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Iran campuses rocked by student protests

Universities start the academic year with angry demonstrations against Ahmadinejad.

A security official keeps watch at a university during Friday prayers in Tehran on Sept. 25, 2009. Tehran's universities were rocked by anti-government protests on Monday, Sept. 28. Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Hundreds of students shouting anti-government slogans took to the streets of Tehran and other cities Monday in another sign that Iran's opposition is still active, despite arrests and allegations of state torture and rape.

These renewed domestic protests add to the international pressure mounting against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader is now coping with both internal and external pressure, as U.S. President Barack Obama joined with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to urge Iran to cease testing missiles and allow international inspections of Iran's nuclear program.

At the start of the academic year, university students clashed with police in the streets, reportedly prompting Ahmadinejad to cancel his attendance at a Tehran University inauguration ceremony and send Minister of Science Kamran Daneshjoo instead.

Daneshjoo was the head of Ahmadinejad’s electoral committee in the 2009 elections and strongly supported the incumbent president’s claim in the post-election fallout that vote-rigging did not occur.

“The regime has always been fearful of the universities since they are a source of organized uprising,” said Ali Mohseni, a student protester who fled Iran after being arrested and is currently in exile in Turkey. “In the past few days, members of (presidential candidate Mir-Hossein) Mousavi’s youth wing have been arrested because the regime saw that detaining the heads of the movement was not enough so now they’re going after the grassroots.”

Another student, who insisted on just being called Ali for fear of retribution was detained before the elections for his activism and who participated in all the summer demonstrations. His university friends were amazed to see him following the long summer break.

“They looked at me funny and said: ‘You’re alive? They didn’t kill you?’” Ali said. “They (the government) are pressuring us excessively by blackmailing us,” he added. “They even use the girlfriends or boyfriends of the politicized ones to threaten them with public or private humiliation before their families should they not give up their activity.”

Mousavi youth activists were instrumental in organizing demonstrations, publishing allegations of election fraud and prison torture, and publicizing images of several freshly dug graves which they allege contain the bodies of those killed during the demonstrations.

University guards wearing ceremonial sashes over their uniforms stood at the university gates checking the faces of those entering and ensuring they were not wearing any green items of clothing, the color adopted by Iran’s opposition. Student activists reported that additional student Basij militiamen had been bussed in from the ideological Imam Sadegh University that is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.