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July 09, 2004

Remembering July 9, 1999
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

students.jpg July 9, 1999 (18 Tir, 1378 in Persian calendar, this year on July 8) was a day of shock and disbelief in the student community of Iran and the society at large. Upon a demonstration in protest to the banning of the pro-reform newspaper Salām the para-military vigilantes supporting the conservatives' agenda and the police broke into the dormitories of Tehran University, smashed the doors, shattered the windows, tore apart the furniture, brutalized the students and throw some of them out the broken windows. The building looked as if it was hit by a ballistic missile. According to unofficial reports, more than ten people died in the clash, although the official death toll was later announced to be one unfortunate guest who had "fallen" down the window was "suspiciously shot in the head." All this happened at dawn on a Friday, the official weekend holiday with no newspapers to cover the story. The national TV, under the supreme leader's supervision, did not broadcast any reports of the events till the night after when it briefly mentioned "the unrests after an illegal gathering of students."


Ahmad Batebi in the picture that resulted in the incredible story of his arrest.

The account of the savageries that happened that night and the events that unfolded afterwards remain to be investigated. The conservative-controlled judiciary made a ridiculous circus out of the trials that ensued after much persistence by the students' lawyers, notably Mohsen Rohami and now Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. The complaining students and their lawyers alike served jail time for their pursuit of the case, while the perpetuators of the event received light sentences and were freed shortly. Perhaps Ahmad Batebi best symbolises the treatment that the beaten students received: he was arrested due to a picture of his with a bloody shirt of his mates raised over his head, which got published on the cover of The Economist magazine. He was initially sentenced to death for high treason. His sentence was afterwards reduced upon the actions and pleads of an outraged (interntional) public, but he is still being constantly harassed in and out of the prison.

The recent Iranian history and student movement remembers many such incidents. A prominent one, which has always been utilized by the Islamic Republic and is officially named and celebretaed as the "Student's Day," occured on December 7, 1953 (16 Āzar, 1332 in Persian calendar), when the students of Tehran University demonstrated against a visit by then Vice President Nixon made to Iran, after the CIA-backed coup of August 19, 1953 that ousted Prime Minister Mossadeq and brought the Shah back to power. The events of July 9, 1999 bear striking similarity to those of 1953 in terms of the brutal display of power against the students. Various opposition factions inside and outside the country have tried to use them as a propaganda tool to advance their agendas. Whether that can be of any good to the students in particular and the people in general, I doubt; but, one thing is for certain: July 9, 1999 stands like a thorn in the eye of those power wielders in Iran who hold onto their inhumane and barbaric policies while trying to present a fake faēade of peace and humanity and as such, it is vitally important to keep its bitter memory alive.

Internal Links:
--Our Heroine: Shirin Ebadi; Bahman Kalbasi, an Iranian student involved in the student protests of 9 July 1999 in Iran, writes on Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize for Peace.

External Links::
--Amnesty International Public Statement, 7 July 2004.
--BBC features Iran student protests: Five years on; Mohammad Reza Kasrani, student at the time, recalls the dormitory attack and its ugly aftermath.
--BBC's special report on September 12, 1999.
--Cox & Forkum Cartoon and Roundup.

Ordak D. Coward at July 10, 2004 02:07 AM [permalink]:

Any references to those unofficial reports claimng ten deaths (murders in fact)? Any clues to who they were?

An Iranian Student (AIS) at July 10, 2004 03:52 AM [permalink]:

Thanks for keeping this alive, Babak.
It is important that we look back now, with the benefit of hindsight and ask ourselves : who were those who hurried fully frightened to the scene the next morning and tried everything they had to calm (fool) the angry students and continued doing this for the following days until they managed to strangle down an ever growing and powerful public mass demonstration. Who were they?
It is necessary to look back at the actions of Kahtami's gang and their false promises, to once again verify what happens when people trust a mullah and his circus again.
What happened to the promises given to students, like the promise that the government will persue the case relentlessly until those cuplable are brought to justice? What should the people who knowingly decieved people in such critical point of time be called? incompetent? Nay. Treacherous? I don't think so. Treason means initial commitment among the traitors. Political prostitution. That's the only word that does this justice.
After all, the whole 'reform' show was intended to keep people in control, not to make them active. Such expectations! Indeed!

