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Calls For Release Of Jailed Students, Opposition Figures On Iran's Student Day

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Audience members at a Student Day event at Tehran University on December 7.

Some students in Iran used Student Day, celebrated on December 7 with speeches and other events at universities, to call for the release of opposition figures and jailed students.

Iranian semiofficial news agencies Mehr and Fars reported that a speech by President Hassan Rohani at Tehran's University of Medical Sciences was disrupted by students chanting in support of opposition figures.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and wife Zahra Rahnavard, as well as reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, have been under house arrest since February 2011 despite a campaign promise by Rohani to release them.

A group of students chanted during Rohani's speech, "It's been 1,000 days that Musavi has not returned," and, "Our message is clear, house arrest must end," according to news reports and a YouTube video of the protest shared on social media.

The chants were reportedly muted on Iran's state-controlled television.

Rohani was said to have responded to the chants by saying that he has not forgotten his promises.

"Our path is the same as we promised you from day one. I will not break my promises to you," Rohani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

At the same event, some students reportedly chanted against Musavi, a former prime minister and defeated presidential candidate, who before being put under house arrest repeatedly challenged the Islamic leadership over alleged election fraud and human rights abuses.

In one of the YouTube videos making the rounds, a "Death to Musavi!" chant is heard.

At an event at Chamran Hall in Tehran, organized by the Islamic student association of Tehran University, students held hand-written signs calling for the release of jailed students and opposition figures.

"Political prisoners must be released," "Our friends are missed," "House arrest must end," and "Universities are alive" were among the slogans displayed, according to photos by Iran's ILNA news agency.

Student Day event at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University on December 7.

Speeches by hard-line figures critical of Rohani's government, including "Kayhan" editor Hossein Shariatmadari and lawmaker Hamid Rasayi, were canceled on Student Day, according to reports by hard-line news agencies. An official at Amir Kabir University, where Shariatmadari was reportedly due to speak, said the university had no problem with the presence of the "Kayhan" editor. He said there had been a lack of coordination.

The head of the student Basij, Mohammad Heydari, suggested that this year's Student Day should be named "Government Day."

Iran's universities came under intense pressure under the previous administration in an effort to silence dissent.

Student Day event at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University on December 7.

A number of prominent student activists, including Bahareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakoli, ended up in jail following the 2009 crackdown after mass street protests over the 2009 reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Many students were also banned from studies.

A number of them have reportedly been allowed to resume their studies under Rohani, whose former science minister, Reza Farajidana, was successfully impeached for trying to ease restrictions on universities.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has warned that universities should not become centers of political activities.

Copyright (c) 2014 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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