Wednesday , 24 July 2024

Students Confront Iran’s Presidential Candidate Over Crackdowns, Morality Police

Iranwire – Masoud Pezeshkian, a candidate in Iran’s June 28 presidential election, addressed a crowd at Tehran University on Sunday. 

The Islamic Association of Tehran University and Tehran Medical Sciences University organized the event, which was held at the Shahid Chamran Hall at Tehran University.

The Islamic Association of Tehran University and Tehran Medical Sciences University organized the event, which was held at the Shahid Chamran Hall at Tehran University.

The organizers claimed that the event was not aimed at campaigning for a particular candidate but was a question-and-answer meeting with Pezeshkian. 

However, students in attendance seized the opportunity to confront Pezeshkian on a range of contentious issues.

When pressed on the matter of political prisoners, Pezeshkian was dismissive. 

“Political prisoners are not within my scope, and if I want to do something, I have no authority,” he said.

On the controversial Morality Police, responsible for enforcing strict moral codes, Pezeshkian offered a lukewarm response. “I will stop the Morality Police as much as I can. Of course, if I promise, I have lied; I have to talk to them to convince them,” he said.

However, students were undeterred, using the forum to remind the candidate of recent social movements and state crackdowns. 

They referenced the protests of 2018, November 2019, and autumn 2022, as well as the arrest and deprivation of students and the dismissal of professors who criticized and opposed university policies.

A Tehran University student, who was arrested during the Woman, Life, Freedom protests and spent months in prison, commented on the impact of Masoud Pezeshkian’s presence at the university. 

He said, “No, I do not think more than 20 percent of the university body supports Mr. Pezeshkian. Most current and potential supporters are older students, the younger students are not enthusiastic about these discussions.”

Emphasizing the difficulty in predicting student participation in elections, the student explained, “The truth is, the current university situation indicates that the political nature of elections has significantly diminished since 2017.

“No one seems hopeful for change under this form of discretionary supervision. There is no practical alternative, and students have really suffered from political depression.”

Sodeh, a graduate student at Gilan University, shared insights on the university atmosphere and the student movement regarding the upcoming election: “The atmosphere is very different from 2017.”

Ali, a student from Beheshti University in Tehran, highlighted the suppression of students during the Woman, Life, Freedom protests that started in 2022. 

He said, “Among the six candidates, five hold similar positions. Masoud Pezeshkian, who is seen as close to the reformists, insists he follows the policies of the Islamic Republic’s leader, Ali Khamenei. He has repeatedly stated that the system will not change and that his plans align with Khamenei’s vision.”

He added, “This means that those who criticize the existing structure have no representative in this competition. 

“Everything is so one-sided that it seems as if the candidates have simply adopted the thoughts of the system’s defenders. 

“All six candidates are products of the Islamic Republic. From individuals involved in the political prisoner executions of the 1980s to Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who approved the anti-women chastity and hijab bill and internet filtering, none can be expected to represent public opinion.”

The student believes that the presence of these six candidates represents a power struggle rather than an effort to reform the entrenched system. 

“They lack both the power and the desire to implement changes because their existence and that of their supporters depend on the survival of the Islamic Republic. 

“They equate their survival with the survival of the dictatorship. Hundreds of students and professors could contribute to societal progress, but within the ruling system, only cowardly and duplicitous individuals are appointed to positions.”

He describes the presence of reformist figures among the students as mere propaganda aimed at garnering participation from the undecided. 

“The student movement, especially since 2022, has completely distanced itself from these farcical displays. 

“You must remember that during the Mahsa Amini movement, Ebrahim Raisi’s spokesperson was ignored at all universities. The words and promises of these so-called reformists are full of hypocrisy and lies, rendering them meaningless to students,” the student added.