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Friday, July 16, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK

World: Middle East

Analysis: Iran's divided society

Another generation wants another kind of revolution

By the BBC Persian Service's Baqer Moin

Not since the summer of 1981 has Iran seen such large-scale unrest.

Iran crisis
The young post-revolutionary generation is impatient with unfulfilled promises, economic hardship and a shortage of university places, jobs and housing.

During the past two years under Mohammad Khatami's presidency, some social relaxation and political opening have been a source of hope to them, but the conservatives who oppose any opening up are keen to bring it to an end.

Next year's parliamentary election, therefore, is a decisive moment for Iran's future trends.

Conservatives, supported by Ayatollah Khamenei, want to stop the reformists winning the next election.

Frustrated young

It is very frustrating for the young supporters of President Khatami who see the attacks on writers, reformist papers and students as a prelude to creating division within the students and undermining their hope of viable reform.

[ image: Iran: More divided than before the unrest]
Iran: More divided than before the unrest
If young people lose hope in the president, it is argued, he will lose the next election and a united conservative front will once again dominate the next parliament.

The students and their supporters are refusing to be intimidated.

The attacks on students have, if anything, focused minds on the causes of student demonstrations.

A group of leading Iranian writers have come out in support of the student movement and their demands for greater freedom and democracy.

In a public statement the writers demanded that the students arrested should be released and that the bill restricting press freedom should be withdrawn from the parliament.

They also demanded that the seven publications banned by the authorities should be allowed to come out again.

The writers have condemned last week's attack on the students' dormitory and demanded that those responsible be punished.

They also demanded that those behind the killing of eight writers and dissidents should be tried publicly.

These demands linger on - much to the dismay of the hard-liners.

More divided society

It seems as though the events of last week were only a temporary set-back for those who demand more reform.

[ image: Rioting forced the closure of city businesses]
Rioting forced the closure of city businesses
President Khatami has disheartened his supporters by not meeting the students and later condemning them as lawbreakers.

There is no doubt that his image has been dented. But the conservative press's triumphalism may also be short-lived and the image of the Islamic republic has also suffered a set-back.

Ayatollah Khamenei who was trying to present himself as a leader who understands young people was also tarnished by the events.

In the end he chose to go along with conservative hard-liners.

Iran is a more divided society than it was a week ago.

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