Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Iranian Students-Tale of  Two Regimes

Sam Ghandchi

دانشجويان ايران-داستان دو رژيم

P.S. December 1, 2018: The first English edition of this article was written about 20 years ago. The second edition and original Persian edition that is found below, was written 14 years ago during Khatami administration in Iran when the students were jailed the same way. On November 22, 2009, at the time of Iran's Green Movement an article in Persian entitled "16th of Azar and Futurism" was published. Also last year I wrote an article about 16 Azar,  Ahmad Ghandchi and his family in Persian which shows they never sought revenge and always worked for peace and friendship no matter what regime was in power in Iran. The article can be found at the following URL:




1. About July 9, 1999 (18-Tir 1378)


We are a month away from the anniversary of 18-Tir students uprising of Iran,  the bloody day that Iranian students all know very well.  If a day should be picked as the beginning of formation of new secular pro-democracy organizations of Iran, I think 18-tir 1378 (July 9, 1999) would be appropriate.


The event happened two years after the election of President Khatami to office, when the Iranian people turned the table on the Islamic Republic, and even within the confines of IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) 's selections, voted for the candidate who was not the regime’s #1 choice, in the IRI presidential election of 1997.  That was the 2-khordad, when the popular hope was to start a process that people's movement would find its *real* leaders, and not the ones selected by the establishment, such as Khatami, within the confines of IRI. Even this prospect made the regime scared, and the killings of Forouhars and the writers in Nov 1998, was regime's attempt to stop such a process. 


The killings backfired and the regime was forced to admit the chained murders as the work of its own intelligence service agents, and had a sham trial of the agents, and behind closed doors, a mysterious suicide of their lead hit-man, Saeed Emami, inside the jail, was announced.  Saeed Emami had worked for the regime for years, making Hoviyat program on IRI Television, a program similar to TV shows of Shah's Savak,  focused on discrediting Iran’s opposition.

The Students Uprising of July 9th, 1999 was the first popular movement,  less than a year after the chained murders, which showed beyond doubt that killings of Forouhars and the writers, not only did not stop the ones who wanted real change in Iran, but it had made them more determined, when seeing the reformist regime not working hard to protect its own friends, let alone guaranteeing the protection of various groups of the pro-democracy movement, as one would expect from a real reformist regime.  This is how a parallel secular movement started alongside 2nd Khordad movement, on July 9th, 1999, and gained momentum as the years passed.


These university students were born at the time of 1979 Revolution, and contrary to 1981 and 1988 massacres of the regime, which were against the remainders of anti-Shah movement, here the regime was facing a new fresh movement of those born and raised under the Islamic Republic. The students were vocal about their demands for change in Iran, and the regime was also very clear in its attack on them.  The vigilantes attacked, killed, and wounded the students, and many of the student leaders were arrested, yet Khatami threatened the students to discontinue or get the stick. 


Khatami from the first days after July 9, 1999, was very slow to bring the murderers of Forouhars and attackers of students to justice, but he was very swift, on that day, to threaten suppression of the Students Pro-Democracy Uprising. This way basically secular Iranian students lost their faith in Khatami from that day, and took a more farsighted vision about the future steps of their struggle, and did not allow the regime to kill off the pro-democracy movement, like the Chinese Tien An Men Square.


Some of the student leaders are still in Islamic Republic’s dungeons, some others were forced to make TV confessions, and later told the people of the truth.  Even the TV confessions backfired on the regime, making its image more like that of  Savak confessions of regime’s predecessor, i.e. the confessions under torture during Shah’s regime, which Iranian people still remember.  The anniversaries of 18-Tir in summer, were continued and became the school of democracy in Iran,  always followed by 16-Azar (Dec 7) anniversaries in the Fall, which I will explain later.




Two years after July 9th, in the elections of 2001, Iranian people voted for Khatami again, although this time, he was the regime’s #1 choice.  People voted for him to choose the lesser evil among the candidates, and preferred to do this than boycott, when they did not see any serious alternative yet, and this helped the newly formed pro-democracy groups to solidify. 


In July 2001, Khatami’s government that had just come to its second term, with a strong vote, in its first test after its new term, backed off from giving permission for the anniversary demonstrations of the  18th of Tir, nonetheless, the students did not give up on their demonstration against the Islamist dictatorship, and for a democratic and future_oriented government through a referendum.

