Student’s Movement in Isfahan (1)

Interview with Mehdi Hakak

Mehdi Amani Yamin
Translated by: Natalie Haghverdian


Note: Mehdi Hakak was admitted to the Industrial University of Tehran in 1977 to study Mechanics Engineering for a BS degree and he became one of the activists of students’ political movement. After graduation he has had many industrial posts and currently is a board member of Chemical Industry Investment Company. After thirty eight years he talks about his activities during first year at university.


* Mr. Hakak, start by introducing yourself.

My name is Mehdi Hakak. My father’s name is Mohammad. I was born in 1959 in Borujerd County. My father is a Turk from Shahsavan. He hardly spoke Farsi. He was originally from a region between Saveh and Tehran. He used to live there. In fact my father and grandfather were Khans of that area and had servants. They were Khans, I’m not. I’m an engineer. I’m not much familiar with the area. During Reza Shah my father used to work for the railroad; so each child of his is born in a different place. He was recruited at the beginning of Reza Khan’s rule and at King’s time he was still working. I don’t know how he was recruited in the railroad but I know that after military services he was recruited there. After marriage he has spent a period of his life in a different place in Iran. Each of his children, my brothers and sisters were born in a different place. For instance my sister was born in Miyaneh. The other one in Doroud city and I was born in Borujerd.  My brother was born in Ahwaz. He was being transferred to different places based on the need of Rail Road Company. He wasn’t much educated; primary school. He could hardly read and write. My mother’s father was a clergy and his religious education was much more than my father. He knew many stories and had extraordinary connections. My mother is originally from Khansar. I mean her father is from Khansar so she is considered from Khansar. However, her father used to live somewhere around Borujerd and was a student of Ayatollah Borujerdi; hence her parents settled somewhere around Borujerd. I was born in a summer trip from Ahwaz to Borujerd in that city and then returned to Ahwaz. I studied primary and high school in Ahwaz and I graduated in mathematics from high school. I graduate in 1977. In 1977 I was admitted to Isfahan Industrial University. Then it was Arya Mehr Isfahan Industrial University. Then, Tehran Arya Mehr Industrial University was closed due to political and security issues and it was transferred to Isfahan University.


*Did this happen in 77?

Yes, it happened in 77. The same year, changes were made in Tehran Arya Mehr University [Sharif Industrial University]. Isfahan University was established with the same logo and now both universities have the same logo. We were the first admissions to Arya Mehr Isfahan Idustrial University which is now known as Isfahan Industrial University. When we were admitted there was nothing at the university; maybe three buildings. The university had most engineering faculties and admitted students.


*Was Tehran Industrial University a model for the one in Isfahan?

No, MIT USA was its model. The exams were not at the end of the semester but there were quarterly exams; meaning we had exams every three months and we were off one quarter and one year was divided into four quarters and each year consisted of three quarters of classes and one quarter vacation. We used to study three quarters and we had exams every months. The grades were not A and B and C. It was the first university that the grades were from zero to twenty. The university was academically advanced. Our English professors used to fly in from the States and were native. They were here for three weeks and had one week off. Most of our professors were from Tehran Industrial University and some others were graduates of MIT and Oxford who had returned. We started the basics of university education with the best professors but it was not more than one year. Then Revolution happened and after that there was Cultural Revolution.

All these incidents were effective in my life. It was the most effective period of my life. When I started my education at the university, almost two months later, after October/November 77, the first protest of students happened on December 7, 1977. None of the students practically knew anything about students’ movement. In Isfahan Industrial University we didn’t have senior students to be our guide. In fact prior to December 7, 1977, the first students’ movement called Students’ Day happened in our university and considering that it was newly established and didn’t have guards, the guards were deployed from Tehran and settled in Isfahan Industrial University.

On the protest day, in the morning we woke up and figured that there a large number of military guards around the campus. We asked around to know what has happened. We had no idea what was going on. They said: today is December 7 and on this day the President of the United States, Nixon, in 1953 visited Tehran University and there was a protest and a number of students were killed. We were young and asked: students were killed? Is it possible to kill students? We reacted. They said that the guards are there to suppress students. We gathered around in the campus; at the beginning we were whispering but then we started making noise and a number of professors joined us. Some of the professors had long history. They asked us: what are you doing? Then we started recital of slogans and then threw stones to the guards and the guards started defending. We threw the stones and they would land within 100 meters of the guards and they would throw stones and it would land behind us. They were bullies and big. That year throwing stones resulted in an attack with tear gas and the campus was surrounded and the guards attacked. When they attacked the campus we broke some windows in order to insult them but they attacked and broke all windows. They broke windows and doors and invaded the dorm and beat the students up. They attacked students in a desert and arrested around 44 students; the majority of whom didn’t even know what was going on. They were not like us; we had attacked with stones. Those who were arrested were actually trapped in dorm rooms and the guards took 44 of them. They were naked. I have pictures of them. This issue is so sensitive and important for me that I have the pictures on my cellphone. After they arrested 44 students they brought them to the campus area and in the cold weather of December 7 they made them to take off their clothes. They took them naked while they were beating them with chains. The guards had made a defense wall and they were moving the detainees behind that wall and beating them with chains. They boarded them to military vehicles. We were yelling and some of the detainees were crying and some were desperate and some of them were cursing and some were threatening the university manager. In short I can say that the detainees were taken to the police and we went on hunger strike and didn’t go back to the dorm.


