Students and others demonstrate at a protest encampment at University Yard in support of Palestinians in Gaza at George Washington University in Washington, April 25.

How Iran Seeks To Take Advantage Of Campus Protests In US

Monday, 04/29/2024

Pro-Palestinian student protests in the US are making headlines in Iran, as the regime and its media continue to bet on political trouble overseas to make up for lost legitimacy at home.

The ongoing encampments on campuses across the US have featured on the cover pages of many Iranian dailies in the past few days, triggering a considerable backlash from ordinary Iranians who view the stunt as ‘glaringly hypocritical’ from a regime that suspends, beats and imprisons students for much less than what students have been doing in the US in the past ten days.

“US universities are in the hands of students and professors that while condemning Israeli crimes in Gaza, are calling for the release of protesting students and the reinstatement of sacked students and members of faculty,” wrote the ultra-hardline Keyhan, which has been heralding the ‘demise’ and ‘end’ of the US and Israel for many years.

And, this time it is not just celebrating present events — but, the future, in which the author speculates that the US election hinges on the candidates’ support for Palestine.

The regime in Iran has always presented itself as the only true champion of Palestinians and their cause. This sentiment has become much stronger and prevalent since October 7th when Hamas, backed by Iran, rampaged border areas inside Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and drawing an Israeli onslaught – which has killed more than 30,0000 in Gaza.

Enraged by the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, students across the US have began organizing pro-Palestinian rallies and sit-ins to pressure their institutions to disclose and divest from funds and corporations that do business with Israel.

“See what is happening in the world,” Iran supreme leader Ali Khamenei posted on X Sunday.” In Western countries, in England and France, and in states across the US itself, people are coming out in huge numbers to chant slogans against Israel and America. US and Israel's reputation has been ruined. They truly have no solution.”

There’s little doubt that pro-Palestinian action has become more pronounced than ever. And there are many in the US who have expressed their displeasure with what they see as ‘heavy-handed’ response by university administration and law enforcement. But Khamenei may be the worst placed leader to address the issue.

The irony, as ordinary Iranians have been pointing out on social media, is hard to miss. It is a case of 'astounding hypocrisy', many say, of a regime who cheers on American students exercising their freedom of expression, while its prisons are humorously called ‘universities’ for hosting sheer numbers of students, graduates, and educators who have dared to speak their mind.

The ruling regime in Iran has a horrendous record in respecting the rights of its citizens. But its treatment of students and of modern, secular education has been particularly poor.

From shutting down universities in the name of Cultural Revolution in the early 1980s, to the bloody attack on dormitories at University of Tehran in the late 1990s, and the siege of Sharif University of Technology in 2022, the clerical regime has proven itself to be an archenemy of free and critical thinking that’s both the cornerstone and ultimate fruit of higher education.

It’s not at all surprising, then, that many Iranians, those with exposure to higher education, in particular, cannot help pointing out the regime’s hypocrisy on social media. “Those responsible for the calamity at the [University of Tehran] dorm, are now worried about American students,” posted an Iranian user on X last Friday –just one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, publicly voicing the same sentiment.

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