The Origin of Student Day, 16 Azar, in Iran


16 Azar, 7 December, became the official Student Day in Iran after the 1979 Revolution. But even before 1979, students across the country marked the day in defiance against the Pahlavi regime because on that day in 1953 three students – Mostafa Bozorgnia, Ahmad Ghandchi, Mehdi Shariatrazavi – were killed in Tehran University a day after widespread demonstrations against Nixon’s upcoming visit to the University and the re-establishment of relations with Britain by the coup government.

On November 15, 1953, the coup government announced that Richard M. Nixon, then Vice President to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, would pay a visit to Iran on December 9, 1953, presumably to celebrate with the Shah the demise of the Mosaddegh government and restoration of the monarchy. Nixon’s visit was also supposed to demonstrate the Shah’s full support for the United States. At that time however, anti-American feelings were running very high in Iran. Despite the extreme repression, the Shah had not been able to completely crush the opposition. The news of Nixon’s trip angered the frustrated population, especially the opposition.

On December 5, 1953, the coup government officially re-established diplomatic relations with Britain. Denis Wright was sent to Tehran as the chargé d’affaires, and stayed on as counsellor until 1955, after the arrival of the new ambassador. The resumption of diplomatic relations further angered the people, and in particular the political dissidents and the university students.

On December 6, 1953, students of the Tehran University school of medicine, pharmacy, law and political science, engineering, and dentistry demonstrated against Nixon’s visit. [All but the dental school are on the west side of campus and could therefore easily join ranks.] They were chanting, “[Iran’s] oil is ours,” and “death to the Shah.” The Shah’s Guard-e Jaanbaaz [which roughly means ‘crusader guard’] stormed the campus and brutally attacked the students. The demonstrations spilled onto the streets, and the guards injured and arrested many students. Simultaneous demonstrations had taken place even in some notable Tehran high schools, such as the Sharaf and Alborz high schools.

On the morning of December 7, 1953, the guards entered the FOE, the heart of the protests, to prevent any repeat demonstrations. Though there had not been any demonstrations yet that day, the excuse given was that some students had mocked the police, and the police wanted to arrest them. Two soldiers and an officer went to a class to make the arrests. But the professor, Shams Malak Ara, asked them to leave. As they arrested two students, one student jumped on a desk and began shouting for help. Shams Malak Ara notified the Dean of the FOE.

The soldiers and the officer then went to the office of Dean of the FOE, Mohandes Khalili [who was later active in the National Front]. He also protested the intrusion, and his deputy, Dr. Rahim Abedi, was ordered to ring the bells to notify the students. Students gathered in the hall on the first floor of the school. The guards who had been on alert invaded the FOE building. According to Dr. Abedi, 68 bullets were fired. Three young students — Mostafa Bozorgnia, Ahmad Ghandchi, Mehdi Shariatrazavi — were killed. [Sahimi, Muhamamd, “16 Azar, Iran’s Student Day”, retrieved 26/12/2012]


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