December 6, 2009
Translation of a statement issued by the student publication, Bazr, on the occasion of the 16th Azar (Dec. 7th), or the (University) Student Day, in Iran (see original in Persian, here).
16th Azar: Always Red!
Bazr Student Periodical: On the Occasion of 16 Azar/December 7, 2009
16th of Azar is on the way once again. Any ceremonies planned for this year will be different from those of previous years. This school year started with a different beginning. 13th of Aban (Nov. 4th), which had always been a boring event, this time around was a starting point for this day. 16th of Azar, however, has always been a climax for all the events. From the people's point of view, the university and university students have been symbols of consciousness, knowledge and struggle. After the recent surge forward [by the people], which saw astonishing days and moments, the Student Day can become a turning point. However, a review of this day in history shows us some important points.
The starting point of 16th Azar was in the university student struggles in 1953, in opposition to the Shah's policies and, specifically, to Nixon's trip [as Eisenhower's vice president] to Iran. The demonstrations held for this occasion led to the deaths of three university students [in Tehran] by the names of: Qhandchi, Shari'at Razavi, and Bozorgnia. Since then, 16th Azar of every year has been celebrated as the Student Day, albeit with different degrees of intensity. The point that is evident and clear, however, is that the Islamic Republic has always attempted to confiscate this day in the name of Islam. But, the students' struggle of 1953 was a fight against the ruling oppression and imperialism. The three murdered students belonged to the communist Tudeh Party and to the National Front.
The oppression of that day and today are not different; only its form and appearance have changed, but its class nature is the same as it was. The Islamic Republic, by creating student organizations that were attached to the regime, such as the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat (Office of Consolidation of Unity) and various Islamic associations, has to this day tried to fully expropriate this day and to use it for its own policies.
In recent years, with the presence and regeneration of leftist students in universities, the 16th Azar ceremonies have been held with a different quality. In particular, we can point to the ceremonies held in 2006. Although it was a joint ceremony in conjunction with Daftar Tahkim, with the presence of the radical students the day turned into a radical and oppositional program against the regime. The day after, although an account in the E'temad Meli newspaper (belonging to the reformist faction then, and today's opposition) contained a picture of the ceremonies displaying red placards, the report itself claimed the ceremony to have been organized [only] by Daftar Tahkim Vahdat and reportedly filled with enthusiasm.
In 2007, when the regime could no longer stand the strengthening of the left, in the lead-up to the 16th Azar, it organized a widespread campaign of arrests against leftist activists, and detained nearly 40 individuals and sent them to Evin. Despite that, the Student Day was celebrated, albeit in small crowds, and several of the students were also arrested after the ceremonies. In that year, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, at ease of mind in the absence of the left, organized the ceremonies. The interesting part was the confiscation of the leftist slogans; something that was repeated in different ceremonies held later by Tahkim Vahdat students. They confiscated both the day and the slogans!
But how will the 16th Azar be this year? This year, everything has changed considerably. In the recent leap made by the people, the presence of the students was very widespread and influential. The Iranian regime, knowing that the universities and their students constitute a major segment in the struggle, attacked the university campus [in Tehran] with vengeful violence, killing many and injuring, arresting and disappearing many more. The final exams were canceled so that the students would return to their hometowns. But, none of these stopped the rage of the people and the university students. The start of the school year, which was accompanied with many 'if's' and 'but's' regarding opening the universities or not, turned out to be a hot beginning. This time, though, the student protests and the struggles spread nationwide. The students have organized/assembled under many different pretexts. None of the regime's representatives have been able to give speeches in any of the universities in Tehran or in other cities, and most such speeches have turned into arenas of radical struggles. Although green symbols and slogans have more or less been present at these protests, the organization of these protests, according to students who attend them, have not been under the leadership of the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat students, and have been mostly spontaneous. In all this, the presence of the first-year and newly arrived students, who had started university having just arrived from a street fight, has been very manifestly positive.
