Iranian student writes of hope, fear over protest

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2009 12:22 PM

On Dec. 7, tens of thousands of students marched at universities across Iran, in the most significant anti-government protests in the country for months.

The Associated Press asked a 20-year-old philosophy undergraduate at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabei University to record his thoughts and experiences in a diary before, during and after the protests. He provided the AP the diary on condition of anonymity, because some of his friends have been arrested or suspended for contacting the foreign media.

The student has been suspended this semester for taking part in protests. More than 100 other students, including friends of the diarist, have been arrested in recent weeks, some sentenced to long prison terms.

They charge that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the last election by fraud, and many are supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The Iranian government considers the students misguided and says they have been tempted into counterrevolutionary activities by Iran's foreign enemies.

The diary entries have been translated from the Farsi by AP correspondent Scheherezade Faramarzi.

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Thursday, Dec. 3:

Today I received a warning from the herasat (the university moral police) to "watch out." Yesterday, my friends and I disrupted a speech by parliament member Alireza Zakani in the university's Azodi Amphitheater. Zakani claimed that Mousavi was only good at making up stories that his supporters are ready to become martyrs for the cause.

We shouted slogans. Then a Basiji student (a member of the hard-line, pro-government Basiji militia) went to the podium. Using shameless, foul language, she claimed the opposition had been violent in its protests and had pulled the scarves off women's heads. I got really angry and interrupted her and went to the podium saying she was lying.

(The head of the herasat's) message, relayed verbally by a friend, was: "Tell him that I had no issue with him, but it seems he has some unfinished business."

Friday, Dec. 4:

Friday is a holiday for every student, but there's no holiday these days with what's going on. From the moment you wake up in the morning, you're anxious about your friends in jail and you are also afraid that you might be next. That's how the day started for me. I started studying for my English language test, because when you have been suspended, you study English so you can leave this country, a country whose rulers have denied you your right to education.

I went to see a friend in the afternoon ... my fellow student at the university.

We talked a lot about philosophy. We also agreed it isn't rational to participate in such a dangerous day on the 7th because we would pay a high price. There's been a great deal of sacrifice since Nov. 4 (the last major opposition demonstration) and the back of the student organizations has almost broken.

Anyhow, in our view Dec. 7 is going to be a scary day.

Saturday, Dec. 5:

In the afternoon, went to Cafe Prague. This cafe opened recently and two friends who were also suspended are running it.

We drank coffee and talked about Dec. 7. Again, I insisted on being wise and prudent in our actions. I said we shouldn't pay a high price.

In the evening, I went to see a friend who's not particularly political. We were talking about various things, philosophy and social issues, when my mobile phone alerted me of an incoming sms. I opened it. It was from a friend. "Mohammad has been released."

Nothing has made me so happy in recent months. Mohammad Nik-khah. My classmate and a friend since elementary school. We spent hours laughing the night before he was arrested nearly three weeks ago. It was as if I had been freed of the grief of his imprisonment. His mobile was shut down all through the night and I have not yet been able to speak to him.

My Saturday was a happy one.

Sunday Dec. 6, 2009

(He reads the latest bulletin put out by Mousavi ahead of the Dec. 7 protests, expressing support for the students. It inspires him to join the nightly opposition chants from rooftops around the city.)

At 10 p.m. I went to the balcony and shouted "God is great" and "Death to the dictator."

There was pandemonium in the street below _ it both scared me and made me happy. Happy because of all this hope, and scared of what the coming days have in store.

Monday, Dec. 7, 2009

(Dec. 7 is National Students Day, a traditional occasion for rallies. The diarist decides it is too dangerous to take part. More than 200 protesters are arrested in the capital.)

Today was Dec. 7, a date when every year I could ... stand among my friends and cry out, a day that always reminded me that I am young and my head is filled with youthful passion. But it was a little different this year for me and many others. I felt it wasn't sensible to pay a high price for one single day.

The Internet was finally back on at night, so I read a lot and watched a lot of videoclips (of protests and clashes) ... They all confirmed to me that the price has risen and this is a danger for the student movement and for the larger Green Movement (Mousavi's opposition front).

Despite the wave of clashes and arrests, I believe we will be paying the real sacrifices in the days ahead. The universities will become more militaristic, an atmosphere of fear and horror will descend. I am worried universities could even reach the verge of closure.

Although today's demonstrations were splendid, tomorrow will be the executioners' day of vengeance.

Tuesday, Dec. 8:

(The Islamic month of Moharram begins in mid-December, a time for large mourning processions in the streets for a revered Shiite religious martyr. Many expect the opposition to hold their own processions against the government and for protesters killed in the crackdown.)

The main point is that yesterday's demonstrations did not conclude with Dec. 7.

The next step is successive protests until we reach ... the month of Moharram and the mourning processions.

In my view, the first 10 days of Moharram will be an important turning point in Iran's civil movement. If the government confronts the "Green" mourning processions violently, this will provoke the anger of a nation that is bound by its religion, and clerics and leaders will also be forced to take a stand. If the government does not confront the processions, the movement will take big steps forward.

The active members of the movement are not one single fabric...If we don't want to split up and want to remain united, we have to grab the strong rope of Mir Hossein Mousavi thoughts. This doesn't mean we have to accept everything he says, but to accept a single path.

We must remember that we are reformists, not revolutionaries and not overthrowers (of the regime).

A movement that still fills the streets with large crowds cannot be dead. ... The atmosphere of every city and university is politicized. People don't talk about anything other than politics.

Wednesday, Dec. 9:

Today, I finally went to the university. Eight students who took part in the protests Monday were not allowed entry. The head of herasat sat at the gate and personally confronted students. The atmosphere at the School of Humanities has become much more militaristic.

About 10 of us political students met at a coffee shop across the street...to go over the events and what steps we need to take, despite the poisonous atmosphere at the university. We were so high-strung that every 15 minutes someone got into an argument with the others. We postponed the session.

When I left the coffee shop, I ran into a friend who had just been freed from jail: Alireza Mousavi. It's been a long time since I've cried from happiness. It's a truly pleasant moment when a friend is freed.

We planned to meet at a relative of his to celebrate. At 8 p.m. went to see him with two other friends and gradually other friends joined us and we spent a good and happy evening together.

It was good because we were able to continue the noon meeting and make important decisions about our movement. ... We decided to elect a central council that would consist of something like five members. The other decision was that for now it's not time to protest in universities. Instead, we will establish study groups to improve our and other students' political knowledge.