While the majority of mainstream news media’s focus on Iran has returned to the debate over who has the right to control the country’s nuclear energy ambitions, Iranian students continue to risk their lives while protesting for their human and civil rights. Hundreds of Iranian men and women have been arrested and interrogated since the recent Iranian presidential election, and claims of torture and abuse of detainees continue to surface.
On December 7 Majid Tavakoli, a student at Amir Kabir University in Tehran, was reportedly violently arrested after giving a speech at one among several protests that were held around the country on Iran’s Student’s Day, or 16 Azar. 16 Azar commemorates the murder of 3 Iranian student protesters who were shot and killed by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s military during a large protest that occurred in 1953 against US Vice President Richard Nixon’s visit to the country in support of the Shah’s government. Earlier that year the popular and democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddeq was overthrown by a CIA/MI6 sponsored coup which restored the Shah to power. The brutal and corrupt Iranian monarchy maintained control of the country until the revolution of 1979.
It has been reported that Tavakoli had already been imprisoned before for his activism, and that he was tortured during his detention. Tavakoli was well aware of the risks involved in giving his impassioned speech, but contended that it was the “duty” of all students to make their voices heard despite the heavy air of fear and paranoia weighing upon them in solidarity with the protesters that have been imprisoned and tortured, as well as those who have been killed during the ongoing wave of protests which hit Iran following the 2009 election. Early on in his speech Tavakoli states:
Today is 16 Azar. It is our day. It is the day of students…
There are organizations run by Iranians and non-Iranians who do not have the interests of the Iranian people at heart, but who claim that their actions are fuelled by their desire to see real democracy implemented in Iran. There are people who advocate for increased sanctions against Iran, or military intervention in the country, while claiming that they too are trying to protect human rights. Many people make these claims from the safety of other countries. Then there are the brave men and women of Iran (many of them students like Tavakoli) who continue to speak out from within the country, while fighting for their rights despite the very real threat of imprisonment, torture and even death. These are the voices we should be listening to.