For those who still think Khatami and the rest of his buffoons were only trying to prevent a hardliner coup, I ask you what you call the situation in Iran now? Only this time the regime didn't have to pay inetrnationally the price of an outright military coup. Instead it could rest assured by the likes of BBC reporters to broadcast the results of that 'election' fiasco with 'respectable turn out' to the world, and of course have khatami still up there to bark about getting out of NPT if forced, the only kind of thing he seems to be good at all this time.

For those who still think Khatami and his circus meant well but didn't have enough power to withstand the thugs who commited 18 Tir, I ask this again: How come they had enough power to cleans somewhere as hideous as the nformation ministry and force it to publicly aknowledge murder, but couldn't do the same against thugs who commited such oublic offense?! who are you kidding?
I am just amazed at the nerve of the likes of Shamsolvaezin and Behnoud who still can bring themselves to wail about 'people's impatience'.

But of course we all know that 'nerves' is the only thing all the gangs of this system seem to have inherited in huge amounts.

Babak S at July 10, 2004 05:22 AM [permalink]:

Ordak: this is based on what I remember from the announcements of various student committees formed to follow up the news of the unrests in the days following the incidents and usually posted on different campuses or the newspapers. There may be references on the web too but I have not searched for them.

AIS: You ask a very important question. The question and the answer to it are closely tied to the stance one takes regarding the reform movement. The events of 18 Tir happened only two years into the era known as "2 Khordad" (the day Khatami was first overwhelmingly elected as President). The idea was to continue with that program, there wasn't supposed to be a violant revolution, you see. So, calming people was justified based on that stance, at least then. Of course if one dismisses this and instead take the opposite view, everything would be just ridiculous. But that's a conflict of principles, which takes much more than these lines to resolve. An important point though is that even within the reform movement, Khatami abandoned his promises.

Borghan N. Narajabad at July 10, 2004 06:51 AM [permalink]:

According to official reports Ebrahim Ezzatnejad was killed by bullet, not by falling from window. You can find the final court decision here:

As long as I know, Ezzatnejad was the only fatal casualty of 18 Tir. (Even according to student organizations' survey after the incident) However, there were several other casualties, including the winner of third place in the Iranian university entrance exam (Konkor) in 1998(1377) who lost one of his eyes on 18 Tir.

There are also some speculations about the casualties of Police's attack to the campus of Tehran University on July 11, 1999 (The first Monday after the incident. Your first photo (a boy carrying a girl) was taken on that day not 18 Tir) during students' protest following 18 Tir. However, no official report on the casualties of Monday's incident has been issued.

Babak S at July 10, 2004 04:06 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for the clarifications Borghan. I should add that I did not really choose the first photo out of accuracy but effect and relevancy.

Yes, Ezzat Ebrāhimnežād was hit by a bullet, officially; I corrected the text. However, I would have appreciated it if you had also mentioned what this final court verdict was really about. I give a translation of your link here. (All emphasis is mine.)

FROM- the newspaper Hamšahri, July 22, 2001.
TITLE- The Revolutionary Court Closes The Case of the Tehran University's Victim.
BODY- Tehran, IRNA. The 3rd branch of Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court suspended the prosecution of Ezzat Ebrāhimnežād, the victim of the attacks on Tehran University dorms. The court's verdict stated the charges against Ebrāhimnežād as endangering national security by participating in illegal gathering and demonstration leading to chaos, chanting slogans against the police, and throwing stones. Regarding the murder of the victim, the court decided that it was not fit to consider charges and referred the case to Tehran's Regular Court. Ezzat Ebrāhimnežād was killed by a bullet shot into his head in the events of Tehran University dorm in July 1999 and the organizations in charge have not yet been able to identify and arrest the shooters. The Islamic revolutionary court verdict points out that on the night of the events, Ezzat Ebrāhimnežād was staying with his friends at the dorm and was present in the gathering and the clashes, and shoulder by shoulder with the demonstrators against national security, chanted slogans and threw stones at the officials and that at the peak of the conflict he was suspiciously shot by a bullet and killed by the armed person or persons who were present at the scene.

