Much of the international public and media consider mass protests in Iran to have ended, because images of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators no longer appear on TV screens and front pages, as they did in June and July. But the protest movement is alive and continues to challenge the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, and to demand fundamental rights.
At the forefront of this movement are university students. Iranian campuses are scenes of daily protests. Monday, December 7, is the National Student Day in Iran. It commemorates events back in 1953, when few months after a CIA-backed coup restored the monarchy at the expense of overthrowing the democratic government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq. On December 7, 1953, military forces put down student protests at Tehran University, killing three student leaders. Ever since, December 7 has been the symbol of standing up to tyrannical rule and dictatorship.
This year, the civil rights movement in Iran is seizing on the historical importance of this day to once more stage protests. In response, security and intelligence forces are rounding up and detaining student leaders throughout the country. But all signs indicate that the wider student body is determined to express itself in opposition to the increasingly repressive rule and emerging military dictatorship.
In solidarity with the student movement and the broader ongoing civil rights movement, human rights activists and organizations in many parts of the world are planning to hold events under the banner of ArtsUnited4Iran on December 12. These arts and culture programs, to take place internationally in over 20 cities, are organized by the grass roots global movement United4Iran.
The civil rights movement in Iran is standing up to dictatorship and the militarization of the country. Gross human rights violations are being committed on a daily basis. The movement's core characteristics are its emphasis on non-violent struggle and determination to achieve fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and press.
The organizers of ArtsUnited4Iran are echoing and supporting these demands, highlighting the recent UN General Assembly resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran. The international community should be paying much more attention to the civil rights movement in Iran and the human rights crisis. The nuclear issue is intimately entangled with the ongoing human rights abuses.
If we want to make sure Iran doesn't go down the path of developing nuclear weapons, then we should support the civil rights movement that is trying to prevent the Revolutionary Guards commanders from consolidating their hold on political power and foreign policy. It is this emerging militarization that is determined to exacerbate the nuclear crisis for its own gains, preventing any movement forward in negotiations.
It is time for the Obama administration to realize that it is playing the game by the Iranian government's rules by sidelining concerns about human rights abuses and keeping quite on them. And it is time for the rest of us, concerned global citizens, to join United4Iran on December 12 and let Iranians know that they are not alone in their struggle.