In Iran, no demonstrations marked the fifth anniversary of the historic Tehran University pro-democracy protests. Why? The government sent a message to students and anybody else advocating free speech in Iran: anyone who tried to commemorate the anniversary this year would be detained, punished -- or worse.
On July 9th, 1999, more than twenty-five thousand people throughout Iran participated in a student-led protest sparked by a police and vigilante raid on a small, peaceful campus demonstration the previous day. The nationwide protest was the largest political demonstration in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Iranian government responded with a major crackdown on dissent. And all of the protesters’ demands were ignored, says exiled Iranian human rights activist Ladan Boroumand:
“The demands are freedom of all political prisoners, the abolition of special courts, the right to due process, the freedom of the press, the abolition of discrimination against women, adherence to the international convention against torture. Basically, none of these reforms have been implemented, and that’s why the pro-democracy movement reached the conclusion that this regime is unable to reform from within."
President George W. Bush says that if Iran’s clerical rulers do not “heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people,” the regime will “lose its claim to legitimacy”:
“Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny, and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.”
Across the Middle East, people are demanding that authoritarian rule give way to democracy and respect for human rights. “We continue to stand with the people of Iran,” said President Bush, “and we call on the government of Iran to respect the will of its people and be accountable to them.”