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.
--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.
--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.