Student Activist: People concerned about blatant regime brutality
Only 24 hours before the February 11, 2010 celebration of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, a student activist and member of Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat told International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that over the past few days, fear has enveloped Tehran streets. He said recent arrests by security forces–especially among university students– have been aimed to reduce their participation in the social arena. Referring to recent arrests of student activists, he told the Campaign that students are preoccupied with the arrests these days and the arrests are so widespread that they have even engulfed the lowest levels of political and social activists among university students. He described the social air of the past few days for us. This interview follows below:
On the threshold of 22 Bahman (February 11, 2010), many arrests have taken place. How do you see these student arrests which are mostly without cause or crime? How do you view the violations of these students’ human rights in different areas?
The first answer that comes to my mind is the air of fear among people. I think this fear is not merely a result of the arrests, but the fear that is ruling the streets. Over the past few days, on Tehran streets we have been witnessing a proliferation of Basij checkpoints again. Arrests related to Ashura protests continue, as well.
After witnessing that the violent crackdowns, unprecedented over the past decade, have not caused people to retreat, and seeing that the opposition leaders (former presidential hopefuls) know the rules to this game and seeing their resolve not to give up on their pursuit of people’s rights, the regime is using all its power to keep its post-Ashura policies alive in order to reduce people’s attendance to the lowest level possible.
Prior to the February 11, 2010 ceremonies, they have been arresting several activists in order to create fear and to reduce the effectiveness of the students. It is not too far fetched today to consider being arrested. The only goal the regime has is to reduce these activities. Students are good in analysis and their thought process could be very effective and enlightening.
Regarding the students’ rights, I should mention a few points. First is that many people arrested around Ashura are still in prison. None of them have been released yet. Ten or twelve students from each of the Amir Kabir Polytechnic and Sharif Universities have been arrested and a few have received heretics (“moharebeh”) sentences. They have not been able to participate in exams and have not been able to register for the new term. In a concerted effort, the universities who are responsible for looking into the condition of these students, are attempting to add to the case files against these students. We do not know about the conditions of several of our classmates. We are concerned about their detention location and their conditions and we would like to ask the regime some questions about them.
How do you see the social atmosphere today, 24 hours before 22 Bahman? What is it like at the university?
Over the past few days, people have been very involved in writing graffiti slogans on Tehran walls. Every morning Tehran Municipality workers who have been made to work overtime try to clean the green paint sprayed over freeway signs and main city streets. This means that there is a lot of positive activity in anticipation of the 22 Bahman protests.
But what is the most important thing of all is that people are fearful about the escalation of violence. People are risking their lives to come to streets, and they are concerned about one thing and that is the blatant violence the regime has employed. We are past guns and sticks and getting beaten up by the ruthless suppressive forces. They are now crossing over protesters in cars without mercy, making passage over Iranian youths’ bodies.
There is an irony in calling the armored vehicles “vehicles of suppression,” because that is how we can also refer to the regime itself, “a vehicle of suppression.” In the end, I believe people will show up in large numbers and with a lot of energy, showing once more that they are after their votes and this would neutralize the suppression vehicles, because violence is not effective in confronting people’s civil and peaceful movement.
But you think that the arrests have created fear among the students? Do student activists come to classes?
Yes, they come to their classes freely. Fortunately, student activists are not afraid of arrests, knowing that they may be arrested on the street or just as they leave the campus. When there is lawlessness, what can they do?