Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Irán (SMCCDI)

BRAVE IRANIAN STUDENTS - 03/01/2003
MIAMI HERALD

Something did not go as expected at the latest "International Quds Day" in Iran. Introduced in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against Israel, the event has been held yearly on the last Friday of Ramadan. It has traditionally been a festival of anti-Zionist diatribe and pro-Palestinian fervor.

Not the latest one.

In response to the calls by the regime's leaders to mark the event, Iranian students -- still angered by the death sentence handed down for university Professor Hashem Aghajari and frustrated by the lack of freedom in their country — rejected the government's appeal and actually called for a boycott of what they termed a "sham and mandatory demonstration."

The statement, issued by the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, was strong in content, daring in tone and valiant in essence.

The communique referred to Iran's political and clerical rulers as "the usurpers of political power," "supporters of the culture of terror and violence" and "promoters of anti-Semitism." It stated that "the people of Iran want to establish peaceful relations with the United States and believe that both the nations of Israel and Palestine have the right to exist." It condemned the "pro-war factions" of Iran as well as the "Palestinian terrorist groups" and "Hezbollah thugs." They called the International Quds Day "outdated" and said that observing it in support of violence was "a lunacy that is neither advantageous to the Palestinian nation nor does it coincide with the national interests of the people of Iran."

To fully appreciate the intensity of this denunciation, one has to consider the place and context in which this statement was issued: in the Islamic Republic of Iran — where human rights are systematically violated, where religious coercion is rampant, where women are treated like cattle and political dissidents like bugs, and where boys and girls are subjected to public whippings for "sins" such as drinking alcohol, attending parties and listening to Western music. And in this land of oppression, a group of students goes public against the "rulers of tyranny" who show "disregard for the demands of their own people as well as public opinion in the West."

Talk about courage.

Now contrast this with what's going on at university campuses in the United States. To be sure, most American students are politically active and ideologically committed — but to the wrong causes, it seems. Many students are busy with pressure-campaigns to get their universities to divest from companies that do business with Israel. At rallies, some display highly offensive placards against Israel and the Jews.

That these students rarely have launched similar campaigns and demonstrations protesting human-rights violations in China, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, or for that matter the Palestinian Authority, does not add much to their intellectual credibility. "The defense of peace and calm in the Middle East is not attainable through the support for terrorists and war-mongering groups," wrote the Iranian students, which is basically what some American students are doing by supporting ideologically and morally those who launched war against Israel and encourage terror against its people.

How ironic. It's in Iranian, rather than American, campuses that Palestinian terrorists are being called for what they are — and it's not "freedom fighters," "militants," "activists" or any other sanitized terminology so widespread in the halls of academia in the West.

The Iranian students are teaching their American colleagues a lesson in ideological integrity. Whether the latter would learn it remains to be seen. But American students would be well advised to answer their Iranian friends in their hour of need. In a sentence that captured it all, the Iranian student movement told the ruling mullahs and the free world (they translated their manifesto into English): "Leave Palestine Alone, Think About Us."

Anyone listening in Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, et al?

Julián Schvindlerman is a political analyst in Geneva, and a member of the American Jewish Committee.