The Office for the Consolidation of Unity is Iran’s largest student organization. In this open letter to Ahmadinejad, which was distributed two weeks after his controversial speech at Columbia University in September 2007, readers can find important details about the demands of Iran’s current student movement.
Open Letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
From The Office for the Consolidation of Unity
October 7, 2007
Translated by Frieda Afary
Translator’s note: The Office for the Consolidation of Unity is Iran’s largest student organization. In this open letter to Ahmadinejad, which was distributed two weeks after his controversial speech at Columbia University in September 2007, readers can find important details about the demands of Iran’s current student movement. Large excerpts from the letter will follow.
. . . .We were informed that you have been scheduled to come back to Tehran University [tomorrow]. However, you have not responded to our demand to have even one representative of our central committee pose questions to you at the gathering of selected invitees at the university tomorrow.
The authorities are planning to prevent us from entering the hall or holding our own gathering at the time of your speech. The security forces have contacted students to warn them not to be present on the campus on the day of your speech. Therefore, we are presenting some of our questions now and hope to hear the answers at the venue of your speech and to present further questions there.
Three students at Amir Kabir University, Ehsan Mansouri, Majid Tavakoli, and Ahmad Ghassaban who are members of our organization, have been in prison for over 5 months on charges of forging publications. Many believe that your supporters published the forged journals in order to take revenge from the students. At the last court session for these students, their criticism of you at Amir Kabir University was raised [Reference to protests at Amir Kabir University to condemn Ahmadinejad’s sponsorship of a conference to question the Holocaust]. Considering these facts, how could you claim in your speech at Columbia University, that no hostile measures have been taken against your student critics at Amir Kabir University?
From its inception, the ninth government [Reference to Ahmadinejad’s government] branded student activists as star bearers[Reference to university student activists who had been expelled or suspended] and banned them from continuing their education. This year, the ban has been extended to ethnic and religious minorities and teachers who participate in the annual university placement exam. On what legal, ethical, and humanitarian grounds are your organizations and institutions banning students, other critics and minorities from continuing their education?
Discrimination on the basis of gender was practiced at this year’s national
university placement exam. A group of women were not admitted into universities or were sent to universities in remote parts of the country, even though their scores were better than those of males. When protesters questioned the organization that evaluates Iran’s educational system, this [discrimination] was admitted. What legal document are you using to enforce such discrimination? Fundamentally, is this anything other than the open violation of women’s rights?
Although there has been a 25% increase in the number of university students this year, the current national budget for the universities has been reduced. This reduction does not even take the annual inflation rate into consideration. As a result, we have witnessed massive cuts in educational and social services at universities. Why and based on what logic should we be subjected to such cuts in university budgets when there has been a large increase in the government’s income?
In the two years of your incumbency, 550 university student activists have been sent to disciplinary committees, 43 university student organizations have been closed, 130 student newspapers have been banned, over 70 members of our organization have been arrested. The crime attributed to all these individuals, organizations and publications consists of criticizing the ninth government’s mismanagement and irresponsibility. In almost no university in our nation does an organization critical of the government exist. All such organizations of this kind have been either suspended or disbanded or are on the verge of being disbanded. In truth, what does free speech mean to you, and where is the crystallization of this freedom, given that in your speech at Columbia University, you claimed Iran’s level of freedom of speech to be unparalleled?
During your incumbency, over 100 prominent university professors have been forced to retire or have been expelled through the use of seemingly legal maneuvers. For the first time in Iran’s educational history, a person who does not have a university degree has been appointed president of a university. The degree of loyalty to the faction that supports the government has become the determinant for hiring professors. In reality, considering that all undergraduate university students attest to suffering from a shortage of professors, and considering the fact that Iranian universities are not ranked among the top 2000 universities of the world, why are professors being treated in this way?
Human Rights and Freedom of Speech:
Official and governmental news sources reveal that during the two years of your Incumbency, workers and teachers have been imprisoned or laid off simply because they demanded their economic rights and slight increases in wages. Please tell us when and how your support for the low income and deprived sectors of the society will be realized.
