President Khatami went to the main lecture theatre of the Tehran university yesterday on the occasion of the National Student Day in Iran. At first the organisers had tried to let in only the selected Baseej and Islamic Society members, but a large crowd of the students, some with placards, waited outside singing the 'Ey Iran' banned national anthem and the student solidarity anthems.
As Khatami started to speak even a few of those who were allowed in started to heckle his speech and pointed to their comrades who were left outside. Eventually the sheer force of the throng of the students outside broke the doors and pushed their way in. Fighting broke out between the security and the students who had barged their way in. Khatami visibly looking distressed pleaded with the security to let the students in and not harm them.
One student who was bleeding from his face after clashing with security, managed to get himself to the microphone. He showed his beaten face and the students shouted at the security "Savages, Savages". The beaten student then said to the President, "From early hours of this morning, only selected students have been allowed to enter the hall. Seven years ago they said you had the support of the students. Look what's happened after seven years!" He then gave a quick brief account of what had happened to students in the last seven years.
Khatami apologised to him and said obviously the officials had made a mistake and should have catered for more room in the hall. As the students shouted 'Khatami Shame Shame,' the president looked on and gave his customary smile.
Khatami carried on saying, "I have not retreated from anyone or anything but from the Islamic Republic establishment, only because I believe in our system."
Students referred to the hand picked parliament and shouted, "What happend to free elections?"
Looking despondent Khatami replied, "There is room for discussion on that."
Then the students shouted slogans calling the secretary of the Guardian Council the "enemy of the nation." Khatami looking confused mistakenly thought they meant him and snapped, "If you think you represent the people then I am the enemy of the people." The chairman explained to President Khatami that the students had in fact addressed the Guardian Council member and not him.
Khatami by now looking exhausted said "Lets end it and leave anymosity and friendships for another time'.
Students who were still stranded outside the hall kept shouting more radical slogans:
"Referendum, Referendum, This is the cry of the Nation"
"Free all Political Prisoners"
"One Day Taliban Will have to Flee Iran too"
Those standing by the gates between the security forces and passers by outside the university were also shouting:
"People what we ask for is, what you ask for - Lend us your support"