Thousands of Iran Students Decry Country\'s Conservatives
Thousands of Iranian students Wednesday voiced their anger with the regime's conservative leaders and hailed reformist President Mohammed Khatami when he arrived to address them on the annual Students Day.
"Shahrudi, resign, resign," between 6,000 and 7,000 students at Tehran University, cried referring to the country's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi.
The students, whose cries intensified with the arrival of Khatami on campus, also demanded the release of "political prisoners."
"Khatami, Khatami, our next president!" the students chanted as the head of state, a hero to the young, said that Iran was determined to "follow the path of democracy and a peoples' government."
During his speech, which was frequently interrupted by cheers from the audience, the president underlined that the Iranian people shared his "hope for democracy and a respect for freedom."
"All of this can be realized if we all respect the constitution," Khatami asserted, deploring the "non-application of certain articles and chapters of the basic law."
His words were welcomed by cries of "Death to the Taliban," by students comparing Iran's ultra-conservative Shiite clergy to the strict Afghan Islamic regime.
They also lashed out against Ali Larijani, the head of the conservative-run state television and radio, as well as two leading conservative papers.
The Students Day was established in 1953 after riots broke out between police of the shah's regime and students opposing a scheduled visit by then US vice president Richard Nixon. Several students were killed in the clashes.
An ongoing power-struggle between the country's conservatives and reformers has intensified in recent months, with reformists accusing conservatives of aiming to limit Khatami's powers.
Khatami, whose four-year term comes to an end in May, in November admitted that he was "incapable" of enforcing the constitution and took subtle but clear aim at conservatives who have stymied his reforms.
Conservative courts here have closed most pro-reform newspapers since reformists won parliamentary elections in February, while many journalists and Khatami allies have been jailed or are on trial.
Asked in November if he would run for a second term, Khatami said: "It is too soon for that."
Some aides have suggested he may not run for re-election because of the wide-ranging powers of the conservatives, who in addition to the courts control state media, the police and army, and key economic sectors – TEHRAN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)