December 7, which in the Persian calendar falls on the 16th day of the month of Azar, is known as Student Day in Iran.
The origins of this day go back to 1953. On December 7 of that year, Iranian students poured into the streets of Tehran to protest the overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadegh by the CIA and MI6. The students were venting their anger at the West, and at the Shah, whom they accused of collaborating with the West in what was yet another Western-initiated regime change in the Middle East. The Shah’s police brutally put down the demonstrations, thus etching this day in the history of Iranian students and their struggles for political change in Iran.
On the same day, but this time in 2008, Iranian students from major cities such as Tehran, Shiraz, and Hamedan protested against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This time they protested in great numbers about imprisonment and torture of students, expulsion of lecturers, poverty, abuse of human rights, dictatorship, and looting of their country’s wealth by foreign powers such as China and Russia.
The demonstrations this year were bigger and more violent. The Iranian government was aware and worried. So much so that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei canceled an appearance with the students. Until recently, the government had used the anti-Western sentiments of the original demonstration in 1953 to serve its anti-Western propaganda goals. In fact, students were encouraged to demonstrate. During the early days of the revolution, even young school children, including myself, were taken to rallies.
However, these days, Iran’s leadership is becoming worried about the blowback. The Iranian people, especially young students, are angry, and they are becoming less afraid to show it. A vivid example (see video here) took place at the main university in the city of Shiraz in early November. Addressing Ali Larijani, who is currently the speaker of the Majlis, one student said in front of hundreds of others that “I don’t recognize you as the head of the Majlis, because the parliament is illegitimate, due to massive disqualification of candidates.”