Students give Iran’s Khatami turbulent reception

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AFP: Iran’s embattled reformist President Mohammad Khatami was given a mixed reception from university students on Monday, winning some cheers but also a tirade of jeers for his record in office.
In an difficult appearence to mark national students day, the beleaguered president even complained to students — once the
main supporters of the reform movement — of being “humiliated
and destroyed”. AFP

TEHRAN – Iran’s embattled reformist President Mohammad Khatami was given a mixed reception from university students on Monday, winning some cheers but also a tirade of jeers for his record in office.

In an difficult appearence to mark national students day, the beleaguered president even complained to students — once the main supporters of the reform movement — of being “humiliated and destroyed”.

As Khatami joined the gathering in the downtown conference hall, some 300 out of the 1,500 students bombarded him with slogans such as “Khatami shame on you”, “Khatami we detest you” and “Khatami, our votes were wasted on you” — a reflection of widespread frustration with the perceived weakness of the mild-mannered cleric.

The president also had to sit through a series of speeches from student activists, some heavily critical of his failure to push through his promised reforms and others from angry hardliners deeply opposed to his moderate tendencies.

The general theme of even the pro-reform declarations was that Khatami, whose second and final term in office ends next year, had failed to deliver.

In response, the president — elected with landslide majorities in 1997 and 2001 — did his best to defend both his stint in office and at the same time the regime that has made life so difficult for him.

“I have never retreated in the face of anything. I have only retreated in the face of a regime that I believe in,” he told the gathering, drawing some applause when he also mentioned the words “freedom” or “democracy”.

“I see the Islamic revolution as the most popular revolution,” Khatami added, in a comment that instead drew chants of “Referendum!” from parts of the audience.

But Khatami defended what he said was ultimately a tolerant government, asking the crowd: “Where else in the Third World do they humilite or destroy a president like this.”

The noisy gathering was also marked by some limited scuffles between security guards and students who were unable to enter the hall.