Majid Tavakoli Becomes a Symbol of a Growing Student Movement

Majid Tavakoli, an Iranian student leader who had been imprisoned twice for his defense of human rights, was violently arrested on December 7 after he gave a speech at a gathering of students at Amir Kabir University (Tehran) to commemorate Students’ Day. Three years earlier in December 2006, he had been among students who protested Ahmadinejad’s speech at Amir Kabir University and called him “ a source of prejudice and corruption.” This year, Tavakoli was speaking to Amir Kabir students in the midst of student demonstrations throughout the country. Below are excerpts from two articles which defend Tavakoli and address the meaning of the Iranian government’s claim that he was arrested while dressed in a woman’s hijab. The first article is by Mujtaba Saminejad, a journalist, human rights activist and blogger. The second is by Shakiba Shaker Hosseini, a young feminist activist.

Majid Tavakoli Is Not Afraid. The Fearful Are Those Hiding Under One Cover
By Mujtaba Saminejad
Translated by Frieda Afary

December 10, 2009

. . . The coup leaders are very worried today. The more time elapses, the stronger and more widespread the Iranian people’s protest movement becomes. The coup leaders’ illusion about the degeneration of this movement is weakening.

The media that have backed the coup, also support the murderers of the Nedas and the Sohrabs in Iran. They defend the Yemeni and Lebanese and Afghani Taliban terrorists. . . These media are crying out about the connection between a student activist and terrorist groups. . .

Majid Tavakoli has been arrested several times. He spent months at the Evin prison under the most severe psychological and physical torture. First he was arrested when the Basijis [militia –tr] who are supported by Keyhan and the Pars New Agency [a newspaper and a press agency that support Ayatollah Khamenei—tr.] published and distributed a publication which insulted religious beliefs which the Basijis promote and represent in the name of God. They accused Majid Tavakoli and other students at Amir Kabir Polytechnic, of having issued this publication. After 15 months of imprisonement, Majid and the other students were exonerated by the court. Those who had issued the publication were discredited.

Majid’s second arrest took place at the cancelled memorial meeting for Mr. Bazargan [reference to Mehdi Bazargan who was the first prime minister after the 1979 Revolution—tr.] . He was subjected to psychological and physical torture for 115 days at the Evin prison once again. . .

Keyhan and the Pars New Agency are experts at fraud and falsification. That is whey they support the coup-promoting government. They report that Majid was afraid as he was attempting to flee [Amir Kabir University—tr.]. They liken him toBani Sadr who put on women’s clothing in order to escape.[Reference to Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president after the 1979 Revolution. Bani Sadr fled the country in 1981 –tr.]

But who is afraid? Majid Tavakoli and the student activists or those who beat women, girls and elderly women in the head to prevent them from chanting slogans or forming gatherings? Who is afraid? Those students who courageously stand in front of the truncheons, tear gas and the violent Basijis and security forces, or those who create a security barrier around the university to prevent people from witnessing their crimes? . . . The fearful are those increasingly in denial about the growing flames of the protest movement.

Tavakoli Carries the Weight of the Humiliation Suffered by Iranian Women
By Shakiba Shaker Hosseini
Translated by Frieda Afary

December 11, 2009

. . . The story of Majid Tavakoli is the story of centuries of women’s oppression in Iran. He and his fellow activists in this movement are jointly experiencing the bitter taste of this oppressive attitude. This is an attitude that reveals the humiliation of the perpetrators and not the victims.

This event clearly reflects the thought of those who view women and all things associated with women in a humiliating manner. In Iran, the Hijab has been considered a “mandatory honor” and a great deal more than a question of volition or choice. Now it is being used as a sign of humiliation. They [the authorities –tr] dress Tavakoli in women’s clothing and take his picture, and think that they have humiliated him. . .

The bearers of pathological thoughts and images about women, get excited about dressing a student member of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, in women’s clothing! However, Majid Tavakoli and other men who have experienced this injustice, have now gained an intimate and true understanding of what women are forced to bear. This intersubjective comprehension will make Iran’s progressive movement more united.

The violence, suppression and the arrest of dissidents, regardless of their attire, is to be condemned. The creation of terror and fear among citizens reveals the face of a system that is using fear to stay in power. Under these circumstances, the spectacle of citizens who are willing to do anything in order to not be caught, exposes the violent behavior of the oppressors.
. . . Once again look at those unbelievable pictures. Could any other image express the bitterness and humiliation of the compulsory hijab with such clarity?

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