Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Iran students boycott exams to protest disputed election

By Niki Mahjoub
BBC Persian Service

Hundreds of Iranian students at a demonstartion
Some of these students at Amir Kabir University are not sitting exams

Students in Iran have been boycotting end-of-term exams as they continue to show their opposition to the outcome of last year's disputed presidential election.

The move comes a month after thousands of students held street demonstrations to protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election last June.

Students have been at the forefront of the protests which initially saw millions of Iranians taking to the streets to demonstrate against the result of the poll. The numbers of protesters declined greatly when a severe crackdown was launched.

Considering the violence and disrespect that has been shown towards academia in recent months, it is a natural and moral reaction by to go on strike

Ali Afshari
Former student leader

Several people were killed and hundreds were arrested during subsequent clashes with the security forces.

Ongoing defiance

The examinations boycott began at Amir Kabir University, a well respected institution with a well organised pro-reform student union.

A newsletter published by the students there said large numbers had not turned up for more than 40 exams in solidarity with 12 classmates who were imprisoned during previous demonstrations.

The letter also said the students were determined to carry on with their boycott as a peaceful means of protest.

One student, who asked not to be named, told the BBC that "boycotting the exams started from the school of electrical engineering and then spread to other schools and departments of the university".

[Boycotting exams is part of a conspiracy to agitate the students and create chaos in academic institutions
Hossein Naderi-Manesh
Deputy Minister for Education

The university management subsequently announced that students who do not take part in the exams will have a zero grade reflected in the end of year results.

"After the threat by management, a number of exams were held and some students did participate," the student said.

He added that some lecturers who sympathised with the students were trying to calm the situation and reverse the university management's decision.

Growing protest

Officials at the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, which is responsible for higher education, have denied any disruption to exams.

But recent reports received by the BBC said the boycott had now spread to several other universities in Tehran.

students demonstrating on the streets in iran
Students held a rally in Tehran last month despite a crackdown

Ali Afshari, a former leader of the Iranian student movement who now lives in the Unites States, is not surprised that the boycott has gained momentum.

"Considering the violence and disrespect that has been shown towards academia in recent months, it is a natural and moral reaction by to go on strike," he says.

"In circumstances like these it is quite understandable if exams are boycotted," he adds.

Mr Afshari also believes that "this form of civil disobedience could be used by other sections of society and if it continues it might be successful in disabling the instruments of suppression".

Government warning

Activists say there are no laws to punish students who refuse to take part in exams, but they fear that students might face different forms of reprisal from the state.

The Deputy Minister for Education, Hossein Naderi-Manesh, has said that boycotting exams "is part of a conspiracy to agitate the students and create chaos in academic institutions".

He also warned of severe action being taken against students who do not take part in their exams.

Dozens of students from different universities are reported to still be in prison after being rounded up during previous demonstrations.

They have not been charged or put on trial and several have been incarcerated for months.

The majority do not have access to lawyers, and in some cases even their families have no information about where they are kept.

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