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Iran: Shiraz University Students Arrested After Week Of Protests

Students protest at Shiraz University on March 2 (RFE/RL) At least 12 students from Shiraz University have been arrested and summoned to a revolutionary court over their participation in more than a week of demonstrations.

Protest organizers announced late on March 5 that they will temporarily halt the demonstrations until an official from the Education Ministry comes to negotiate with the students. Student leaders say they will restart their demonstration on March 9 if ministry officials decline to meet with them.

Students have spent the past nine days demanding the university president's resignation, greater freedom for student activities, and better living conditions in dormitories.

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the number of protesters has steadily increased since the demonstrations began on February 26, and that some 2,000 students were gathering each day and chanting slogans such as "The university is not a military garrison" and "Long live freedom!"

Students are demanding the resignation of university President Mohammad Hadi Sadeghi, saying that he has turned control of the university over to security forces who harass students. They also accuse university officials of dismissing some professors who have reformist leanings or have been critical of the government.

Although classes are officially continuing at the university, many students are boycotting their lectures.

A Shiraz University student who did not want to give his name for security reasons told Radio Farda that the "demonstrations have largely been peaceful, although there were some clashes between students and the university's special security service officers." He said security guards had beaten a female student.

The student added that demonstrators maintain that their demands are nonpolitical, but that "the university administration wants to connect it to politics."

"At the moment there are police vehicles around the university as well as a few vehicles that belong to security forces," the student said. "They want to attach these protests to politics and say things like 'the protesters have received dollars from America.' They want to deceive society, but fortunately, they are not successful and the number of protesters is increasing every day."

Threats And Pressure

Demonstrators say that members of the university's special security services "have summoned and threatened at least 10 students who have taken part in the protests." Some 25 parents have reportedly been "contacted and pressured by security services over their children's participation in the rallies."

Most Iranian universities have special security services that monitor and control the way students dress as well as their social and political activities.

A demonstration took place at Shiraz University in April 2007 when students protested against a mandatory dress code for male students ordered by university authorities. At those protests, students also asked university officials to improve conditions at the university and in its dormitories. But 10 months later, students say the situation has worsened.

Many professors and other employees at the university have reportedly issued a statement voicing their support for the demonstrations.

Similar statements have been issued by student organizations at other universities in Shiraz, which has a population of 1.2 million people and is the capital of Fars Province.

Mohammad Mehdi Ahmadi, a member of the Islamic Association of Students at Shiraz University, told Radio Farda that students are displeased with the increasing restrictions in their cultural and social environments.

"A kind of atmosphere of protest has been created at universities. The smallest issue could become the spark that leads to bigger protests," Ahmadi said.

Radio Farda reports that students have also staged protests in other Iranian cities, such as Karaj and Shahrud.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda correspondent Farin Assemi contributed to this report

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