Many publications and news services have been closed or banned based on government complaints. . . The newspaper, Iran, has been turned into a government bulletin. The editorial board of the Iranian student press service, ISNA, has been prevented from covering the illegal actions taken against students. What is the reason for this suppression of the press, and how long will it last?
During your incumbency, political parties have faced the most intense suppression. . . Please clarify what you mean by the “nauseating democracy” which you had discussed not too long ago? Explain how it is different from the type of democracy which you defended when you were in the U.S.? In general, do you think democracy is possible without independent and truth-seeking parties?
Women constitute over half the population of Iran. Aside from the gender-based prejudice which you have enforced against female participants in the national university entrance exam, your government has presented a bill on the rights of the family which openly ignores women’s rights.[Reference to a bill presented to the parliament which was not passed under pressure from women’s rights activists] This measure has been concomitant with the punishment and imprisonment of women’s civil rights activists who demand equality in men’s and women’s blood money, equal inheritance, and oppose polygamy.
The Economic Situation:
You participated in the  election with two slogans: bringing oil money to people’s dinner tables, and fighting prejudice and corruption. During the past two years, authoritative sources have reported that corruption has increased among Iranian officials. Iran has moved fifteen steps up on the scale of corruption. The People’s low subsistence level is obvious. Given that you are less than two years away from the end of your presidential term, when do you plan to realize your electoral promises?
During the past two years, the oil revenue has increased because of the increase in the price of oil (this is also related to your policies). This revenue has been equivalent to the oil revenue during the eight-year-long presidency of Mr. Khatami or that of Mr. Rafsanjani. Give us a quantitative and not a qualitative report on how this revenue has been spent. How many construction projects have been started and how many infrastructure projects have been completed?
As a result of the government’s bad policies, economic growth has been two percent less than [what was projected by] the fourth development plan, even as the oil revenue has increased tremendously. Within a five year period, this will mean a 70 billion dollar loss, or a $1000 loss for each Iranian. Do you know that some people are unable to provide even their basic means of subsistence? They cannot even imagine a $1000 income in their wildest dreams? The profit on the “justice stock” which you advertised is a lot less than this amount. Consider that the entire budget deficit for Iran’s universities can be made up by the amount of $320 million.
Inflation in the housing sector has increased severely as a result of bad governmental policies. Your government officials admit that. As a result of these policies, officials are now declaring that people who live in large cities should not even think about finding housing. Did you know that most young people cannot get married because of the housing issue? Did you know that as a result of these wrong policies, housing is now the gravest problem that afflicts people? Perhaps housing too is cheap in your neighborhood.
Although the country’s foreign policy is affected by various centers of power inside Iran, the role of the government cannot be denied. Iran has paid an especially heavy price for your thoughtless and irresponsible statements.
The massacre of Jews during World War II is a bitter and undeniable truth. Why do you argue about this issue? Is the Holocaust the most important issue facing humanity? If your goal is to defend the Palestinians, will questioning the Holocaust solve the Palestinian problem?
Your provoking and scandalous statements about [Iran’s] nuclear policy have been critiqued even by your co-thinkers, and are occasionally in conflict with official government positions. These statements make diplomatic observers wonder about your intentions. Isn’t it true that your inflammatory and thoughtless statements have played a large role in sending Iran’s case to the United Nations?
Where are you getting the funds to pay for your frequent trips to South America and your extreme generosity toward the people of those countries? What is your goal? What has all of this achieved for Iran?
Why are you silent about the heavy tolls which China and Russia demand from us? Why are you giving them so many economic benefits? Isn’t it true that your wrong policies in this regard will destroy our resources? Isn’t it true that both countries will eventually vote in favor of resolutions against Iran. Why are you selling gas to India and Pakistan at a cost below the lowest price?
Why did you arrest British sailors? . . . .
Last question: In your speech at Columbia University and in other speeches and interviews abroad, you made statements that openly contradict your aims, actions and positions. What is the reason behind this contradiction? One can only conclude that your goals and actions are not defensible and will have consequences even more destructive than what we have seen so far. In essence, this contradiction between word and deed reflects nothing but demagoguery. . .
The Central Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity
October 7, 2007