of the arrested are under extreme psychological pressure. For example, they receive phone calls in the middle of the night from unknown thugs.

A report from Tehran says that: "The students are under torture. The torturer puts a paper in front of them to sign, which says that they were thugs of the U.S. paid to stir up trouble in the university. Even some who have signed such a paper under torture have not been released."

The regime has deployed Pasdaran and army posts and patrols in different parts of the city, who search cars and people. There is a rumor among the people that they are searching for guns. While this is not necessarily true, it shows the expectations of the people and that the atmosphere is highly charged.

In any case the regime has established de facto emergency rule in Tehran. The center of gravity of resistance has shifted from the University sites to the neighborhoods. For example, one young man was killed in Tehranparse, on the east side of Tehran. This is a popular neighborhood. Another center of nightly protests and skirmishes is Karaj, which is right outside Tehran, inhabited largely by workers from the factories around Tehran. It is said that the workers keep the fight going on at night and during the day they are sleepy at work.

The fighting has also shifted from the University area and the student population to other cities in Iran. There was heavy fighting in the previous two nights in the city of Isfahan. The people are coming out every night. The women played a very good role last night. A group of courageous women went on the top of the cars, took off their chadors , waved them in the air and sang: Hey Mullah! Take this and make a turban out of it for yourselves! Every night there are also straightforward political slogans, such as Down with the Islamic Republic and Down with Khamenei and Khatami. In Isfahan a group of youth boldly snatched the gun of an armed bank guard. In Rafsanjan, the hometown of Rafsanjani, furious night fighting has seen many police cars go up in flames. It is the same story in Yazd. So this is no longer a student movement, but a nationwide anti-regime political movement that is daring to call for its very overthrow.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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