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Iran's Imprisoned Student Leaders

Majid Tavakkoli
Majid Tavakkoli

Many students have been banned from attending school for political reasons, and dozens are languishing behind bars.

The university term has started in Iran, but there are many students who will not be in their classes this fall. Instead, many have been banned from attending school for political reasons, and dozens are languishing behind bars. In a morbid joke, Evin prison in Tehran has been called Evin University by some government critics, because of the number of students, as well as journalists and intellectuals, who have been locked up there because of their peaceful expressions of dissent.

Human rights organizations have taken up the cause of imprisoned Iranian students. Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities "to immediately and unconditionally release all student prisoners of conscience targeted for their political or human rights activism." In particular, it called for the release of jailed student leader Majid Tavakkoli and members of the central committee of Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat, Iran's largest student organization, which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations. Majid Tavakkoli is serving an eight and a half year prison term; central committee members Bahareh Hedayat and Milad Asadi have been sentenced to 9 and 7 years respectively.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is demanding the release of 5 jailed leaders of the student alumni group Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat, and for an investigation into the prisoners' detention, trials, and torture in prison. Those 5 include Ahmad Zeidabadi, recently awarded in absentia the Golden Pen of Freedom award in Hamburg; Advar's spokesman, Abdollah Momeni, who wrote a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader in September, detailing the abusive treatment he has suffered in detention; Ali Malihi, who has been sentenced to 4 years in prison and is reported by his family to have been severely tortured; and Ali Jamali and Hassan Asadi Zeidabadi –- both of whom were arrested in August.

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the "steady deterioration in human rights conditions in Iran has obliged the United States to speak time and time again." She called on the Iranian regime to release all political prisoners in Iran, including imprisoned student leaders, and urged the Iranian government to take action to end abuses and respect the universal rights and freedoms of its own citizens.