Friday, November 03, 2006

The Day University Fell

It is Aban 12 (I mean the twelfth day of the seventh month "Aban" in Iranian calendar) and it reminds me of what happened exactly two years ago in our university and how the respect of a university professor and the university itself was crushed under their feet. I don't believe most readers of my blog know about what happened in Elm-o-San'at that year, so I will provide you with a very brief account of the happenings.

On Aban 12, 1383 (November 3, 2004), Ebrahim Yazdi (secretary general of the Freedom Movement Party) and Mohammad Reza Tajzadeh (member of Islamic Iran Participation Front) were invited to the university to give lectures in Bahrami amphitheater). It was apparent even before that day that it is very probable that there will be unrest in the university upon their arrival because the two parties are part of the "opposition" body (if this word is the correct one for what if we have in Iran!) and in fact the Freedom Movement Party is mostly considered an illegal party by the ruling class.

The day before that, Mehdi Purrahim who is a political activist student met almost all the rooms in the "Inner Dormitory" and tried to persuade all in the program. The same night, announcement cards are spread across the dormitory that Basij is preparing an attack on tomorrow's program. Many students ask Purrahim to cancel the program and that the university does not need more political confrontations, but he does not accept.

The day after that (Aban 12), the program finally starts. Both Yazdi and Tajzadeh are there. There seems a lot of movement around the Basij cabin. On the other side, Ayatollah Najafi, the representative of the supreme leader in the university, is giving speech in the mosque and is saying that the program is illegal and without his counsel, and nobody cares (of course, except the members of Basij who were in fact acting on this!). One of the members of the Mohebban Group (a religious group) announces that the prayer holders in the mosque are going to go the the presidency building to protest. Suddenly a group of some 40 people leave the Basij cabin and start going towards the presidency building. A large crowd of students see everything.

Dr. Salehi (then president of the university) is leaving the building that he is interrupted by the group. They start beating and insulting and even some spit over him. Two university security officials are also beaten meanwhile.

The group move Salehi outside the university and, surprise, there is a bus awaiting them, and not a private bus but one belonging to Vahed company, government owned company in charge of inner city transport buses belonging to the municipality. They get Salehi on the bus and go away.

Holding a university professor hostage before everyone! The students cannot believe their eyes. Everyone surrounds the Basij cabin. Slowly rumor grows that the cabin should be destroyed! This is the same cabin its computer holds a lot of private information about the students, may it no longer be!

There are some 2000 students around the cabin. The students have only one demand: Dr. Salehi should be released or the cabin will be destroyed. At last, the crowd loses its patience. Many rush towards the cabin. It does not take long that the cabin ceases to exist.

Salehi was released the same day before the Science Ministry (Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, which is in charge of the universities). He is taken to a hospital.

This is a short account of what happened in the university on Aban 12 according to many students. Of course, there are many things in this account that Basij does not confirm. In fact, Basij does not confirm any direct connection with what happened on that day, although they mainly accuse the group who destroyed the Basij cabin while about Salehi, well, "he himself started everything by allowing those two enemies enter the university!" Shargh newspaper publishes a brief account of the on-goings and is immediately closed (temporarily) for "publishing lies" (I should also note that about a month ago Shargh was closed for publishing a cartoon related to what Ahmadinejad said, and this time the stoppage seems permanent).

The students stopped attending classes the next week (and so did many others in other university) to protest against Basij. A few days after that Salehi could leave the hospital and was welcomed again by a large crowd of the students; the attack brought him immediate popularity (on a basis of, "everyone who is their enemy, is our friend!"). The attackers were dismissed from the university and, ironically, were immediately accepted into Emam Hosein University (an army-owned university). A group of those who formed the attack on the Basij cabin were also "suspended" from attending the university for two semesters.

Salehi was the first (and probably last) university president after the Islamic revolution to have been chosen by a faculty election and was not appointed by a higher ranking official. He later resigned. Nothing remains currently of the Basij "spying" cabin. It has been replaced by some green fields and an ATM! There is also almost nothing remaining to remind us of what happened two years ago, and the many questions who rose in the minds of the students, if not yet vanished completely from their memories, will soon go away and then, well, nothing happened! After all, how many people remember those students who were beaten and killed in Tehran University dormitory two years ago?

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