The vigilantes entered the dormitory with the aid of the riot police. We were not expecting this one; we thought the dormitory, at least, was a safe space, one they wouldn’t invade. But they did, and we were ambushed. Some students were dragged out of their rooms, clad in nothing but their underwear. The police beat us, forcing us into their cars. For a few days nobody knew where we were. Many of our parents were so worried that they dropped everything and rushed from wherever they were–scattered in cities and towns all over the country–to Tehran, to search for us, their missing loved ones.
After a few days, they took us back to Amir-abad Street. Late in the night, the Islamic republic’s agents kicked us from their cars. Many students were still in their underwear, only this time, the scantiness of their clothing revealed bruised bodies and hinted at tormented minds. Later we learned that many of our peers were forced to stay in the regime’s torture cells for several years. Others were maimed, and the lucky ones were “only” dismissed from the university…
Nearly four years ago, when we, the Iranian students, started the first phase of our new dissident movement, the so-called reformers (i.e., the pro-Khatami types) never staged “sit-ins” to support us. Vigilantes, revolutionary guards, and the Islamic republic’s riot police were assailing us from every corner, as the reformers seemed to turn a blind eye to our struggle. At the same time, many–both inside and outside Iran–were nonetheless deceived by the Khatamists. They still hadn’t realized that the mindset of these Islamic reformers was, if not exactly identical, at least undeniably very close to that of their hard-liner comrades.
Ironically, a few weeks ago, when the regime’s Council of the Guardians disqualified the reformers from running for office in the parliamentary elections, the Khatamists realized that their time was up, felt the danger, and saw that the Iranian democratization process was in peril. Only when their own interests were on the line did the reformers stage sit-ins and resign.
Of course, it was too late.
You will have to excuse us Iranians for our lack of sympathy for these so-called reformers: Just ask yourself, as we ask ourselves, where they were while Iranian youths were being beaten, tortured, abducted, maimed, and deprived of their legitimate rights to continue their university studies.
But despite our disappointment with the Khatamists, Iranians were nevertheless given an occasion for joy and pride on February 20, the date of our most recent elections, and of the momentous boycott of them. It will be remembered in the history of my nation, because on that day, Iranians showed again that we have the resolve to clear “Islamic mullahism” from our homeland once and for all. We have decided that our children must not be tormented as we have been.
Throughout the day on February 20, I went to different parts of Tehran to observe for myself what was going on at the polling stations. To my great pleasure, there were only few people at any of them. Although the regime had done its best to urge everyone to participate in the elections, brave Iranians were far more determined to tell the world and the regime, again, that they are tired, and are on the verge of achieving their much longed-for change.
Iranians abstained from the elections not because of the prohibition against Khatamist candidates, but because we–almost all of us this time–have finally realized that our goal can only be achieved “over” the Islamic republic, not “through” it. The vision of tomorrow’s secular Iran will prevail, and soon. With or without the rest of the world’s help, we are determined to paralyze and eventually oust the militants of the Islamic regime.
This weekend showed that our efforts have nearly, after all this time, borne the fruit we have striven for all these years: freedom.
–Koorosh Afshar is a pseudonym for a student in Tehran. His name has been changed for his protection.