The Office for Fostering Unity, Iran’s largest student organization, has responded to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertions during his Columbia speech that Iran was one of the freest nations on earth. AdvarNews carried the response on Sunday.
Open letter from members of the Office for Fostering Unity's Central Committee to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Dear Mr. Ahmadinejad:
As representatives of the largest opposition student organization, we send you greetings. We do so because we are bound by a vow we made to ourselves obliging us not to wish anyone ill - even if that person is the very head of state who spoke at Columbia University about the unequalled freedoms in Iran, the exemplary reception afforded to critics and dissidents and boasted of the freedoms afforded its women.
It was only a few days ago, when agents of his information ministry held us for one month in the solitary cells of Evin ward number 209; where our very thoughts were interrogated. In the two years, since he started presiding over the cabinet, officials of his science ministry have banned or suspended no less than 43 student organizations. They have brought disciplinary action against more than 550 students for expression their opinions. Over the past two years, more than seventy members of this association have been arrested, dissident students have been singled out and have been disqualified form continuing their educations. Prominent professors have been fired for having dissenting opinions. The women of his country are denied access to an education by virtue of their gender.
Even if the price of unchecked generosity to South American countries is poverty and unemployment for his own people and budget deficit for Iran's universities. Even if the price of his ill-considered words about the holocaust and his actions in the international arena are sanctions and opportunities denied to his own people.
We begin with hello. We have said repeatedly that we seek only honor for Iran and Iranian alike. To this end, we pursue democracy in Iran and peace on earth. Mr Ahmadinejad, at Columbia University you called Iran one of the freest nations on earth. You asked the critics to come to our country and promised them hospitality. You should perhaps note that the three incarcerated Amir Kabir University students are being held for protesting against your presence at their university and that charges involving spurious publications were a pretext for taking your detractors to the slaughterhouse. Many believe that you are deploying all your might to quash dissidents; that women, teachers, workers, and journalists have received appalling punishments for having committed the crime of being critical in the slightest.
We have heard that you intend to come to the university. Indeed, are there any answers to all our questions, criticisms and objections? Why not permit just one member of this organization's central committee to be present in that hallowed hall where only hand-selected guests are allowed - so that he may pose his question the head of the freest country on earth!
We await your response tomorrow. Without a doubt, everyone is keen to observe to response of the man who invites probing scholars to his country. Bear in mind that the future will write of his dealings with students in his own country.
[Signed] Office for Fostering Unity Central Committee
8 Mehr 1386 [30 September 2007]