Posted by: bahareiran | November 9, 2010

Iran Arrests Four Student Leaders

WALL STREET JOURNAL- November 8, By FARNAZ FASSIHI BEIRUT—Four prominent Iranian student activists were arrested over the weekend in a fresh crackdown targeting students.

Iranian authorities have been tightening security ahead of a controversial government plan to phase out basic food and fuel subsidies. The government is bracing for social unrest, and has increased the police presence in Tehran and other cities.

On Monday, several underground rap musicians were arrested in Tehran, and last week hundreds of young men and women were arrested in what the police termed a “security cleansing.”

The four students, from cities across Iran, are recently elected members of the central committee of a politically active student group, the Office for Fostering Student Unity, which has local chapters at campuses nationwide. The group has been at the forefront of the struggle to reform the regime. The group says the government pressured it not to hold its biennial election this year to select five new committee members.

The ballot was held via the Internet last week, the group said, and as of Monday, four of the five elected had been arrested and one was in hiding. The detained students are Ali Qolizadeh, Alireza Kiani, Mohsen Barzegar and Mohamad Heydarzadeh.

The four men were picked up by plainclothes agents without arrest warrants, according to their families and the group’s website. Their current whereabouts aren’t known.

Prosecutors in local chapters of the Revolutionary Court, which tries political dissidents, have told their families that the men will be transferred to Evin prison in Tehran in the next few days.

“Day to day, the regime is systematically targeting different groups, like lawyers, students and journalists, in order to prevent them from activism,” said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an independent organization based in New York.

The case of a jailed human-rights lawyer is also in the spotlight after she began a hunger strike last week. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a mother of two young children, has been in solitary confinement for 75 days. She faces trial later this month on charges of threatening national security and of belonging to a nonprofit organization of human-rights lawyers in Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied that Iran imprisons its critics and has slammed recent reports of human-rights violations in Iran as propaganda. “All of our opponents and their leaders are free. We do not have any critics or opponents in jail,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told journalists in New York during his September visit to the United Nations General Assembly.

One of the detained students, Mr. Qolizadeh, a 25-year-old with a degree in engineering, was a subject of a front-page Wall Street Journal story last December detailing the Iranian regime’s war on student activists. Mr. Qolizadeh, the only son of a working-class family in the conservative northwestern town of Mashad, had been a candidate to study for an M.B.A. degree. In a placement exam, he earned a national ranking of 43 among 25,000 applicants, but was told he was banned for life from education because of his political activism. Mr. Qolizadeh later received several scholarship offers from western universities. He told The Wall Street Journal over the summer that he was studying to improve his English, but had decided to stay in Iran. “Leaving Iran is like defeat,” he said. “I feel that I can better serve our cause from here now.”

Mr. Qolizadeh’s mother, reached by phone in Mashad, said her family was devastated and had been warned not to talk to the media about her son. “My son has done nothing wrong, he is innocent,” she said. “Why are they treating the country’s brightest youth this way?”

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