The point is this court's decision, after two years, was one to drop charges against the vicitm, only because he was already dead. Another important point in all this, is that the court, the police and other officials were unable to bring one plaincloth vigilante successfully to court, while so many students were readily persecuted and prosecuted. That could only mean that some high-ranking officials did not want the former to happen.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at July 10, 2004 06:23 PM [permalink]:
Babak, My question is still valid if we take this stance you mentioned: "...The idea was to continue with that program (ie. peaceful gradual reform), there wasn't supposed to be a violant revolution..." Everybody, the heads of the 'reform' movement better than others, knew that the so called hardliners - those who were opposing gradual reform (I am using the view point of a hypothetical honest reformer here) were not willing to grant any kind of advantage and would prevent any kind of openning. (After all they knew each other well after all the years of joint fights against World-arrogance, Heresy and Imperialism or whatever) So it was clear that any step forward would be acheievd by pulling opportunities from bewteen the teeth of the 'hardliners' (As the Persian saying goes). So now we are faced with a foolish and extremly violent act by their thugs. This would have been a PERFECT opportunity for the 'reform' side to win irreversible advantages for itself. Not only the nature of the attack was so obviously bloody and hideous, but as you mentioned after decades of propagandizing the 16 Azar incident, 20 years of which was official propaganda, the 'hardliners' would be very vulnerable on this point and would definitely have settled for a lot of important compromises. Again as you say, even the angry students and later on other groups of people who joined the mass demonstrations were still under the illusion that this reform was something worthwhile. The majority would still refrain from an outright revolution and trusted the reformists, as the fact that they so easily let themselves be fooled by the reform camp demosntrates. So why didn't the reformists take any advantge of the situation to push for some REAL changes? Why couldn't they openly and officially support the students and their demonstartions until certain demands were met. For example those thugs were arrested and trialed immidiately? Or until Ansar and other groups were officially declared illegal, or the head of Tehran Police (niruye entezami) resigned ? Or atleast some irreverisble process was set in motion that would lead to free press (taht started all this)...or many more things? Why couldn't they threaten to resign unless this thing got the proper reaction from the other side? But the refomists DIDN'T DO ANYTHING. Why? My question was how to explain this when they proved themselves both competent and willing to go for the fight in the case of the chain murders against a section of the information ministry. Were the ansar thugs or the head of Tehran's police more dangerous a target than Saeed Emami and his group in the intelligence ministry? Couldn't they release people like Batebi all these years? Was that more difficult than getting the information ministry to publicly acknowlegde its role in murder of civilians? Did and do they ever CARE about the likes of Batebi? There is only one answer. The refomists DIDN't WANT to persue this. Simple as that. This whole picture of reform versus hardliners is false when it comes to the top of the hierarchy of power in this mafia system.They were NEVER honestly after any REAL reforms. The top and only priority for them was the keepin the SYSTEM, not giving any peaceful or gradual reform a chance. Why fool ourselves? They were NOT looking for irreversible and effective changes. Because such changes would GRADUALLY lead to the collapse of this system, the way it did in Eastern Europe. And that is what all this reform show ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Monika at July 19, 2004 07:04 PM [permalink]:

Whatever it was, it brought a terrible consequence that still goes on each year now on 18th tir. Students are being hit arrested and no one knows for what reason. They want to brown off people. That’s all.

Shahram Azad at March 2, 2005 03:05 AM [permalink]:

Hello Dear Brother and Sisters , please look some of my pictures that I took that time for some of news papers . feel free if you want to use them in any magazine or brochures that can help our Iran to be proud of Iranian. Please let me to know before and so I will be able to be proud of you 2. Regards, Shahram Azad

Pardis at July 9, 2005 03:25 PM [permalink]:

Iranian events during the past 26 years shows clearly that our struggle with islamic regime is cultural and can not be solved through spontanous uprising. By "cultural" I mean we should go deep into Persian history and dig up our symbols and values and made out of them the instruments in this cultural fight. As long as we are desarmed from our symbols such as " Zarathustra, Cyrus the Great, Kaveh, Arash...Etc. and the islamists have their own symbols such as Koran, Imams...etc. we can not win.

Khalil at July 9, 2005 09:27 PM [permalink]:

why should i care what you say?