Students Day 2007: Left and Radical Students Seize the Initiative

 Javad Aslani

December 7 (16th  Azar Solar Calendar) marks the Students Day in Iran. On this day in 1953 three student activists were shot dead at the hands of the deposed monarchist regime. This day has since than been remembered by the students as a day of defiance against oppression.  Universities in Iran, like many other despotic societies, have been the bastion of anti-oppression and anti- despotism activities. It was not surprising that the Islamic regime, soon after coming to power, embarked on a ruthless and bloody purge of the universities and academic institutions. Thousands of communists, socialists and radical students were murdered, imprisoned and expelled from universities.  In their infamous campaign of “cultural revolution” the authorities called in the armed forces and the revolutionary guards to physically remove the communist and leftist students from the universities and campuses. The progressive and communist tradition amongst the students was so strong that the authorities were forced to shut down the entire higher education system for couple of years and put very restrictive entrance criteria, including ideological and religious tests and reference from local mosques, to filter out “non-Muslim” students.  

The leftist tradition within the student movement in Iran was much more deep rooted than the Islamic authorities had envisaged. Clandestine activities and formal channels were exploited to advocate socialist ideas. The government was opposed in every step of the way to reclaim the universities from the leftist activists.

With the rise of popular resentment and opposition against the regime and the subsequent disagreement and division amongst the ruling clique within the Islamic regime a number of student associations emerged in the universities affiliated to the so called “moderate” elements within the establishment. With the intensification of division within the different sections of the Iranian government and the formation of an internal opposition block around the former president, Khatami, an opportunity arose for the leftist students to exploit this situation and promote and advocate socialist ideas and engage in debates, discussions.

For a number of years fear of persecution and fear of the Islamic justice had forced the leftist students to go through a great deal of difficulties to hide their identifies from the heavily infiltrated and watched university environment and resort to creative methods to propagate their views.

The radical and progressive students have been in the forefront of a growing resentment and opposition towards the regime in the past few years. Adapting to the new situation the students have deployed bold and brave tactics to lead a radical and progressive campaign against the authorities. Oppressive measures inside the universities and dormitories have been constantly challenged. Efforts have been made to tackle female and male segregation in the universities and staunch fights were put up to free detained fellow students. More importantly the students have expressed clear and radical stance against nearly all social and political issue. Support for workers movement and defence of political prisoners have been high on their agenda.

Student Day of 2006 marked a turning point for the students movement under the Islamic regime. For the first time the leftist students seized the initiative and called and organised rallies in a number of universities up and down the country. For the first time red banners and communist placards dominated the rallies. Speaker after speaker took to the podiums and delivered political speeches highlighting the most pressing issues facing the society including issues facing workers and international affairs. During these rallies students carried banners, in the full glare of the security forces, with clear and direct socialist messages. “Freedom and Equality”, “Socialism or Barbarism”, “Universities are not Garrisons”, “ Workers and Students Unite” Security Forces out of Universities” “Free All Political Prisoners” “Free Ossanlou”, “US Stop Interfering in our Affairs”,…..

The days of dogma and reactions in the universities are numbered. Universities belong to the camp of progress and advancement and the communist students must be at the forefront of the student movement for freedom, equality and progress.