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Cablegate: Iran Student's Day Protest Feedback

VZCZCXRO3585
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHAK #1744 3421548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081548Z DEC 09 ZDS CTG RUEHSD SVC 0047W
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1414
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 6617
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ANKARA 001744

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

XXXXX CORRECTED COPY ADDING "SENSITIVE" CAPTION XXXXX

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: CVIS PREL PINS PGOV PHUM SOCI SCUL TU IR
SUBJECT: Iran Student's Day Protest Feedback

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On Tuesday December 8th, CONOFF surveyed Iranian
non-immigrant visa (NIV) applicants regarding the December 7th
"Student's Day" protest in Iran. The protests were described as
better organized and larger than the November 4th demonstrations.
Reactions to the present political climate reflected mixed feelings
of support for the protesters to hope for a return to calm. An
overall uncomortable feeling of tightened state security and
surveillance pervaded all applicant responses. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The most impassioned of the Iranian respondents was an
architecture student whose brother participated in the December 7th
Tehran University protest. According to her brother, Sunday night
people chanted "God is Great" from their rooftops to defy Supreme
Leader Khamenei. She said demonstrations took place at many
universities including Tehran's Sharif Institute of Technology and
in other cities such as Shiraz, Mashhad, and Kerman. On December
7th, Basij militiamen with batons reportedly deployed at Tehran
University in advance of the protest, but students were present in
such great numbers that they reportedly managed to force the
Basiji's out. When the Basijis tried to attack certain students,
other students locked arms and came in between them. She added that
security authorities targeted protest leaders who led
anti-government chanting for arrests. She said that the protests
were far better organized than the last demonstration on November
4th. Her father, a university professor, attributed this to the
government's visible deployment of rooftop snipers to discourage
participation during the November protests.

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3. (SBU) The architecture student described the Basijis as paid
government mercenaries with no fear of committing murder. She
attributes their pro-government zeal to government payments as well
as special treatment. For example, Basijis who choose to pursue
higher education do not need to take regularly required university
entrance exams. She added that because of this, "Khamenei is like a
god to them."

4. (SBU) The architecture student had participated in previous
demonstrations. She said that though leaderless, students were
still hopeful of an evolution in their political system towards a
true democracy. She explained that if the position of Supreme
Leader were eliminated, Iran would become a true democracy. She
added that students remain excited and are willing to sacrifice
despite the level of danger. She repeatedly noted that "40 million"
Iranians are against the current regime so eventually they must
succeed. She cited the government's strong reaction to the protest
as a sign of fear and that the students are "fearless." She was not
aware of any future planned protests.

5. (SBU) Other applicant responses were far more low-key and
moderate. One student from Sharif University said he was interested
to hear about the protest from his friends but was apolitical
himself. He explained that he was an academic and did not approve
of the current climate of instability as it was detrimental to his
studies. He hopes for a return to calm so he can focus on his
coursework. A middle-aged Iranian woman noted that the public
environment was not good since moderate to liberal Iranians feel as
if someone is "watching over their shoulder." She noted that prior
to the election everyone wanted to believe that they had a real
democracy, but that now the lie has become so obvious that most
people cannot accept it. She thinks the best way forward is for the
government to admit its mistakes so confidence can be restored. In
the end she noted that a stable and safe environment for her
children was all she hoped for. Another middle-aged Iranian woman
responded, "What can I say, it's not good" and quickly walked away.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Based on accounts from Iranians visa applicants,
the current protest movement appears to be self-generated among
student groups with no direct connection to Mir Hossein Mousavi or
other public opposition leaders. As the architecture student noted
"Mousavi is a good man but not a leader." The internet appears to
be the primary source of protest information and communication.
Despite her excitement the architecture student was unable to
explain how the student movement would lead to meaningful change.
Although yesterday's protest appears to be larger than last month's,
none of the applicants was able to quantify its size. Most
applicants, although unhappy about the elections and the resultant
increased security situation, appear to err on the side of caution,
moderation and hope simply for a return to pre-election stability
and order. END COMMENT.

SILLIMAN

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