Former Iranian student protester speaks at SOU

Reza Mohajerinejad was a 26-year-old student at Iran's Tehran University in 1999 when he and a small group of students began protesting the closure of the region's reformist newspaper.

The newspaper supported the reformist beliefs of the country's president, and organized opponents of the president had ordered the newspaper closed.

After the protest, more than 300 military opponents of the president came to the Tehran University dorms in response to the demonstration.

"After our peaceful demonstration, the dormitories of Tehran University were attacked by government-backed militia who ransacked the dorms, beating, terrorizing and shooting students," wrote Mohajerinejad in his 2010 memoir, "Live Generation."

Because the police and military in Iran are not controlled by the president, but by a greater political organization, similar attacks on universities in nearby cities took place, beginning the region's first student uprising and showcasing a large divide in the country between Iranian youth and those in political power.

"In my mind, the Islamic regime had sunk to a new low in what they were willing to do to control the people of Iran, and particularly the youth," Mohajerinejad wrote.

A few days after the original protest, Mohajerinejad was arrested and spent more than four months in prison, where he was tortured and nearly died, he said.

After escaping prison and leaving Iran, Mohajerinejad traveled through Turkey and Germany and sought refuge and protection in the United States.

He has remained in the U.S. since, where he continued his schooling at San Francisco State University, earning a master's degree in political science last spring.

Mohajerinejad will speak Monday evening at SOU in an attempt to bring awareness to the current situation in Iran and conflicts between the country and the United States in a talk called "The Case for Not Bombing Iran: The Case for Peace."

Mohajerinejad said though he can't return to Iran and hasn't seen his family for more than 12 years, he is determined to spread awareness about the country's political state and the citizens' desire for democracy.

Since the original uprising in 1999 and another, more widespread social uprising in 2009, Mohajerinejad said it's clear that the people of Iran want to change the way the country is operated.

"This new generation showed they wanted a democracy," said Mohajerinejad, now 40.

Bombing the country would mean that students and all citizens would be legally required to support the government, and acting out against the government or advocating for a regime change would be illegal, according to Kathleen Gamer, an SOU master's student who helped organize Mohajerinejad's visit.

"We have so much hype about the idea of bombing Iran," said Gamer, who founded SOU's United Nations Club six years ago.

Gamer said that SOU students should be better informed about international issues such as what is happening in Iran, especially because the uprisings there were led by students.

"We're very far away from what's really happening," said Gamer, who lived in Tehran in the 1990s while her parents were in the U.S. diplomatic service.

Hosting a talk by Mohajerinejad shows that students from SOU support the students of Iran, Gamer said.

"We're backing the students of that country," she said.

Mohajerinejad said in "Live Generation" that he hopes to one day return to a different Iran than the place he left.

"I want for Iran a world where people don't live in fear of their government," Mohajerinejad wrote. "I want a secular, democratic government for Iran. I want to return to my home in Babol. I want to smell the salt air as it blows in from the Caspian Sea. I want my country to be free."

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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