history of Iranian student political protests began in 1941 with the abdication
of Reza Shah and occupation of Iran by the allied forces. At this time, Tehran
University became the main base for the student campaign against
authoritarianism and foreign interference.
During the nationalistic movement led by
Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh,
student activists throughout the country played an important role in support of
his agenda. After the August
1953 coup and with the start of the new academic year, Tehran University
students resumed their political activism, now directed against the "coup
regime" and the restoration of diplomatic ties with Britain.
Within a short time, the Pahlavi regime essentially silenced
the forces of opposition, with only sporadic expression of public angst against
the Shah and Zahedi's government seen in the bazaar and throughout the city.
When Mossadegh's trial in military court began, Tehran University students held
a large demonstration against the proceedings on university grounds. On that
day, for the first time, the sanctity of campus life was broken when the Shah's
troops confronted the protesting students. The following month, in an encounter
with Shah's security forces, a number of students were injured and many others
By December 1953, three months after the coup, Tehran was
firmly under martial law, with tanks and troops stationed all around the city.
On December 7, Eisenhower's Vice President Richard Nixon visited Tehran to greet
the newly installed regime. In protest of Nixon's visit and the recent overthrow
of Mossadegh's democratic government, students staged an anti-Shah demonstration
on the university campus. The Shah's troops, recently stationed there to
crackdown on protestors and force them inside the buildings, clashed with the
defiant crowds. Subsequently, army commandos ordered to 'shoot to kill' fatally
wounded three students in the corridor of the engineering school, while several
more were badly wounded.
In memory of the three students murdered on that
day, 16 Azar 1332 (December 7, 1953) has since become known as "Student Day".
Each year during Mohammad Reza Shah's reign, he cracked down upon participants
in the anniversary observance of Student Day.
After the 1979 revolution, the established Islamic government
used this annual event as an expression of the nation's strong disapproval of US
policy. However, it has come to represent more of a threat to their own position
instead. Recent reports from Iran point to the worsening of the government's
stance against free speech, with news of the arrest of scores of students
throughout the country to stifle the expected "Student Day" protest on December
The Islamic Republic New Agency [IRNA] quotes Ayatollah Ahmad
Jannati cautioning Iranians to keep the dissent flowing outward rather than
inward-- or else. "[W]ar against the system will cost [protestors] dearly",
threatened Jannati. Tehran's police chief Azizallah Rajabzadeh made similar
remarks warning against "unrest". "December 7th is a day to fight arrogant
powers", said Rajabzadeh in a
Press TV report,
presumably meaning Western governments and not the Islamic regime itself.
Two years earlier, in December 2007, the same state funded
media, Press TV,
more favorably of the anniversary protests. "Iranian universities have
always been an important platform for people's emancipation, freedom, and a
humane society", said the article non-ironically.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called
for the immediate release of all students who have been detained for exercising
their rights to freedom of expression and association. Several prominent student
leaders have already been either arrested or summoned before the revolutionary
court. One arrested student leader is Milad Asadi, who in a recent
defended the "students' collective rights, our right to study, our right to free
expression, the freedom of association and assembly, which all the students all
around the world are enjoying." The police have warned that the Student Day
ceremonies will only be held in the universities with valid permission, and
gathering anywhere else in the city will be punished severely.
We stand in solidarity with the students in defense of their
rights and the rights of all people in Iran