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Number Of Jailed Iran Students 'Highest In Decades'

Source: RFE/RL

An Iranian opposition website says 73 students are currently being held in Iranian jails over their activism, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Protests at Azad University in Qazvin in December 2009. Banner says: "University Is Alive" published the names of the jailed students and said the number is the highest it has been in decades. It said the students are being held throughout the country, from Tehran's notorious Evin prison to jails in Ahwaz, Tabriz, Isfahan, Babol, Rajaee Shahr, and in Gohardasht, which is outside of Tehran.

Amir Rashidi, a student opposition leader in Iran, told Radio Farda that the government has been using a new strategy to stop opposition political activism on university campuses.

"The regime is shifting everything it does to control universities to militarization; they are trying to control the situations by using military tactics," he said.

Rashidi added that prior to the disputed 2009 election of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the authorities always tried to control the atmosphere at universities rather than suppressing it. But he said the regime has changed its policy from controlling students to stopping them from being politically active.

"The regime has found out that simply trying to control the atmosphere at universities is useless and they have to respond to any opposition from students with an iron fist," Rashidi said.

He noted that students have been given lengthy prison sentences compared to other political activists.

"We see now the longest prison sentences being given to the student activists, for instance the ones given to Bahare Hedayat and Abdullah Momeni," he said.

Hedayat, a senior member of Iran's largest pro-reform student group, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, was sentenced to nine years and five months in prison. Momeni, a prominent figure in Iran's student movement, was given an eight-year prison term that he is serving in Gohardasht.

A scene of students protests in Tehran (Honar University, December 2009)

Rashidi believes the process of suppressing students will continue and the government has no choice but to forcefully put down students. But he argues that such a policy cannot be effective as the student movement is renewing itself frequently.

"I don't think the authorities will be able to control the student movement, as every year new students are coming to universities and they bring new life to the student movement," he said.

Rashidi added that the atmosphere at universities "in the new semester will be much more difficult for authorities to control because fresh students are coming from communities that have experienced massive protests [against the government]."

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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