Sunday, December 07, 2008

'Thousands' join anti-Ahmadinejad rally in Tehran
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Monday, December 08, 2008
TEHRAN: Iranian students held a protest Sunday at Tehran University calling for freedom and denouncing the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a pro-reform student group said. The protest amid heavy security was organized by the radical pro-reform Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU) student group to mark National Student Day.
"There was tough control, they [authorities] would not let anyone in but students broke the gate and came in," OCU member Mehdi Arabshahi told AFP.
"A lot of protests were directed at Ahmadinejad over oppression in universities and the bad economy," he added. "The protesters also demanded academic freedom and respect for human rights."
According to him "thousands of students from different universities were there" for the two-hour protest, which started at noon.
National Student Day is observed on December 6 but student sources said they had decided to hold the protest one day late in order to avoid official ceremonies.
Iran's Fars news agency, which is close to conservatives, said that only 150 demonstrators took part in the protest.
The agency described the protesters as "anarchists" who shouted "extremist slogans" and said that they broke the windows of the university's security office and threw rocks at wardens.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been reportedly due to speak at Tehran's Science and Industry University on Saturday but the event did not take place.
Iranian universities are hotbeds of student activism and protests are common despite strict control on campus since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.
Scores of pro-reform student activists have been detained over the past two years and many students have also been barred from universities over their activism, rights groups have said.
In the most high-profile case three students were arrested in May 2007 and sentenced to jail terms of up to three years on charges of publishing anti-Islamic images in student newspapers. They were conditionally released in August. - AFP


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