Iranian students protest at university
TEHRAN, Iran – Hundreds of Iranian students expressed their anger over a government crackdown on activists in a protest Sunday at Tehran University, the second such demonstration in less than a week, witnesses and state radio said.One witness, Mehdi Arabshahi, said the protest lasted more than two hours as students rallied against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline administration.”Students chanted against policies by Ahmadinejad’s administration, which is imposing pressures on the universities and detaining activists,” Arabshahi said.Another witness, Abbas Kazemi, said the protesters also called out anti-war slogans aimed at the United States and Israel.Students from other universities joined in the protest and broke one of the university’s gates, but there were no clashes with police and no one was detained, Kazemi said.Tehran state-run radio in a news brief confirmed that students held a protest at the university, saying the students chanted slogans against officials. It also said a group of non-students entered the university after breaking one of the gates but provided no other details. The media was not allowed to enter the campus.The university and its surrounding neighborhood were calm after the gathering and welders were repairing the broken gate.The protests were held to mark the National Day of Students, which has been celebrated since 1953 when three Iranian students were shot to death by police during a protest of a visit by then-Vice President Richard Nixon.State TV also announced Sunday that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry had detained a group of activists it described as hecklers who planned to stage an illegal gathering at Tehran University.Quoting a statement by the ministry, the TV report said the activists, who came from various cities, entered the university using fake identification cards before they were detained.The report said intelligence officers confiscated concussion grenades, illegal books, pamphlets and alcoholic beverages from the detainees.It did not elaborate on the number of detainees or say when the arrests took place.Last week, a group of left-wing students said 33 students and activists including four women were detained Tuesday after they staged a protest on the Tehran University campus.Students were once the main power base of Iran’s reform movement but have faced intense pressure in recent years from Ahmadinejad’s hard-line government, making anti-government protests rare.Since October, students from different universities have staged occasional protests over educational shortages, the firings of liberal teachers and dentition of activists.About 100 students staged a rare protest in October against Ahmadinejad, calling him a “dictator” as he gave a speech at Tehran University marking the beginning of the academic year.The president faced a similar outburst during a speech in December 2006 when students at Amir Kabir Technical University called him a dictator and burned his picture.Ahmadinejad’s popularity has fallen since he was elected in 2005, with critics saying he has failed to fix the economy and has hurt Iran’s image internationally.In recent months, dissenters have witnessed an increasing crackdown, and hundreds have been rounded up. Numerous pro-reform newspapers have been shut down and those that remain have been muted in their criticism fearing closure.