Friday, March 7, 2008

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TEHRAN — Activists of the People’s Mujahedin in Iran claim they were involved in a series of student demonstrations that have led to a crackdown by authorities.

“Of course we are forced to work as individuals and can”t act under the banner of the organization because that would be costly and many are frightened to do so,” said Ali, a member of the organization involved in the protests.

Nine consecutive demonstrations at Shiraz University continued yesterday, with more than 3,000 students, Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the group, said in a telephone interview from Paris.

” We are men and women of fighting, dare to fight and we will fight back, ” students chanted at Shiraz University, according to the spokesman. “To the commander of garrison, this is the final warning: The student movement is ready for the uprising.”



In January, more than 2,000 students in Tehran University demonstrated against the government with chants of “Down with despotism.”

Security forces raided the rally, injured 60 students and arrested more than 40.

The People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran also has been involved in a nationwide campaign urging Iranians to boycott the upcoming Majlis (parliamentary) elections scheduled to take place next Friday.

The latest wave of protests began Dec. 7 when hundreds of students participated in a two-hour demonstration outside Tehran University last year, demanding the freeing of activists jailed by the government in an ongoing crackdown.

The students broke one of the gates of the university, but no direct clashes with police were reported.

Officers said they had confiscated concussion grenades, illegal books, pamphlets and alcoholic beverages from the detainees, according to Tehran radio.

Official reports often add that Islamically unacceptable items such as alcoholic drinks or drugs were found on political detainees as a way to discredit them in the eyes of the public, dissidents said.

On the day of the protest, activists in the People’s Mujahedin, a literal translation of the Iranian name Mujahedin-e-Khalq or MeK, sent updates on the protest to an organizing member in a remote location, who identified herself as Shirin, 24.

She then relayed the news in English over e-mail in three updates to an international press list.

The next day, two more updates were sent, each containing photographs and video of the march.

“My friends undertook these activities under a very high-risk situation when widespread arrests are being made throughout the country, students protesting Ahmadinejad are being identified, harassed and arrested and [MeK] families are in jail under torture,” Shirin said in an e-mail interview.

Fellow MeK activists described Shirin as a former student at a Tehran university who was forced to go underground after a high-profile protest against Mr. Ahmadinejad in December 2006.

The MeK is an anti-monarchist Marxist movement that participated in the shah”s overthrow and the 1979 Revolution before evolving into an organization with bases in Iraq.

Its influence declined when clerics led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini consolidated their power. The group eventually was driven into exile in Iraq.

The U.S. government declared the group a terrorist organization in 1985, during a period when the U.S. was trying to establish dialogue with the Islamic Republic. Critics claimed the decision was politically motivated, and some members of Congress have since advocated its removal from the list.

MeK guerrillas, disarmed by U.S. forces, remain in a camp in Iraq under U.S. Army protection. Washington has refused demands from Tehran to extradite them for prosecution.

The writer’s name has been withheld to protect the people interviewed for this story.

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