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Rahbar orders investigation into police action in which student was killed

Crescent International

The Secretariat of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council condemned in unequivocal terms police-action against students on the night of Friday, July 9, in which one student was killed (not five, as some reports said) and several were injured at Tehran University. Ordered by president Mohammed Khatami to review the situation, the Council held an extraordinary session on the tragic incidents at the student housing complex. After hearing comprehensive reports from the ministers of culture, higher education, health and interior, the Council expressed regrets at the events and accepted all of the students’ demands.

The Rahbar, Ayatullah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, when presented with the report, endorsed its recommendations and issued instructions that the matter be investigated further. He also instructed the authorities to look into whether agents provocateurs had instigated the clashes. Representatives of the Rahbar issued a statement condemning “members of law-enforcement bodies and irresponsible elements”, whose raid on dormitories at Tehran university led to the bloodshed. “The sanctity of the universities has been violated by such acts taken by the police-force and suspicious elements,” the Rahbar’s representatives’ council said in a statement carried by IRNA.

The statement from the National Security Council, meanwhile, said: “The unfortunate incident is totally unacceptable and unforgiveable, and the Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council condemns the incident and expresses its sympathies with the students and those people who have been injured.” The Council also appointed a special group “to investigate, fully and comprehensively, the dimensions, the causes and the apparent and hidden reasons for the incident, and to identify and deal firmly with the pressure-groups which are a cause of many difficulties because of their illegal actions.”

Without mincing words, the Council decided that “the official who ordered the law-enforcement agencies to enter the university housing complex will be dismissed and dealt with according to the law.” The Council also confirmed that all damages suffered by the students will be compensated and property damaged will be repaired.

The Council also called on the students to remain calm and stay within the bounds of the law to help the council to investigate the incident. Unfortunately, some students ignored this call and were out on the streets on July 11 making other demands, including the transfer of policing responsibilities from the Rahbar’s office to the president’s. This was clearly politically-motivated, and liable to cause further dissension in society.

A clear pattern seems to have emerged in which events are instigated, leading to clashes with law-enforcement agencies. These are then turned into thinly-disguised attacks against the Rahbar. This is a dangerous trend and president Khatami needs not only to dissociate himself from it but to deal with it firmly to put an end to such practices. There are people who appear to be using the president as a cover to undermine the foundations of the Islamic Republic.

The BBC and CNN in particular have enjoyed turning every incident, however insignificant or innocent, into a ‘power struggle’ in Iran. The extensive coverage given by the BBC to student-clashes with the police, repeatedly highlighting their demands, stands in sharp contrast with its coverage of similar incidents elsewhere in the Middle East. Would the BBC, for instance, give the same twist to its coverage if Egyptian or Jordanian students were involved in clashes with the police? The Algerian regime’s iron-fisted response to legitimate dissent has been projected as attempts by a beleaguered regime to control unruly mobs.

The resignation of the minister of higher education, Dr Mostafa Moin, on July 10 was also unfortunate. Why the minister resigned when the incident was not his ministry’s fault is not clear. Policing matters come under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry, and before any minister resigns the whole episode needs to be investigated, with those responsible for the tragedy being brought to justice through the courts of law.

The students came on to the streets to protest the closure of Salam newspaper following a bill passed in the Majlis (parliament) making journalists rather than the newspaper-publisher responsible for seditious articles. The newspaper was accused of publishing a letter from a leading religious figure pertaining to sensitive matters. Whatever the newspaper’s offence, perhaps it could have been dealt with in a different way. The students, also, did not need to erupt in anger unless the newspaper-owners themselves had exhausted the legal avenues through the courts of law, without satisfaction.

The Tehran police, on the other hand, defended their action and insisted that they had only been carrying out their duty by cracking down on the “illegal gathering” of student demonstrators late on the night of Friday July 9. Law-enforcement agencies had endured repeated “instigations by a number of opportunist and adventurous elements,” the commanders said in a statement carried by IRNA.

All allegations need to be thoroughly investigated so that the truth comes out and such incidents can in future be prevented. The death of even one single student in this way is unacceptable, as the Rahbar’s immediate response indicated. The fact that it seems to stem from political games being played by some people opposed to the Islamic system and the Rahber is makes the situation particularly dangerous. When the enemies of Islamic Iran relish a situation so much, all committed to the Revolution must be particularly careful.

Muslimedia: July 16-31, 1999

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 10

Rabi' al-Thani 03, 14201999-07-16

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