One thing that was obvious for sure, was that in 2001, only two years after the 18-Tir Students Uprising, the Iranian people found so many new leaders, who were neither from the past nor selections of IRI.  Just looking at the names of the ones in IRI prisons, or newly released prisoners shows how unsuccessful the regime was, when hoping that by killings the Forouhars and the writers, and the killing of dissidents abroad, to deprive the Iranian people of a leadership to oppose this regime.


These were new leaders who had come out of the July 9th, 1999 students movement, leaders who were neither with Mojahedin nor with Monarchy.  They were an independent new force that Iranian progressive aspirations had created, and they were getting stronger and stronger, and the attacks of regime’s vigilantes, would only make this force more aware, as to how to form a democratic Futurist Iran.




In the subsequent year, the students movement reached a new height, a few months after the  July 9th anniversary of 2002, in Oct and Dec 2002, on the anniversary of 16-Azar (Dec 7, 1953).  I will explain about the history of Dec 7, 1953 later in here. The 2002 demonstrations broke out on the occasion of a death edict for a university professor on the charges of blasphemy, and the students movement continued into a new height into the May 2003.  Khatami's government hid the murder of Iranian-Canadian reporter Zahra Kazemi, until after July 9th to prevent students' rage.  Also the regime took advantage of people's grieving for the two Iranian Siamese twins, who had died under an operation to get separated, in the days before July 9th, to calm down the July 9th anniversary of 2003.


In a month, it is the 2004 anniversary of18-Tir ( July 9th) and already arrests of Iranian pro-democracy activists have started.  Nonetheless, the students have announced again, that these arrests and regime attacks will not stop them from celebrating the anniversary of July 9th, and in the words of and RSF reporter from Tehran, participation in the July 9th events, has turned into a symbol of honor for Iranian students.  This is like the way participating in 16-Azar (Dec 7) anniversary was for the students of my generation.



2. About Dec 7, 1953 (16-Azar 1332)


16-Azar (Dec 7)  is from the days right after the CIA coup of 1953. Despite the attempts by monarchists in the recent years to remove anniversary celebrations of Dec 7th from the calendar of Iran's pro-democracy movement, Iranian students celebrate both days, because Dec 7 (16-Azar) reminds us that we do not want to trade one retrogressive regime with another.


Iranian students have been struggling for democracy for over half a century, commemorating two days shows this challenge under two dictatorial regimes.  It should not be surprising why Iranian students make a point to keep both days because they want to emphasize that they will not be return to the old regime as the monarchists try to take advantage of IRI atrocities to come back to power in Iran.  Below is my memories of 16-Azar (Dec 7) at the time of the Shah.


The anniversary of Dec 7, 1953, is from another generation of Iranian students who fought for democracy under the Shah's regime.  The anniversary of 16-Azar of 1332, rooz-e daaneshjoo, the International Students Day.  Many people who have been members of the Confederation of Iranian Students abroad in 60s and 70s, or have been students in Iran in those years, would remember the commemorations in Iran and abroad, on this special day, and still after the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian students in Iran celebrate the anniversary of this day.


When I was a student in late 60s and early 70s, I remember celebrations of this day, and it was a day that students remembered their freedom-loving peers, who were the first to oppose Shah's dictatorship of post-CIA coup of 1953, and who had given their blood to show their dislike of Shah's repression, just a few months after that dark CIA coup in Iran.


My cousin, Ahmad Ghandchi, who was sympathetic to Jebhe Melli, and two others, Shariat-Razavi and Bozorg-Nia, who were claimed by hezbe tudeh as sympathetic to Hezb-e Tudeh, were killed by the gun of Shah's police, on this 7th day of December  in 1953, at the University of Tehran, when they had gone on strike,  protesting Nixon's visit of Iran, following the CIA coup of 1953.


As far as calling the three students as jebhe or tudeii, this is how anybody was categorized in 1953, as either jebhe or tudeii, but they were just freedom-loving students of Technology Faculty (Daneshkadeh Fani) of University of Tehran, who were protesting the coup that had overthrown legal popular reformist government of Dr. Mossadegh.


The blood stain of the three students on the columns of the main building of Daneshkadeh Fani was still there a few years ago.  I do not know if it is still there now.  For years during the Shah's regime, following the bloody shooting of the Shah's regime on 16-Azar, the students of Daneshkadeh Fani, were the bastions of Iranian students movement for democracy.


