Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims that there is freedom of speech as well as academic freedom in Iran. When he spoke at Columbia University, he said this, speaking through a translator:
“Right now in our universities on a daily basis, there are hundreds of meetings like this [of Iranian students and foreign visitors]. They hear, they talk, they ask questions, they welcome it.”
This would be news to many in Iran, who have felt, first hand, the repression of the clerical regime. Akbar Mohammadi was one of the hundreds of students arrested for participating in anti-government protests at Tehran University in 1999. He died in 2006 in Evin prison after years of brutal treatment and denial of adequate medical care.
Ahmad Batebi is a former student leader made famous by a photograph showing him holding the bloody shirt of a friend who was beaten during the 1999 protests. Mr. Batebi still languishes in Evin prison and is said to be in terrible mental and physical health as a result of torture.
Majid Tavakkoli, Ahmad Qasaban, and Ehsan Mansouri are student leaders from Amir Kabir University in Tehran, where Iranian President Ahmadinejad was booed in 2006. They too are being held in Evin prison. Their families say the three have been beaten and placed in solitary confinement to induce them to confess falsely to crimes against the state.
Then there are the dozens of professors throughout Iran who have been forced to retire from teaching because they did not sufficiently toe the Iranian government line. This is neither academic freedom, nor freedom of speech; it is censorship and oppression.