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Vatandoost
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posted March 08, 2001 11:21     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The New Hero of Democracy

The Time Magazine (Europe)
By Azadeh Moaveni

Iran's students are restless as another reformer is sentenced to prison

March 7, 2001

Tehran - In a packed, tense auditorium at Tehran University, students lined the aisles and climbed over one another to grab a seat for the annual meeting of Islamic student groups. Expectantly eyeing the stage door, many clutched black-and-white photocopies of the face of the man they had gathered to hear: Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was sentenced to a year in prison the previous day by the hard-line
judiciary for allegedly rigging last year's parliamentary elections that swept reformists to power.

"Tajzadeh's crime isn't clear to the people," cried a student leader to a roar of applause. "Is it because he stood against the guardians of power? Because he safeguarded people's vote? He's the new hero of democracy in
Iran!"

Tajzadeh became a hero of the reform movement when as supervisor of the parliamentary elections he defended the reformist victory, which the country's hardline Guardian Council threatened to annul. This week's sentence bars Tajzadeh from monitoring elections—most significantly the June presidential race—for the next six years. The decision is part of a
stepped-up campaign against moderate President Mohammed Khatami and is being interpreted as a move to rig June's presidential vote. Flustered by the hardline backlash, the cautious Khatami may decline to run if the election turns into a confrontation with hardliners. "The President, personally, is the target of these pressures," his brother, Mohammed Reza
Khatami, told the students. "He is [their] major obstacle, which all these efforts are aimed at removing."

Though they waited for nearly two hours, portraits in hand, the students were disappointed when Tajzadeh didn't show up. Mohammed Reza Khatami attempted to pacify them. "Others will fill his place," he said. "One cannot lose hope over one person's defeat. All this is happening to push
us to announce the funeral of reform."

Despite the soothing rhetoric, many students feel that the President underestimates their frustration. "After all these years, we're not prepared to take a step backwards," said Maryam Gholabi, 21, a medical student. More revealing than any of the student speeches or placards was the absence of photos of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Khomeini, whose pictures adorn every public space in Iran.

That day at Tehran University, the pillar on which Khamenei's photo normally hangs was bare.

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