Iran’s largest university student union has been under attack recently for taking an opposition stance against the government. On Dec. 30, the government shut down Kargozaran, a major daily newspaper in Iran, after it published a statement from the student group criticizing those who use the Palestinian issue as a tool to promote their own agenda. The statement condemned Israel’s invasion of Gaza but, in a surprising move, it also “equally condemn[ed] the way in which terrorist groups take refuge in kindergartens and hospitals to attack the other side.” Following the banning of Kargozaran and attacks on several Iranian human rights activists, the student organization published a second statement to clarify its position. Below are translated excerpts from their latest statement. They are asking for support from students worldwide.
Statement to Condemn the Crimes in Gaza
The Israeli army has committed a crime against humanity. It has transgressed international law and the Geneva Convention, which demands the protection of civilians.
The silence of Western governments and the absence of effective punishment for the perpetrators of this human catastrophe will weaken the dialogue on human rights globally. It allows oppressive governments to present the issue of human rights as an instrument of powerful countries bent on promoting their domination and political interests around the world. In Iran we have seen how this weapon has been used to discredit internal human rights struggles and to confront the few existing human rights institutions.
In the 1990s, the conflict between Palestine and Israel reached a peace interval. Despite Israel’s occupation and its warlike treatment of its Arab neighbors,Palestinians accepted the division of the region into two states, Palestine and Israel. But Israel has not honored its commitments. It has not agreed to fully withdraw from the West Bank, dismantle the separation wall, and to make arrangements for the dignified return of Palestinian refugees to the post-1967 occupied territories. It has not accepted a Palestinian state.
The most painful aspect of this long-term crisis has been the treatment of the Palestinian people as pawns in a game. Governments and forces in the region which stand to gain from unrest in the region, have tried to turn the Palestinian problem into a winning card for their games. Unfortunately some Palestinian forces also consider power, promotion of ideology, and survival at any cost to be their most important principle. They do not consider universal rights and interests as part of the legitimate resistance of the Palestinian people. The flames of hatred between Palestine and Israel are the primary fuel for fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaeda.
Iran’s former reformist administration [of President Mohammad Khatami] sought to adopt a relatively reasonable position on the conflict. But the current administration’s policies are contradictory, tension-ridden and against Iran’s national interests. On the one hand they call for “wiping Israel off the map of the earth.” On the other hand, they claim “friendship with the people of Israel.” These policies have denigrated Iran’s regional stature and have discredited it in the world community.
The current administration and its supporters are using the crisis in Gaza to achieve gains for themselves. They suppress independent forces inside Iran and try to turn public attention away from internal problems and crises. The promotion of attacks on our student organization [the Office for the Consolidation of Unity], the harassment of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, the arrest of eleven students at Shiraz University, the increasing arrests of civil rights and social activists, creating false pretexts for wider clashes with Islamic student organizations and student activists, are all measures to promote this purpose.
The fundamentalists’ claim to support the Palestinian people can only be believed if they practice humanitarian standards in relationship to the people of Iran. The government’s main motivation is to use the crisis in Gaza as a tool to promote its own internal and international aims. They want to turn the issue of defending the Palestinian people into their private property, their monopoly.
Although the policies of some Palestinian groups cannot be condoned, Israel’s violations of international resolutions and its lack of adherence to its commitment to the Arab peace proposal [at the Annapolis Summit], have been the greatest promoters of terrorism and extremism in the region. The Israeli army’s current crimes in Gaza, its murder of unarmed people and its targeting of the leaders of Palestinian groups, constitute an obvious case of state terrorism.
To conclude, we condemn terrorism of any kind as an inhuman act. The most significant way of preventing terrorism is to hold all of its global perpetrators responsible. Hence, Israel’s speedy withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, ending the economic blockade of Gaza and honoring commitments to a peace treaty, are the best ways to create a secure region and protect people’s lives in a sustainable form.
Office for the Consolidation of Unity
January 16, 2009
The Persian original of this statement can be found at: