63 University Groups Slam Rouhani and Reformists For Crackdown on Students
Sixty-three student organizations from universities across Iran have issued a statement sharply criticizing President Hassan Rouhani for a crackdown led by his Intelligence Ministry on students who were arrested during nationwide protests in December 2017 and January 2018.
“Dr. Rouhani’s ‘moderate’ government has not only failed to defend the students but evidently his Intelligence Ministry is involved in their arrest and prosecution,” said the statement.
On June 18, a group of students at the University of Tehran’s College of Social Sciences boycotted final exams to protest the harsh sentences.
The state-funded Iranian Students News Agency reported that more than 20 academics and university officials expressed their solidarity by joining student protesters at the college’s community hall.
The participants included acting dean Mehdi Etemadi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative Farajollah Tazehkandi and the managing director of Iran’s official news agency, Islamic Republic News Agency, Zia Hashemi, who teaches sociology at the College.
Among the more than 90 students who were arrested at the time, Tehran University student activists Sina Darvish Omran and Ali were sentenced to eight years in prison each for the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security” on June 11, 2018.
Several other cases remain pending.
In early March 2018, anthropology student Leila Hosseinnejad received a six-year prison sentence and banned from traveling for two years, theater set design student Mohsen Haghshenas was sentenced to two years in prison, and sociology student Sina Rabiei received a one-year sentence and a two-year travel ban.
“Reformist parties and careless members of the Omid [‘Hope’ pro-government] Faction in Parliament, who have surrendered to the status quo… must be held accountable for the Ministry of Science’s passive response to the students’ arrests and long prison sentences,” said the statement by the university organizations.
“With bayonets held against the universities, today students are being told they must not utter a word about injustice, erosion of freedoms in universities and society, the privatization of higher education or serious political, social, environmental and economic crises facing the country or those who are responsible for it,” it added.
Reformist Member of Parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi was one of the few lawmakers who had spoken out against the crackdown.
After being informed of the sentences, Sadeghi criticized President Rouhani for turning against his young supporters.
“Mr. Rouhani! Do you remember when you said, ‘I’m not a colonel; I’m a lawyer’ and swore to God you would not shut opponents’ mouths?” he tweeted on June 28.