After the 13 Aban/November 4th ceremonies, the Iranian regime, terrified of the 16th Azar, began its attack in many different forms. The execution of Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish political activist and 16 others in the same week, the widespread arrests of university students in different universities, suspension of students and banning them from entering universities, and ordering vast numbers to report to disciplinary committees are among such attacks. It is certain that these arrests will not stop the 16th Azar ceremonies from being held. This year, however, an important change has been created. Until now, the Islamic Republic has been trying to confiscate this day, but today the reformist faction of the regime, which sees itself as the opposition, is trying to do the same. But, the reality is that the green faction, today, is part of the ruling system. Not only are their demands not radical, they even try to control people's radical slogans and moves. The greens, who never thought people's protests would materialize like this, have tried to claim ownership over these struggles and have done their utmost to tame and control them. They are riding the wave of people's struggle. But the reality is that they cannot be real leaders of people's fight, since they too seek to consolidate the 30-year long positions and policies of the Islamic Republic, but in a different form. They talk of the return to the constitution; of the real revival of religion, and they talk of the Islamic Republic, not a word more, nor a word less! Haven't such categories been noticed and examined for the last thirty years? The reformist faction which has been a part of the ruling system has been complicit in all matters. But, the fissure that has appeared today among the rulers is over how best to continue and prolong the life of the Islamic Republic. Their class nature and their goals are not different. Their clash is not over the people's interests.
It is therefore necessary that the university students -- as a part of the people with a concentrated presence at the nerve centers of knowledge and consciousness -- must consciously address this issue and prevent the Student Day from being confiscated, this time by the greens. Although the [organization of] Tahkim Vahdat does not enjoy its previous strength, we must remember that the greens, as a part of the regime, still have their own forces, media and platforms. Daftar Tahkim is not only not the representative of 16th Azar, it is even an obstacle to celebrating the Student Day in its true meaning. This organization has annually used this day to push forth the policies of the Islamic Republic, and this year will undoubtedly push forth the policies of the greens.
The Student Day is a day to fight against ruling oppression and imperialism, and this year the message of the 16th Azar, delivered by university students, must be heard by all, all the more gloriously. In the last months, the street has been the scene of people's struggles, and today, on the eve of the 16th Azar, the regime has taken special measures in preparation to limit the events of the day to the university campus. At the same time, we must note that even the green faction is not too enthusiastic about the events spilling beyond the university campus walls. They are well aware of the explosive potentials of the university students, and know that if the students join up with the people and other youth in the streets, the 16th Azar ceremonies will turn untamable. This could lead to big losses for the greens. This year's 16the Azar can become a determining turning point and springboard for the people's movement. It was for good reason then that, from the very first days [of the movement], in order to tame the people's movement, this regime attacked the university, since it knew that students carry a big weight in the movement. The events of the past months have unfolded in such manner that despite the differences between the two factions, their discourse is increasingly similar. Moussavi has been content with issuing conciliatory and pacifying statements, and Karroubi, who they claim is a radical, on the eve of the Student Day has stepped back and remained silent.
The students must use this atmosphere, which contains all the right elements for a radical fight, and must insist on the radical nature of this day as a revolutionary day, a day of anti-oppression and anti-imperialism, and revive the true meaning of this day. The true horizon of the student's struggles must be based on the interests of the majority of the society and against the totality of the regime. We must not allow the greens to confiscate this day in their own name and to put a green stamp on it. We must fight against and expose the crimes committed on the university campus [in Tehran University], we must fight against the arrests, the suspensions and expulsions and putting stars on students and against the recent executions, especially the execution of Ehsan Fattahian. The ruling faction orders the replacement of humanities courses with classes in Islamic studies and the green faction speaks of the correct revival of religion in the society. On this day, we must raise our voices against all such cases and against the dissemination of superstitions - instead of science - in the most essential places of science and knowledge. As opposed to the policies pursued by the greens, who are opposed to slogans targeting the whole political structure [of the regime], on this day we must use radical and revolutionary slogans against religious rule, against compulsory hejab [cover for women], in support of dominated ethnic minorities and against the entirety of the system; and we must avoid raising religious and nationalistic slogans. By creating independent organizations consisting of a radical student body, we must prevent the confiscation of the student protests by regime organizations, such as Tahkim [Vahdat] and Anjoman Eslami (Islamic Association). Do not allow them, after confiscating the slogans of the day, to then also confiscate this day that belongs to the university students. We must take the fight from inside the university campus to the streets. In the recent leap, women and girls have had a noticeable and magnificent presence, and nowadays a major part of the student body consists of women. We must be the voice of the girls and women of the society, and reflect their demands. The voice of those who proved that they have an important role in leading the recent fights.
Let us not allow 16th Azar to turn green! Let us celebrate this day in red, not only in appearance but in form and essence!