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Volume 87 Issue 26 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 29, 2009

Scientists Condemn Iran Crackdown

Iranian scientists abroad decry attacks on universities
Department: Government & Policy, Science & Technology
Keywords: Iran, Foreign Affairs
An Ahmadinejad supporter holds the president's poster during a pre-election rally in front of the Sharif University mosque in west Tehran on June 10.
Credit: Kamran Jebreili/AP
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An Ahmadinejad supporter holds the president's poster during a pre-election rally in front of the Sharif University mosque in west Tehran on June 10.
Credit: Kamran Jebreili/AP

As mass protests in Iran continued last week in the wake of the country's hotly disputed presidential election, Iranian scientists living in the U.S. condemned violent attacks on university campuses by Iranian security forces.

Iranian officials maintain that the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, won the June 12 election by an overwhelming margin. As demonstrators alleging electoral fraud took to the streets, the Iranian government sought to quell opposition, particularly on university campuses.

Members of the Iranian security forces have raided universities and many student dormitories in Iran. In one of the dormitories in Tehran, several students have been killed, according to a letter published in the July issue of the American Physical Society's APS News by the board of directors of APS's Iranian-American Physicists group. In that letter, the group condemned "such violent attacks on the universities and student dormitories."

Universities should be considered off-limits to arbitrary intrusions by Iranian security forces, says Davood Rahni, a professor of chemistry at Pace University and a member of ACS's Iranian Chemists Association. The Iranian government has purged many professors from universities in the past four years, he says.

Iranian officials have severely curbed international journalists' activities in Iran, and as a result, much of the information trickling out of that country has come from social networking sites such as Twitter. In the week following the election, there were reports on the site of mass resignations by faculty in the chemistry department at the nation's leading science and engineering university, Sharif University of Technology.

These rumors "are not true," says Fredun Hojabri, a former chemistry professor and academic vice president at SUT who now lives in San Diego. "It would be also not a right move to resign and let the government control the university," he adds.

SUT has been closed for more than a week, and its final exams have been postponed until the beginning of July, according to Hojabri, who remains in contact with former colleagues and friends at SUT and elsewhere in Iran. The chair of the chemistry department and other faculty members at the university declined to speak with C&EN for this article.

 
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