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December 18, 2006
Dissent In Iran And Its Aftermath

Last week we noted the bravery of Iranian students that challenged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Holocaust denial at his Festival of Ignorance. This week, the same students have gone on the run, in fear of the Iranian president:

Iranian student activists who staged an angry protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week have gone into hiding in fear for their lives after his supporters threatened them with revenge.

One student fled after being photographed holding a banner reading, "Fascist president, the polytechnic is not for you", during Mr Ahmadinejad's visit to Tehran's Amir Kabir university. At least three others have gone underground after being seen burning his picture. Vigilantes from the militant Ansar-e Hezbollah group have been searching for them.

In a startling contrast to the acclaim Mr Ahmadinejad has received in numerous recent appearances around Iran, he faced chants of "Death to the dictator" as he addressed a gathering in the university's sports hall last week. Several hundred students forced their way in to voice anger over a clampdown on universities since he became president last year.

While his aides played down the incident, the Guardian has learned details of the violent and chaotic events.

The Guardian has more details of the original protest. Apparently, Ahmadinejad was shocked at the outburst, after having had his staff arrange for rock-star receptions wherever he appears. When the chanting began, Ahmadinejad tried to get his supporters to counter-chant, but wound up leading it himself. He looked so stricken by the display that he looked ready to cry, according to one of the witnesses quoted by the Guardian.

The protests apparently resulted from heavy-handed tactics by the university regarding the rise of moderate opinion on campus. Several student groups were forced to disband, and officials demolished two buildings belonging to a moderate Islamic group. The visit by Ahmadinejad came so close to these events that the students saw it as a deliberate provocation, which inspired the courage we saw last week.

However, the images broadcast around the world allowed the regime to identify the students, and Ahmadinejad's goons have made them nervous indeed. His thugs have stood guard at dormitories looking for the protestors, and the leaders of the protest have gone underground. Students told the Guardian that the entire student movement could follow them ... just as before the 1979 revolution that put the radical Islamists in power.

CORRECTION: I wrote "Abbas" instead of "Ahmadinejad" in the first paragraph; thanks to Gina Cobb for the correction.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 18, 2006 5:08 AM

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