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Student Groups Issue New Complaints Against Restrictions

Iranian Islamic Azad University Signboard

Thirty-six students’ associations affiliated with Azad University have protested restrictions imposed on events related to Student’s National Day in Iran, on December 7, a website close to Iran Green Movement, Kalemeh reported.

In their written protest, addressed to the head of Azad University’s Board of Founders, Ali Akbar Velayati, the students have highlighted the restrictions imposed on holding the annual ceremonies.

Referring to Velayati’s remark on the necessity of respecting “different political tendencies”, the protesters have asserted that Azad University officials “are seeking to eliminate their political opponents" from the university, through “weird and unjustifiable behavior”.

Reportedly, Azad University officials had imposed restrictions on inviting political figures to deliver speeches at Student’s National Day ceremonies.

Some Azad University departments had gone even further, forbidding students to hang reformist former president Mohammad Khatami’s portraits at locations assigned to holding the ceremonies.

Moreover, while referring to the latest appointments at Azad University, the protesters have raised their concern over what they have described as “turning universities into garrisons”.

Earlier on Sunday, November 26, director of Students’ Islamic Associations, Mohammad Baqir Golshan Abadi had insisted that “Those who were involved in 2009 sedition will definitely not be allowed to speak at Student’s National Day ceremonies”.

“Sedition” is a term used by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader and his conservative allies to describe the Green Movement or five-month long protests against highly controversial official result of 2009 presidential elections, declaring the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

Preventing the prominent reformist figures from delivering speeches at Student’s National Day was not limited to Azad University, reports from inside Iran indicate.

Following an order issued by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ security organization, many reformists were barred from delivering speeches all over the country.

On the eve of this year’s Student Day, students were summoned over the phone and warned not to take part in protests.
Student activist

​Nevertheless, a political deputy to President Hassan Rouhani’s Ministry of Interior, Issma’il Jabbarzadeh claimed that none of the ceremonies scheduled to celebrate Student’s National Day were banned by outside interference.

“We had banned outside entities [non-academic organizations] to meddle in the ceremonies and none of the gatherings were cancelled,” Jabbarzadeh affirmed.

In a speech on December 2 in the city of Zabol in Sistan and Balouchestan Province, southeastern Iran, Rouhani had also maintained, "We are very happy that our students are now speaking loudly and clearly."

Expressing satisfaction over Student’s Day being celebrated across the country, Rouhani had affirmed, "Universities must be independent and free, and this was one of the aims of the [Islamic] Revolution."

Furthermore, Rouhani had asserted that universities must be free to criticize like seminaries’ clergy, adding, “Students speak without stammering."

Nevertheless, 92 student associations, 813 staff at student publications, and 8,000 student rights activists wrote letters in recent years protesting the “police state” and “threatening atmosphere” ruling over Iranian universities, as well as cancellation of student gatherings and extrajudicial interference to stop holding them.

According to Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), protests were held at several Iranian universities on December 7, 2017, on the occasion of Student Day. A students’ rights activist told CHRI that President Hassan Rouhani has failed to uphold his election campaign promise to end the securitization of university campuses.

“On the eve of this year’s Student Day, students were summoned over the phone and warned not to take part in protests,” student activist Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam told CHRI. “The authorities have made it more difficult to organize unions to seek better living conditions for students. The climate for political activities now is even worse than before.”

In a Radio Farda round-table discussion, a political analyst, Mehdi Mahdavi Azad said, "One of the main goals of the regime is to control of universities, by using various means of pressures...universities present a danger of a political explosion".