A note published in the conservative website Alef in Tehran has speculated about why Iran’s traditionally leftist student movement is no longer anti-American.
The note entitled "The movement which is no longer a movement," published on the Student Day, December 7, argued that like all student movements in the world Iran's students have also been idealist and anti-imperialist. They were always anti-American, particularly during the events of 1953 when three Tehran University students were killed by the police when they demonstrated against the visit of then-US Vice President Richard Nixon. They also revealed their opposition to the United States in November 1979 when Islamic students seized the US embassy in Tehran and took American hostages for 444 days.
However, the short article went on to argue that the student protests in June 1999, against the Islamic Republic’s suppressive measures, marked a change in the narrative of the student movement. Instead of being anti-West, the protests were aimed at the fundamentalist and totalitarian nature of the Islamic regime and supported ideas such as liberalism, feminism and pluralism as a reform movement was dawning in the country.
The violent crackdown on that protest and ten years later in 2009 against a rigged presidential election, totally changed the face of Iran's student movement as its leaders came under pressure in prison and others fled the country and gradually forgot about the student movement and what it stood for.
Readers commented under the article that Islamic Republic’s anti-Americanism and the anti-Western ideologies have prevented Iran’s progress in recent decades.
The editors of the website felt obliged to publish a new article, trying to defend why they had printed a report saying that students were no longer anti-West.
The new article quoted Iranian scholars such as Sadeq Zibakalam and Abdolhossein Khosrowpanah to prove that anti-Americanism has its roots in Communism but did not elaborate why anti-Americanism is the focal point in the ideas and speeches of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
A vivid example of how students and the youth have changed their political perspectives emerged this week, when President Ebrahim Raisi visited the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.
One leading student, Mohammad Hossein Bayat addressed him by saying, “You got elected in the least competitive election in the history of the Islamic Republic, with the lowest rate of voter participation,” and warned, “We are speaking to you not as a president elected with the free vote of the people in a free election. We are speaking to you as a representative of the ruling system.” No mention of America or the West, as if the young man knew where exactly the country's problems were.
This squarely contradicted Khamenei’s constant anti-Western remarks that signal to his followers to chant “Death to America” and vow not to directly negotiate with “the great satan”.
Bayat also told Raisi that he represents a ruling system which “in the past 40 years has not opened a path for the progress of the people, despite the revolutionary ideals of freedom and justice.”