Outside Iran, the main newspaper of the Confederation of Iranian students in 60s and 70s was called 16-Azar, and anniversary day 16-Azar (i.e. Dec 7), was always celebrated by Iranian students, who studied in universities abroad.  I think all the archives of Confederation's 16-Azar papers may still be found at the US Library of Congress in the Iran section.


Ahmad Ghandchi, Shariat-e Razavi, and Bozorg-nia are buried in Emamzadeh Abdollah Cemetery near Tehran. I was two years old when they were killed, so I just know about them from family conversations. When I was a child, I used to go to their gravesite with my father, as it is also near my grandfather's grave.


My zan-amoo (my cousin's mother), who passed away just about fifteen years ago, always would cry every time remembering her son Ahmad.  Ahmad was one of the brightest in the family. Ahmad Ghandchi got his diploma when he was 16 and was very knowledgeable.   His story of being killed, for fighting against the dictatorship, is unfortunately the story of the life and death of many of the brightest children of Iran over the years.


The students' protest in 16th of Azar, was not only to protest the post-Coup repression and US involvement in Iran, but Shariat-Razavi, Ghandchi, and Bozorg-nia and their peers, thought that they can break that atmosphere of fear and intimidation (rob va vahshat), and perhaps they had a chance.  But unfortunately they were defeated and the post-coup terror continued for decades.


The US policy was the main reason for the success of coup, and for failure of democracy in Iran in those years.  I have condemned IRI hostage-taking, from day one, which happened in the aftermath of 1979 Revolution, nonetheless, I have also condemned U.S. role in Iran, during the Shah's regime, from CIA coup of 1953, to training of the Savak, to supporting the repressive Shah's government in the post-coup years.


The July 9th Uprising of Iranian students in 1999, reminded me of the 16-Azar of 1953.  Again the Iranian students took the flag of asking for freedom and democracy in Iran and a few were killed and a number of them are still in jail. 


After years and years of struggle for democracy in Iran, and even after going through a revolution, again the democratic law and human rights were defeated in Iran and again the Iranian students are in the forefront of pro-democracy movement, to protest the repression and to ask for democracy, and again they are paying with their blood for this great ideal of humanity.


3. Conclusion


What is notable today is that there is a strong movement of pre-university youth in Iran, that ever since the years of 1941-1953 such a pre-university youth movement was never this strong.  In post-1953, only the otoboosraani movement of 1969 (a movement protesting the price of bus tickets in 1969), was a notable movement with pre-University youth. Other than that, during the 1953-1979 period, there was hardly any pre-university youth movement in Iran.  In recent years, the youth movement has shown its powerful presence on occasions such as the periodic matches of soccer games in Iran. 


I think the presence of a strong youth movement in the years after the fall of Reza Shah and following World War II, was because on one side there was a half-democracy in Iran, in those years, and on the other side, the atmosphere in the world, was very international and the youth in different countries compared themselves with their counterparts in other countries, and were demanding what their peers had. 


Internet and Television have created a similar situation for the youth today, where Iranian youth compare themselves to their peers elsewhere in the world, and the movement of the youth in Iran is an added element to the movement of Iranian university students and it is hard to say how these two movements will complement each other in their struggle for democracy and progress


Even the teachers movement is in close relation with the students, raising the flag of pro-democracy movement.  Nonetheless, these are tough times, especially for the ones who are facing the vigilantes on the streets of Iran and are facing torture in the Evin prison. I believe any help for the progressive students movement in Iran has never been as timely as now. 


The cornerstone of the current movement in Iran is the separation of state and religion and the demand for full secularism, which can only happen by ending the Islamic Republic of Iran for good, and the regime tries its best to suppress the secular forces.


One of the leaders of Iranian pro-democracy movement, during the prolonged students demonstrations of 2002, noted an important thought.  He said that students movement have their own limitations, although students movement has always been a spectacular part of pro-democracy movement of Iran.  To lead the movement of Iran for regime change, a political party is needed, and although students movement and its leadership, are important parts of such an endeavor, but they are not equal.  I have written my thoughts on the Futurist Party in a different paper, and have separately discussed it in relation to political coalitions as well, and all the discussions can be found at the link of futurist party.


Long live the pro-democracy movement of Iranian students


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi


June 1, 2004

*I wrote most of Part 2 of this article in Nov 1999.  The Persian version is all new.


Related Slideshow


December 7, 1953 Memorial

یادبود شانزدهم آذر 1332
















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For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran