ISTANBUL, June 13 (Friday) -- Clashes this week between students and security forces in Tehran appear to be the most significant civic protests inside Iran in almost five years, according to analysts and witnesses who say it remains unclear whether the unrest will spread to the general population.
Hooman Peimani says that protests by only a few thousand do not amount to much. If the protests started pulling in a significant portion of the 1.7 million Iranian students only then would they have the scale needed to offer a serious challenge to the Mullahs currently ruling Iran.
Nevertheless, student protests in themselves are not capable of facilitating the desired change as long as they remain scattered as they can then be easily contained or suppressed. Having said that, the 1.7 million Iranian students attending a large number of higher education institutions, if acting as a united social group, could certainly function as a catalyst of change, encouraging other social groups to join a peaceful movement for the formation of a secular democratic system. If, then, the student protests can continue, they have the potential for growth and consolidation.
Peimani also reports that even as students protest and the United States seeks to isolate Iran to pressure it to halt nuclear weapons development Germany is trying to develop better relations with the current Iranian government.
Visiting German Foreign Ministry official Volker Stanzel's talks in Tehran on Sunday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Euro-American Affairs, Ali Ahani indicate that while the American government is seeking Iran's isolation, Berlin is moving in the opposite direction.
The Germans are not being helpful.
The demonstrations began in order to protest against rising student tuition fees.
Minister of Science and Technology unveiled a plan to privatize universities requiring the students to pay tuition fees causing dismay among the students who could not afford to.
"Tanks, artillery and guns no longer have any power," the protesters chanted. "Khatami, Khatami, resign, resign." Others shouted, "Death to dictators."
The government is using paramilitaries to attack the students and the behavior of the paramilitaries is going to make the government even more unpopular.
Often they would ditch their vehicles and attack private homes, smashing lights and exposed windows and screaming at cowering residents to stay indoors. Sometimes the students would get their revenge. At one point, they separated a sole vigilante, wrestled him off his bike, pummeled him and then set his bike afire.
The approach of the anniversary of the July 1999 student protests which were brutally suppressed has Iranian opposition groups promoting the idea of a big demonstration on July 9.
About a dozen US-based television stations run by Iranian opposition groups have been urging people to demonstrate against the clerical system on July 9.
Over the past two years, millions of Iranians have taken to the streets in open rebellion. For the most part, these demonstrations have been led by "students," but these are not the kids in Paris or Berkeley in the 1960s. Iranian "students" are considerably older (some of the leaders are in their late thirties or early forties), and hardened by years of street fighting, imprisonment and torture.
However, AFP reports on the third night of student protests the number of protesters has declined. Count me as continuing to be skeptical about the prospects for a revolution in Iran that will usher in a secular democracy that forsakes terrorism and nuclear weapons development. The broader Iranian public is too apathetic. Even if they have a revolution many secular reformers want to continue Iran's nuclear weapons development program anyway.
Update: Joe Katzman's Iran Regional Briefing has a nice collection of links on recent events in Iran. He includes a link to Iranian blogger ahuramazda about the accuracy of Michael Ledeen's writings on Iran. Note that he believes Ledeen exaggerates the size of street protests and also believes that apathy is the dominant mood in Iran.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 June 13 02:28 PM Axis Of Evil|