*On December 7?

I think it was on December 7 till midnight December 8. Then we found that they are returning detainees one by one. We negotiated with the head of university. I have SAVAK reports on the incident. Someone had found the reports on a site and published them. I found all of them and I have them. It clearly shows who were detained and what they had done to them and who was expelled. There is evidence on this. Someone had found them on a site and then we realized that it contains the name of all the students. The list of all those who were arrested and those expelled. Eventually they all came back one by one. Then SAVAK identified 13 of the protesters. As they claimed, those identified were the leaders. Poor guys were not leaders. They were a bunch of 18 year olds who came to university to study. After identification of those 13 they came to the dorm and arrested and expelled them.

There are photos and evidence that shows each and every one of them is somewhere today; some are not with us anymore; some are professors; some are managers; some are businessmen and some left the country. They all found their destiny.

It didn’t end there indeed. Before Revolution, I mean in 1977 after those 13 who were expelled after the first quarter, during the second quarter another 59 were expelled. I was one of them and I left university until after Revolution. We were expelled permanently. We were prohibited from entering the dorm or anywhere else for that matter.


* Did these restrictions apply to those expelled?

Yes, for those 59 who were expelled. We were expelled and we were prohibited to enter the university. I returned to university after Revolution.


*Which schools of thought or political parties were active at university?

There were the religious groups and lefties. Lefties were supported by other universities. For instance, Oil Faculty of Abadan would support them. Senior students of Tehran Industrial University used to support lefties. Some of the political activists were supported by Science & Industry University. However, the supports were not clear cut. The movement had a young and stumbling system. Most students were 18. Support for religious groups and their political activists were significant and there were maybe 20 to 30 of them. I think they were somewhat led from Isfahan.


*Where there the general public as well?

Yes, there were people from Isfahan. We used to communicate. Declarations used to come from there. They would deliver the notifications of Imam (Peace Be upon Him). They would bring Imam’s (Peace Be upon Him) picture. However it was not well organized. It wasn’t like that. The most important activity was that we would wake up in the middle of the night and we would break the windows of bars and run away and return to dorm. Activities to students’ movements were limited to these.


*Would declarations come to the university?

Hardly! Mostly there were messages recited orally. At the beginning there were few but gradually the number grew. When public unrest grew bigger, the number of declarations increased.


* What were you accused of?

Public unrest and reciting slogans. They didn’t arrest us but we were expelled. We visited late Mr. Zavareyi[1] at the time. I remember that there were three of us who went to visit him. We drafted a complaint against the university dean for illegal expulsion. He was an attorney at the time and after the Revolution he became the representative of Tehran in the Parliament, he was the mayor of Tehran for a while and then he was a member of Guardian Council and then Judiciary.

He was a lawyer then. We went to see him and to file a complaint against the university dean accusing him of expelling us under false accusations. They didn’t give us a legal document and expelled us. They didn’t even tell us what crime we were accused of.  They just said that we are expelled and we should go.

Mr. Zavareyi had a big picture of Imam Khomeini (Peace Be upon Him) framed on the wall behind his desk. During the King’s time no one would dare to even say the name of Imam but he had a big picture of him in his office. I’ll never forget the image of entering his office. We didn’t know him well then.

In 1978, after victory we returned to university. It was beginning of 78 if I remember correctly that we returned and started our education. Then, a law was enacted that those who were expelled their expulsion has been revoked. It was during Bazargan’s tenure. So we went back and started over. Then there was Cultural Revolution. The university was very active and almost every day a new political group was being created. Mujahidin and two to three other groups were formed. I don’t remember. Communism Union, Zealot guerrillas, minorities, majorities and different branches. Numerous newspapers and declarations were distributed at the university. Every morning there were nearly 10 to 15 declarations under the dorm room door from different political groups and at night or midnights there were political debates in the dorm. Sometimes party leaders would visit the university and give lectures. Some were coming from elsewhere and some from other counties. Muslim groups were fighting with lefties, with zealot guerrillas and Mujahidin. In general, nobody was interested in studying. When we would go to the self-service at university the trays were filled with 7-8 declarations from different groups. Sometimes fights would break out in the self-service over this stuff. Groups were fighting all the time. All those groups inside the university would eventually start fighting with another group. At that time there was nothing but political activity. No one was studying.


*You mean, beginning of 80s?

No, if memory serves right it must have been the second semester of 79. Of course I don’t clearly remember now. This continued until the incident of Cultural Revolutions and universities were closed. We left the university in the second half of 79 and returned mid-83 to continue our education and after all political issues that had happened, many students were banned from continuing their education.


*Which group had the largest population of student followers?

There were lefties and Mujahidin, Tudeh Party of Iran, zealots, all shared the same destiny; however some of them infiltrated the university. When we returned on 83, if memory serves right, many were banned from education and many didn’t continue. Some were martyred in war; some were executed or arrested and didn’t return to university. But it is to say that majority of students returned and continued their education. Then, no one was in the mood to study. We should have graduated and we should have been working but still we were in the first or second semester. I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 85; when I graduated the country was in economic depression. I mean that factories were not very active and it was difficult to find jobs.


[1] Seyyed Reza Zavareyi


Number of Visits: 5490


Full Name:

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