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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Hope on the streets of Tehran
Tehran protest
Tehran students say they want a change of government
Iran has seen almost of week of anti-government protests by students in the capital Tehran.

The protests prompted physical attacks by hardline Islamic vigilante groups and verbal praise from US President George W Bush.

Two young Iranians in Tehran told BBC News Online of their experiences of the protests.

Both wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.

An arts graduate from the University of Tehran said the student movements "have been counting the days for such a moment" to start the recent demonstrations.

But she said even watching the protests was not without its dangers.

"Just yesterday I was nearly beaten by the anti-riot police because I was watching the protestors from across the street where I live," she said.

I have protested for six straight nights and I am not going to stop now
Navid F, Iran

"They kept telling me I had to go inside and I wouldn't. Finally the commander came up to me and yelled: 'Go inside!'

"All I said was: 'What are you so frightened of?' when he turned to hit me.

"A lot of women have gathered around the front gate of the Tehran University and they've taken off their scarves in the demonstration.

"They've been severely beaten by chains, you know the old chains and locks they use here for motorcycles? Do you know how thick they are? I broke down in tears when I heard this."

Final impact

She said she would support the students in anyway she could.

"When the time is right we will all join. I can smell it in the air. This time is different.

"I despise Islam and the mullahs even though I am officially a Muslim now. I don't have the right to change my religion in Iran.

"I despise the regime and so do 90% of the Iranians. All the people who elected Khatami despise the regime and they thought he'd bring change.

I pray for the day happiness shines on all women and men in Iran
Arts graduate

"We fight for a referendum conducted by the United Nations. The masses support the students and are waiting for the right time to make the final impact."

She said she agreed with US President George W Bush's comments that the demonstrations were "the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran".

"Even though we wish for change without the need for war we need your support by not negotiating with a dangerous regime," she said.

She said the riots had affected her daily life to the point where she could not sleep at night.

"I burst into tears at any given moment just by thinking about these innocent young human beings being killed and stabbed and beaten brutally day in and out, when all they're fighting for is just like the air you breathe right now as you're reading this letter.

"Now I'm sitting in my room, I hear the honking of cars passing by. They say: 'Down with the regime.'

"I can also hear the siren of ambulances passing by. I think it's the sixth one I've heard this afternoon."

No soldiers

A student at the University of Tehran said he had been protesting against the government since 1999 and had been arrested a number of times.

"We think it's impossible to improve the reforms legally; because we disagree with the kind of the government, constitutional law and everything about it and also anything related to theocracy.

Students arrested in protests
Students have been arrested during the demonstrations
"We think that at least 85% of Iranians are our supporters but because of the roughness of the religious government the people are afraid a lot to help and protest practically like us."

He said the government's influence extends deep into the education system, even when there are no protests.

"More than the half of the public universities students, like at the University of Tehran, enter the university at the hand of Islamic government and also with no admission exam.

"So, there are always two kinds of student groups in the universities. One group is us that generally disagrees with the government and are secular.

"The other groups have some branches inside and are not completely disagreeing with the government but want some peripheral changes in the system.

"The government's treatment of students varies regarding to which group they are from."

He said many students would welcome support from abroad for their cause "without having to see US soldiers in our streets".

"We hope that Mr Bush doesn't only talk but does more."


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