Hundreds of Iranian students recently participated in an anti-government demonstration at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University. The students defied security forces to protest jail terms for three student leaders who were convicted of “insulting Islam’s sanctities and its authorities” in articles for a student newsletter.
The three students, Ehsan Mansouri, Majid Tavakkoli, and Ahmad Qasaban, say the articles attributed to them are forgeries. Reformist student groups reportedly claim the articles were fabricated in order to discredit the students and crush dissent. The three were sentenced to up to three years in prison. The protestors at Amir Kabir University shouted slogans against government officials and called for the release of the imprisoned students. They also called for the release of other jailed Iranian dissidents, including human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi.
The demonstration occurred two weeks after students at Tehran University held an anti-government rally during a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Last December, Mr. Ahmadinejad received a similarly hostile response from students at Amir Kabir University, who interrupted his speech and burned his picture.
These protests are taking place as the Iranian regime is engaging in a brutal crackdown on dissent. Students, labor leaders, journalists, women rights activists, human rights defenders and dissident clergymen have been targeted. But despite the regime’s brutality, Iranians continue to demand their rights.
Vice President Dick Cheney recently spoke of their courage and commitment:
“The spirit of freedom is stirring in Iran. The voices of change and peaceful dissent will not be silent. We can expect to hear more from the courageous reformers, bloggers, and the advocates of rights for women and ethnic and religious minorities, because these men and women are more loyal to their country than to the regime.”
“The Iranian people have every right to be free from oppression. . . .in their own country,” said Vice President Cheney. “The Iranian people," he said "can know that America respects them, cares about their troubles, and stands firmly on the side of liberty, human dignity and individual rights.”