July 3, 2003

La Prensa Persa

Editors Note: On June 27, 2003 we re-introduced the first biweekly column of La Prensa Persa (The Persian Press), an opportunity for members of the middle-eastern communities to communicate and talk about the many issues facing them, immigration law, civil and constitutional rights to name a few, which not only impact that community but also impact the Hispanic community.

9th July 2003 (18-Tir 1382): Iran Stands Up!

By Kathy Hadizadeh

I am sure that nowadays you hear “Iran” a lot in the news. Mostly they talk about the threat of nuclear power activities of Iran but what is happening in Iran is much more shocking.

Today, Iran is facing tough and rather critical times. In a few days time Iran might be experiencing a global movement by its university students. Here, I try to give you a very brief history of behind the scenes, so, on July 9th you will have an idea of what is happening in Iran and why.

Iran government in 1999 had a nice, unique, habit of closing down newspapers that were brave enough to criticize the government and imprisoning the editors of those papers. Almost every week you would hear in the news that another newspaper is closed and in less than a week another newspaper with the same ideology but a different title and editor would replace it. It was such a common game that if one week it did not take place, people would wonder what has happened.

After the closure of one of the newspapers called: Salam, the university students were outraged and started rallying against such an anti-cultural action. Some vigilantes loyal to Iran’s leader: Khamenei attacked university dormitories at night and made some brutal scenes leading to the death of some defenseless students and destruction of dormitories. The protest turned into a huge demonstration among all the universities as a result of this action. People especially the young generation was very much optimistic about the changes that so called reformist president Khatami would make in the country so they were calmed down at that time and after a few days, peace came back to universities in the capital.

The government was always fearful of the anniversary of July 9th. Students would not forget the brutality and the bloodshed of innocent people so they were always on an alert on this day. Students being on alert meant that government was in fear. 9th July would resemble Halloween for them. As if the spirits of the students were flying all over the country, inviting people to stand up and revolt to get back their lost freedom.

This year it was mid June students started a revolt against privatization of universities. Let me explain. There are a very limited number of public universities in Iran offering free education with an internationally high quality. The capacity of these universities has not increased in parallel with the population boom that Iran has gone through mainly because of the Islamic revolution propaganda for condemning use of birth control means. As a result getting into public universities is extremely difficult and very competitive.

To give you an example in 1990 I took part in the entrance exam, with about a 1,000,000 people, out of which about 10,000 people would get accepted to universities. The hot majors required a ranking under 2000 among this big numbers. Now you figure out with the population increase in 13 years what the discrepancy should be! There are now some private universities that you pay for education and still it is competitive to get into them but no way near the public ones. Now, imagine that the government was planning to privatize the pubic universities. In this case there will be two dramatic consequences from an education standpoint:

1- All the efforts of the students who benefit from higher levels of talent and intelligence and studing hard is replaced by the mere fact that a person’s parents might be affluent enough to afford a big sum of money required to send their child to the best university without any effort

2- The quality level of education in the public universities will drop dramatically. Currently Iran public universities are well respected for their undergrad high standards, which is a big help for the admission of Iranian students to the well-known schools in US and other countries.

The students started their protests three weeks ago. Again they were confronted with brutal attacks from the government’s plainclothes operatives. This time there was a big difference. Students have given up hope that President Khatami will ever implement any of the reformist plans. Unofficial reports say that 4000 students have been arrested. Students in many universities have started a food strike until all students are released. The government radicals have announced that they will hold trials for imprisoned students and will sentence them to horrible punishments so that they can stop the demonstration of students on July 9th.

Well, they are late. Student associations have vowed to continue to demonstrate until July 9th. Iranians at different countries are demonstrating in front of Iran embassies all over the world to support the brave students who do not let fear overcome their courage to fight for freedom.

Remember July 9th, a day the world will talk about Iran.

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