Student rebels in Iran expelled and earmarked for army· Crackdown follows protest during Ahmadinejad visit· Compulsory service seen as government revenge Robert Tait in TehranFriday March 2, 2007The Guardian
Iranian students involved in an angry protest against the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been expelled and earmarked for compulsory military service in an apparent act of official retribution.
Authorities at Tehran's Amir Kabir University, a traditional hotbed of student protest, have ended the studies of 54 students, ostensibly for repeatedly failing their exams. However, most of the students singled out are political activists who took part in December's demonstration at the university at which President Ahmadinejad was greeted with chants of "death to the dictator". Many students with equally poor academic records have been allowed to continue, activists said. The demonstration, which sparked violent clashes between protesters and Basij volunteers loyal to the president, was triggered by student anger over a campus clampdown by the government. One activist displayed a banner reading: "Fascist president, the polytechnic is not for you." Others held portraits of Mr Ahmadinejad upside down and set them alight. One student had his nose broken by a cabinet minister's aide and a member of Mr Ahmadinejad's security team fired a stun grenade to disperse demonstrators.
Several protesters later went into hiding fearing for their lives after being threatened by the president's supporters.
Mr Ahmadinejad later announced that the dissenting students should go unpunished. Ali Azizi, vice-secretary of the Islamic Students Committee, said the wave of expulsions broke that pledge. "Many of the expelled students are political activists and were present at the protests ... It demonstrates revenge against the students' protests ... In the past, questions over academic performance have not [been] considered reason for expulsion. Students with even worse academic records exist among student organisations supported by the government but they have not faced expulsion."
The university chancellor, Ali Reza Rahai, an ally of Mr Ahmadinejad , accompanied the expulsion orders by signing eligibility notices allowing the students to be enlisted into the armed forces. That effectively makes good a threat by Mr Ahmadinejad that he would arrange for students with three stars under the university's disciplinary code to be enrolled as army sergeants. This system has been extensively used to punish those involved in political activities on campus.
The protest against Mr Ahmadinejad was also related to moves to segregate female and male students, the closure of campus magazines and the demolition of buildings belonging to the students committee. Campus guards were also ordered to refuse admission to women wearing make-up and "too short" coats.