Iranian President Khatami Clashes with Reformist Students at Tehran University
The following are excerpts from reports by various Arab and Iranian TV channels of an address by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Tehran University students on Iranian Student Day. Soon after beginning his speech, President Khatami found himself under attack by reformist students, who voiced their disappointment in him. Source: Various Arab and Iranian TV Channels, December 6, 2004
Commentator: Did they come in droves to criticize or to praise him? It was impossible to tell. But opinions were clearly divided, so much so that they came to blows. Mohammad Khatami, the president elected with the most support in Iran's history – this is what he has come to. Some complained, while others' harsh criticism at times even turned into curses. It seemed that the students of the conservative movement were the only ones who, uncharacteristically, defended the reformist president.
Male Student: We, the students of the Basij, who are always accused of resisting the president, have come to defend him.
Female Student: Why did you keep silent over many things and nominate yourself for a second term? Commentator: Khatami defended his government's achievements in foreign relations and in managing the nuclear issue crisis vis-a-vis the international community.
Khatami: The way we have dealt with the nuclear issue has removed a grave danger that threatened Iran. If we had not acted in an intelligent and calculated manner, we would have faced problems now.
Commentator: In the area of internal policy and in response to the students' accusations of being remiss in handling the pressures of the conservative movement, especially of the Guardian Council, Khatami launched an attack against both the reformists and the conservatives. He accused voices in the reformist movement of following Iran's enemies.
Khatami: Their behavior has cost them their popularity among most of the people. Today we hear voices in the reformist camp which are echoed by the enemies of this people.
Voice: Dear friends, please be seated… Let us preserve the etiquette and honor of the university… I ask the dear friends… In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful… University etiquette and honor require that we be more tolerant towards one another.
Voice: At the university, Basij members have always been oppressed. In the entrance to the auditorium, some people were beaten. Those who were there saw me defend them. But the security men beat me too… They beat me as well as them. We have always been the oppressed in the university… Cannons, tanks, and Basij members are no more effective
Voice: I ask the friends to be more tolerant and patient.
Khatami: Sir, this is against the rules of democracy. What are you doing? How many people are booing? Don't make me have you removed. Behave yourselves.
Khatami: Listen… Be patient. If people not yet in government cannot be tolerant, God forbid, what will happen once they reach the government? I believe that different views are being presented here by different people. I hope that… I hope…
Crowd: No more lies! No more lies! No more lies! No more lies! No more lies!
Khatami: All right… Okay, okay… You must be reasonable… Only dictators do not accept anyone who is different.
Khatami: I hope that we will not see dictators at the university.
Khatami: We must be tolerant towards people with different opinions…
Khatami: I believe that the reforms should come from within the regime. I consider the Islamic Republic to be a great achievement of the most popular revolution in my lifetime.
Khatami: As someone familiar with the pains of society, I see the necessity of preserving this regime. I see the Islamic revolution as the most important stage in Iran's recent history. I see the defense of [the revolution] as my individual duty, for the sake of democracy, freedom, and liberation from foreign control.
Khatami: Long-lasting tyranny is our chronic pain, and the cure for this chronic pain is the rule of the people. We demand freedom. There is no escape. We want freedom in order to survive and to remain proud…
Khatami: Dear sir, dear sir. Don't you want progress? Don't be angry. You are young. You don't know what this is all about.
Crowd: Jannati, Jannati, you're the enemy of the people!
Khatami: If you represent the people, I am the enemy of the people.
Voice in crowd: Is your name Jannati?
Voice in crowd: What?
Voice in crowd: They are saying, Jannati, Jannati, you are the enemy of the people.
Khatami: Oh, I thought you were saying Khatami.
Khatami: I thought you were saying "Khatami."
Khatami: Remember, the protestors are standing before the president and shouting their slogans in complete freedom.
Khatami: I say this even now… The right way is to act within the Islamic Republic. Rest assured that beyond the Islamic Republic thre will not be a democratic regime in the true sense of the word.
Crowd: (cheering, applause)
Khatami: Don't be tempted by those who were banished from the revolution and want to give us the gift of "freedom" and "democracy."
Khatami: Brothers and sisters, thank God my term is over. But if anybody is owed anything, it is me.
Crowd: (shouts, booing)
Khatami: I'm not saying that the people is indebted to me. The people is the benefactor. The public owes me nothing. The public is the benefactor. But as the representative of this people, I say that some movements are indebted to me. Those fanatics with twisted minds, who lust for power, and who ignore the popular reform movement and its demands, have mobilized forces against this trend instead of conceding to the public and its demands. These demands stem from the public's desires that were manifest in the epic of May 23 [1997, when Khatami was elected]. They objected because of their envy and created obstacles.
Female student to interviewer: I don't think President Khatami was able to fulfill his promises. I don't want to criticize him. However, even though he has always claimed to be honest, he did not have clear positions.
Male student to interviewer: In general, his term was a good one. We have succeeded in opening up to the world, and our relations with many countries have improved.
Male student #2: President Khatami enjoyed great support for a while, and I voted for him in the elections. But he was not able to use this support in order to fulfill his promises.