Saturday, August 27, 2016

Persian Letters

A Student Takes On The Iranian Regime ... Then Flees

There is fire under the ashes,” says student activist Payam Olad Azimi about the situation at Iran’s universities where, he believes, the increased state repression of the last two years has not managed to silence dissenting voices.

22-year-old Olad Azimi (pictured below) is one of those voices who has been pressured so much by the Iranian authorities, he has been forced into exile.

He talked to Persian Letters on February 19 -- the same day a video of him publicly criticizing the Iranian establishment was posted on YouTube. He said he made the video available right after fleeing the country.

The amateur video, which was recorded by a cellphone, has already been widely shared on social media. It is from an October event at Iran's Orumieh University that was attended by an official from the Interior Ministry.


In the video, Azimi publicly confronts the ministry official, who he identifies as Mahmud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, the ministry's political director. Azimi asks several challenging questions, including why former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Musavi and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi have both become critics of the establishment and leaders of the opposition movement. Both men have been under house arrest for the past year.

"How come someone who was prime minister for eight years, someone who was parliament speaker for eight years, is now standing against the establishment?" Azimi asks Meshkini. "Why are those who went to jail and were tortured [for helping the regime come to power] now standing against it?"

Azimi also asks Meshkini about the shrinking circle of insiders in the Islamic republic. Former presidents are now facing accusations of being pro-Western, seditionists, or member of a "deviant current," he says."Wouldn't it have been better if the [1979 revolution] didn't take place?” he asks.

Azimi, a student activist who edited a student publication, also refers to the alleged fraud in the 2009 disputed presidential vote and questions the official results that gave Musavi 13 million votes and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad 24 million votes.

On the video, his comments are greeted by loud applause by students at the event.

Azimi told “Persian Letters” that after the event, the Interior Ministry official gave him his telephone number and told him he could call if he faced problems over his comments.

(WATCH: Azimi challenges the official from the Interior Ministry) 

Pressure on Azimi, who said he had previously been harassed over his activism, increased after his show of public defiance. He said he was summoned before the university’s disciplinary committee and banned from classes for two semesters. He said he was also told that the Interior Ministry official, despite his promise of support, was behind the campaign of pressure.

Azimi was also interrogated by officials from the Intelligence Ministry, who he said asked him to work with them and spy on other students. He said he refused to cooperate.

Eventually, he fled Iran. He is currently in Turkey, seeking asylum.

He said he is concerned about the fate of several of his friends who also criticized the Iranian regime at the "Free Tribune" event last year.

In the past two years, a number of student activists who dared to speak up against state repression have ended up in jail, including Bahareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakoli.  Others have been forced into exile.

Azimi said there are still some inside the country who are ready to pay a price for expressing themselves.

"I made those comments without thinking about the consequences. This is now the outcome," he said. "Keeping silent, I don’t think is a good thing."

Azimi likely won't be able to return to his homeland anytime soon.

--Golnaz Esfandiari

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Helmut N. Gabel from: Germany
February 20, 2012 21:56
There will be the lions who will not keep silence because they know and they take up responsibility and speak up and it is wise but some uncomfortable consequences might follow. And there will be those who act wisely by being silent like the snakes and act according to a strategy. Both styles might bring some change. Changes that can allow so many to return to their homeland soon...

by: logic from: earth
February 21, 2012 06:56
Well, making the video "available" right after fleeing Iran seems like a good way for getting asylum in a Western country. It has become increasingly easy for Iranian's with any story of "activism" to claim asylum in the West. The West uses these statistics against Iran, but it also makes center-left and the right angry for being abused by a bunch whose primary aim is economic asylum and not political.

by: Haleh
February 21, 2012 19:11
What a brave young man.

by: Speedy from: Canada
February 21, 2012 19:37
The religon of peace....

by: cliff from: canada
February 23, 2012 19:28
first of all, English of the article sucks..
if the so called hero or other heros are really fighting the regime, why do they immediately leave Iran? as soon as they receive a document from a court they go to Turkey and ask for asylum? ( note that many illegal ways to get out of Iran are known to them even if they have passports and no problem to legally leave Iran) Do they think their voices out of Iran can topple the regime? many of these people are but liers..
In Response

by: Huzzain Mohamed from: Salt Lake City
February 26, 2012 17:42
Definitely you told the right thing. May be he want an american university admission...circumventing the rigorous visa and GRE TOFEL examinations.... If he is so brave he should hold the ground and fight... The english of the article is really

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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