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I am another Iranian striving for Human Rights and Democracy. read and sign the petition Please support the IRANIAN WOMENS' ONE MILLION SIGNATURES CAMPAIGNto change the discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Iran Freedom Concert At Harvard University (Part I)


I am on the long train ride back from Boston. We had attended Harvard University’s “Iran Freedom Concert” the night before. I am about to describe my experiences from the event. Because the entry would be so long, I have broken up the coverage of this event into four pieces. The first piece entails a summary of the event, the second an interview with Iranian civil rights activist Akbar Atri, third an interview with an Iranian opposing him that was present at the concert, and the final part will be my own conclusions of the whole evening.

Summary of the Event (Part I)
In my opinion the main attraction to this event was Akbar Atri’s speech. Akbar Atri was a student activist during 2002 when Iranian students protested, demanding that the Iranian government release political prisoner and University professor Hashem Aghajori. Akbar Atri, amongst many other University student activists in Iran, was beaten by the Hardliner plain clothed police while demonstrating. He was later imprisoned, and later convicted in absentia in the Iranian courts while abroad. As we were entering the hall where the concert was being held two students approached us and handed out a paper titled: “Want Human Rights in Iran? Stand up against war. Oppose the agenda of this concert.” The flyer mentioned its belief that the Bush administration was using Human Rights reform in Iran as a pretext for waging war on Iran. The flyer also criticized how the organizers of the event were a conglomeration of American Harvard University groups such as Harvard College Middle East Review and the Free Culture Society. To the hosts’ credit, I think they did an excellent job in organizing the event and I was very pleased with program.

After the playing of some live music, Akbar Atri stepped to the podium. He spoke through a translator. He talked about how Iraq and Afghanistan now have more freedoms than a few years ago. He stated that convincing dictators to step down is difficult, and how admittedly Afghanistan is doing much better after the war. He did state that he was not for a war on Iran. He then further described during the demonstrations in Iran, while students were demanding for more freedoms, how the militia Basiji attacked the student dormitories and wounded many numbers and killed several students. Just after he said that, the Iranian that was handing out the anti-war flyers cried out “there was only one student killed”. Another woman with a thick Iranian accent called out “stop lying…”. Akbar Atri responded how he has participated in the student demonstrations in Iran, and how he had been beaten by the Iranian Basiji. He stated that the beatings would never deter him from speaking out. At this point a few audience members applauded. He pointed out that in the United States people can exercise freedom of speech as they please, and that the atmosphere in Iran is different than what we experience here. He asked the audience to judge if he knows more about events in Iran or if Harvard students knew more. He pointed out that he saw at least two of the students that were killed in the 1999 Basiji police raid of the Tehran University dormitories immediately, and stated that a few more students died later.

He spoke a little more and then sat down. I went ahead and asked for him for an Interview, which he granted. Meanwhile, there was another band playing Major Major. I think they played well. At the final part of the program there was a female student that sang two songs. She had an excellent voice.

I have found a website that seems to illustrate the events of the 1999 attack on students in University of Tehran dormatories with detail below.

1999 student protests

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