Supporters of Majid Tavakoli, a prominent jailed student activist in Iran and one of the biggest symbols of that country's embattled student movement, are celebrating his brief taste of freedom.
The opposition website Kalame reported that Tavakoli was given four days of leave after spending four years in prison, including several months in solitary confinement.
On October 22, the day after Tavakoli was temporarily released after posting bail, his fellow students at Tehran's Amir Kabir University gathered to celebrate his release, YouTube video
In one video
, students are singing a well-known folk song that promises the end of winter. Some are holding pictures of Tavakoli and signs that say, "University is Alive."
Tavakoli was arrested after criticizing repression in Iran at a 2009 speech at Amir Kabir University.
He was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison on several charges, including spreading propaganda against the Islamic establishment and insulting Iran's leaders.
Human rights activists and others launched an online campaign in support of Tavakoli after state media mocked him by publishing pictures of him wearing women’s clothes after his arrest. His supporters suggested he had been forced to wear them.
Tavakoli's unwillingness to back off from his stances despite state pressure and harsh prison treatment have gained him a huge following. Many say he upholds the honor of Iran's student movement.
Iran's universities came under extensive pressure during the two-term presidency of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Many students were summoned by disciplinary committees and security bodies and threatened. Some were banned from studying, while others were jailed for their political activities and critiques of the Iranian establishment. Liberal and pro-reform professors were also pressured, and several were reportedly forced into early retirement.
But Iran’s new president, Hassan Rohani, has set a very different tone. In an October 14 speech
at Tehran University he criticized the treatment of students and professors, saying, "I tell the security bodies and the Intelligence Ministry to pave the way for scientific diplomacy and trust universities, students, and professors."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari