Isfahan Student Movement (11)

Student campaigns in spring and summer of 1978

Mehdi Amani Yamin
Mohammad Bagher Khoshnevisan


Note: The tenth part of interview with Mohammad Ali Haj Moniri went forward until the event of protest against the speech of Abdolmajid Majidi in Isfahan Aryamehr University, and now the continuation of the interview:


*Had the students invited him?

*No. the university or the government had organized the meeting. It was just announced that Abdolmajid Majidi would deliver a speech in the university and that the students could take part in the meeting. Just this single speech happened in 1977. But the music ensembles had also been invited.


*What about invitation from theatre ensembles?

*No, a theater was performed by the university guys in 1977. But Azeri language music ensembles were invited. Leftist guys did this. They were invited for two times.


*Did anything special happen?

*No, it did not. But we –religious guys- did not take part. Religious students did not participate in music programs. Traditional and Azeri music was performed and leftist songs were song. I think a music ensemble was invited in 1977 and we did not take part. I remember that I attended a musical program in 1978. Leftist guys had also invited them but I along with some of religious guys attended the show. It was Azeri music. I attended the show with Abdolreza Mohajeri Moqaddam. He was later martyred in Iran-Iraq war. We left the show from the middle. We did not know music well. In fact, we took part to see who had come or what Azeri music was in general!


*How was it welcome?

*A large number of students – some 300 t0 400 - had attended the show.


*What were the main events of the third quarter in the university since March 1978 onward which eventually led to the closure of the university?

*The fortieth day of those who had been martyred in Tabriz was held on 30th March of 1978 in Mashhad. We all Mashahdis were informed of it. It was New Year holidays and the guys had been to Mashhad. The March 30 demonstrations took place in a street in which the house of Ayatollah Shirazi was located. The guys were around the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH) and Gohar Shad Mosque. The Mashhad event apparently became the biggest one. When the event of Qom happened, the biggest fortieth day ceremony was held in Tabriz and became famous. After the clash in Tabriz, Mashhad witnessed the same event. However, I don’t remember whether anyone was martyred, but clashed took place and we were also involved in it. In the clash, police used batons, and tear gas canisters, but I don’t remember anyone was martyred. After the incident and New Year holidays, the guys returned to the university and social currents and campaigns in the society had become opener. On the other hand, the communiques were sent from Najaf. The relations with Najaf had increased significantly after the incidents in Qom, Tabriz and Mashhad. The relation of those who had taken part in the clashed had risen. The number of communiqués and speeches increased. The tapes of Imam Khomeini’s speeches were more available than before.  The tapes were distributed in the university. Thus, the university classes were closed for the occasions related to the events. For instance, after the Mashhad incident, demonstrations were held in the city of Yazd on eighth of May and clashes happened and the guys of Yazd were in the university including Kazem Fotouhi who was my friend. I had good relations with the Yazdis through Kazem Fotouhi. We had extensive relations with the guys in Yazd because they were also religious. With the shaping of the currents happened in May 1978, demonstrations were held again in Aryamehr Industrial University. They were held at nights, and the classes were close periodically. The guys teased a number of American professors who taught English language, and even one of them had been threatened to death. A letter had been written and put on his desk. The American professor had been noticed later and complained to the department head.


*Did you know who wrote the letter?

* I don’t know personally who did this. Our English language class had been had been dissolved all through the term we had been expelled. In the second quarter, we were with those students who had been expelled in the first one. At any rate, one of these guys had written the letter to this American professor and had threatened him to death. He had asked him what you were doing here and leave this country.


*Did the classes continued after this or not?

*Nothing special happened. But the head of the language department who was an American was brought and talked to us. He said if the classes continue in this way, they will be closed. Nobody said anything and nobody claimed responsibility for it.


*Maybe, it was done by leftist guys?

*It may be correct. But on the whole, these events happened and they were so heavy and public that it was announced in the university that the quarter had been dissolved and that all should leave the dorms within one week.


* Did you strike in the restaurant on 23rd of March 1978?

*Yes, such strikes and demonstrations were held everywhere, in the halls, inside classes and in the restaurant. This story had almost public.


*Did you have graffiti on 6th of June with the themes of long live Imam and Qom martyrs?

*Yes, I think after the Yazd event on eighth of March, such currents intensified. It was announced in late March that the classes had been dissolved and we were ordered to evacuate and leave the dorms totally.


*So, 12 or 13 students were expelled in December 1977, some 216 students were deprived of the final exams in the second quarter and finally the term was dissolved in the third quarter?



*Did those 216 attend in the third quarter?

*They came back for the 3rd quarter but the university was totally closed in the 3rd quarter. Later, I thought that if the aim of the establishment of Isfahan Industrial University or the transferring of the university to Isfahan had been to cut the current of the new student movement which began since 1965 and had led to a place for training guerrillas, in fact, it was failed. It had a reason. All the students in Isfahan were very young. They had close relation with each other. There was no older or senior students in this group that led to different tendencies. In fact, there was no structure. These students shaped the current of student life one of which was student campaigns. But this did not happen in other universities. Why? Because there were different currents in other universities and naturally the newly-arrived students were divided into different currents. Another reason that I think played a major role was that the university was far from the city. It was not such in other universities. Later, I came to Tehran's Poly Technique University from Isfahan. This university was in the city center, and when the students were free, they would go out to visit the booksellers located in front of Tehran University. The students went into the society in leisure times.


*The population of the university was not always inflated…

*Yes, it was not. But it was a surrounded, closed, and remote environment that if a student was free for a few hours, he or she did not know what to do. Thus, all the currents moved toward one side, the ones which was becoming stronger and shaping the entire entity of the university while other universities were not the same. Our university was the only one which was closed totally. The youngest student stratum in Iran studied in this university. These issues showed that the decision to transfer the university was a mistake. But the collection of events happened in 1977 made the current more radical even more radical that Tehran's Aryamehr Industrial University and dragged all to one direction. Even those guys who had not political line took part in the protests. The participation of a great number of them caused the movement to be expanded which finally led to its closure. I think this just happened in Aryamehr Industrial University.


*You mean it was closed before June.

*Yes. The university's Education Department issued a notification.


*Was it issued on 24th of May?

*Yes, probably. But I think we were given a deadline until first of June to leave the university. We might be present until 5th of June; because the students were thinking of shaping a big protest on this day.


*what was the reaction against this measure?

*The students could not do anything. A demonstration was held inside the restaurant and even a window was broken. I think there was also a protest in dorm 9 or 10 and the windows were broken. But the protests were just to this extent since they did not like the term to be dissolved. The students did not leave the dorms and then a communiqués was issued that if the students do not leave the dorms, the police would sack them and if they do not take out the belongings, they would be destroyed. This was announced in a written form and the students took it seriously and packed up their belongings. We protested that they could not be carried. So the university found a warehouse out of it. I don't know why they did this! We were given big bags to put our belongings inside them. When we came for the first term in 1978, all of the bags had been torn down and our belongings had been lost or destroyed. It looked as if someone had come to hurt them or they had come to inspect them.


*Despite the events happened from November 1977 to June 1978, was the university promoted the quality particularly the situation of the facilities?

*A series of protests were held regarding food and things like this. It seemed that the university was trying to improve the foods quality so that it did not turn into an excuse for protest. Even, they got a pool for us outside the university. In general they did their best not to give us any excuse.


*Among the important events in summer 1978 after the closure of the university was the events happened in September in Tehran.

*Yes, I remember that we taught in Mashhad with 5 or six of the guys during the whole summer. We taught privately and earned our living. Demos were being held in Mashhad in those days. I had a school student whose house was around the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH) near Naderi Orchard. We had a date everyday at noon to pray in Goharshad Mosque. Every day, we sought to hold a demo in the street. One day when we were coming back from praying, near the house of Ayatollah Shirazi, someone chanted a slogan. Immediately we also started chanting and our number increased to 20. A number of police officers had stood in front of Naderi Orchard. They followed us with batons and we escaped. We were three or four. The police had thought that we had chanted slogans. One of them followed us and separated from the rest. The house of that school student mentioned above was in one of the alleys of the Naderi Orchard. We escaped and went to his house in order not to be arrested.
After the summer exams, I came back to Tehran. I was in Tehran in the event of 8th of September 1978. I along with one of my friends were among the demonstrators. I remember that when we were moving from Enqelab Square toward Azadi Square, the population increased for one moment. I asked my friend to come out of the population to see how many they were from sidewalk!


*On eighth of September?

*No, on 7th of September. We were in the streets everyday to find a group of people and to chant slogans. But the population increased significantly on that day. We were always around or in front of Tehran University. We were there on the seventh of September. We did not believe that such huge population took part in the rally. When the police attacked us by batons and shooting, we escaped. I remember very well that the people chanted this slogan, "Tomorrow morning at 8 AM in Jaleh Square". Jaleh Square had been renamed as Shohada (martyrs) square because one or two people had already been martyred in the square. I think it was on 2nd or 4th of September. But I reached late to Jaleh Square on that day. It was perhaps at 8:15. The people had been sitting inside the square. The soldiers had closed the way. I stopped with a little distance – some 100 meters – far from the population. A huge population was in front of me.


*Would you go forward, if you could?

*Yes, we had a great pride. When the soldiers started shooting, the population at the first row was shot. I witnessed that one of my friends was shot in the foot. The people had taken him to the hospital. A number of the wounded were arrested in the hospital at night. I don't know how he had left the hospital, but at any rate he was not arrested although he had been operated. But I witnessed the shooting on 8th of September. The people were escaping to surrounding streets. Many were martyred on that day.

We were in the streets the next day. I saw the Mashhadi students around Mokhber ad-dowleh Square. When they had heard the event of September 8, they had moved to Tehran overnight by bus. We found each other among the population. We were in Tehran and this team was shaped until near 23rd of September when we went to the university.        

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