Rocking Iran

Student Protests Challenge Fundamentalist Regime

Revolutionary Worker #1205, June 29, 2003, posted at

A new upsurge of protest by defiant youth is rocking the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Iran. The university students of Teheran, the Iranian capital, who sparked this latest wave of anti-government protest have been joined in the streets by workers and others. And they have clashed fiercely with the police and government-backed paramilitary groups.

These fearless youth are bringing a fresh wind of resistance to this country ruled by reactionary fundamentalist clergymen.

The protests began on June 10 with specific demands against the government's plan to privatize universities. By some accounts, the protests began with a small number of students at Teheran University.

But the upsurge quickly grew as thousands of people openly defied the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in the streets of the capital.

What started as a protest around student demands quickly tapped into the deep anger and dissatisfaction among broad sections of the people in Iran. Poverty and unemployment are widespread-- affecting not only the poorest sections of the people but the middle classes as well. Many are sick and tired of the stifling rule of the clergy and their religious laws. Women are increasingly defying the medieval patriarchy and woman-hating ideology of the IRI.

On June 13, demonstrators set tires and other objects on fire to clog up traffic on two major highways leading to the Teheran University dorms. A 45-year-old man tied up in the traffic jam expressed support for the student rebels: "We are standing up against them. We are resisting and protesting against the regime."

By the following week, anti-government protests had spread to many other cities across Iran.

As the protests grew, the reactionary rulers began counter-attacking along several fronts. The Ansar Hezbollah--an armed vigilante group directly tied to Khamenei and other top clergymen--carried out vicious assaults against the protesters. The vigilantes burned down student dorms and attacked with knives and guns. Many protesters were brutalized--but there was also determined resistance against these forces of reactionary order. At the same time, a government-backed Islamic student group was mobilized to try to bring the movement under control.

And IRI officials accused the protesters of being "pawns" of the U.S.--at a time when the U.S. government is openly talking about "regime change" in Iran. The U.S. imperialists are throwing the same kind of charges against Iran as they did against Iraq, such as that Iran possesses "weapons of mass destruction," to lay the groundwork for intervention and possible military action. Bush described the recent protests as "the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran." Such remarks are truly hypocritical, coming from the head of the occupying force that is not only censoring any criticism in Iraq but shooting down Iraqis for making simple demands like wages and pensions. The U.S. is aiming to take advantage of the fragile political situation in Iran for its own imperialist purposes. But what's happening next door in Iraq shows clearly that the U.S. has no intention of truly liberating people from oppressive rule.

As for the IRI, the fundamentalist rulers hope the accusation of U.S. backing would turn public opinion against the youth. But as a leaflet from the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) reported, there was a clear rejection from among the protesters of this government accusation when students raised the slogan: "This is a student movement, not an American movement!" [The Communist Party of Iran (MLM) is a participating party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. The full text of the leaflet appears on this page.]

As we go to press, the large street protests in Teheran seem to have subsided, for now. But coming up is the annual commemoration of the student uprising that began on July 8, 1999. On that day four years ago, a student sit-in protest at Teheran University was violently attacked by the authorities. This led to huge and sharp clashes with the regime in the capital and throughout the country.

The frustration and anger at the Islamic fundamentalist regime among broad sections of Iranian society are sure to rise again in open confrontations with the regime. "We will come out onto the streets again," one woman teacher said. "This will continue because we want freedom."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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