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12/10/03 - STUDENTS DAY IN IRAN - 2003-12-11

“Free all political prisoners!” and “Death to despotism!” were some of the chants heard December 7th in Tehran during the annual Student Day. The slogans were a message to the Iranian clerical regime that its radical Islamic program had failed to create a better society –- and continues to make life worse for many Iranians.

According to news reports, some fifteen-hundred Iranian students joined the demonstration, which marked the anniversary of student deaths in protests in 1953.

Some of the protestors directed their frustration at President Mohammed Khatami. Leila Zanjani Zanjani, a female student leader, told the Associated Press that, “Khatami doesn’t have the courage to fulfill his promise. . .unfortunately, after six years failing to enforce promised democratic reforms. Khatami,” said Ms. Zanjani, “has lost the confidence of the young generation.”

Ms. Zanjani speaks for many Iranians who want a free and democratic state, and who denounce the theocratic system.

The U.S. supports the Iranian aspiration for democracy. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “There’s no question that the Iranian regime is engaged in destructive policies and actions.”

Iran has an abysmal human rights record. Its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction threatens to destabilize the region. Iran continues to support terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad. And, as White House spokesman Scott McClellan says, Iran is still harboring al-Qaida terrorists:

“Iran must change its course, change its behavior –- particularly on the issue of its relationship with al-Qaida and the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organizations, and that would be an important step.”

The Iranian people have made it clear that they oppose the price their government has imposed on them for its support for terrorism. Instead, they want their government to devote itself to more constructive purposes, such as reintegrating Iran into the world community, revitalizing the Iranian economy, and engaging in genuine democratic reform.