Iranian Students Protest Ruling Clerics

.c The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A student protest against privatizing some of Iran's universities Tuesday turned into a larger demonstration against the hard-line clerics that rule the country.

About 300 male students had gathered outside dormitories at Tehran University, along with 200 women who were demonstrating from inside its gates. The men then started marching up and down a main street nearby and were joined by about 300 people.

``The clerical regime is nearing its end,'' the protesters chanted. Iran's hard-line, unelected establishment that controls the judiciary, police, military and state-run media.

``Oh Islamic dictatorship, the anniversary of the dormitory attacks is approaching,'' they shouted, referring to July 1999, when Islamic vigilantes and security forces attacked Tehran University students protesting media restrictions.

That assault killed at least one student and touched off the worst street battles since the 1979 revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed monarchy.

Hundreds of police blocked traffic to the dormitories in the Tuesday protest, but there was no violence and authorities did not intervene.

In a rare twist, many of the demonstrators also called for Mohammad Khatami, the popularly elected reformist president, to resign. They accuse Khatami of not introducing enough reforms.

They chanted ``justice, freedom, this is the slogan of the nation'' and ``Khatami resign.''

Students have demonstrated against the ruling clerics a number of times.

They protested the Nov. 7 death sentence imposed on Hashem Aghajari, a history professor at a Tehran teachers' college, who questioned the need to obey every edict of the Islamic clerics. The demonstrations started at Tehran University and spread to major campuses around the country.

The protests fizzled after the country's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, intervened. In a rare move, he ordered the judiciary to reconsider the verdict.

Aghajari remains in jail but his death sentence has been revoked.