Students Rally for Iran Dissidents

As tensions between the Bush administration and the Iranian government escalate over Tehran’s nuclear energy program, around 100 students came to Leverett House on Saturday night for a concert organized to support dissidents in Iran.

The concert, sponsored by nine campus groups, brought together student musicians and a diverse group of speakers to send a message of solidarity to students in Iran opposing human rights violations.

Musical performers included the band Major Major, singer-songwriter Katie E. Fitzgerald ’09, and saxophonist Marcus G. Miller ’08.

In between musical performances, representatives from the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club took the stage to endorse the concert’s human rights agenda. Undergraduate Council President John S. Haddock ’07 and Iranian student activist leader Akbar Atri also spoke.

But despite the diversity of political views of the speakers, the concert organizers identified themselves as nonpartisan and declined to comment on issues of military intervention.

“This event does not come with an agenda,” said co-emcee Jack P. McCambridge ’06. “It is not for war. The aim is to recognize the fight going on in Iran for human rights.”

“I don’t think politics should be a part of this event,” said Eric P. Lesser ’07, president of the College Democrats.

Haddock applauded the concert’s efforts to unite different student groups, saying, “when student bodies speak as one, that’s really where we make our difference.”

The conservative weekly Harvard Salient and the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance were also among the event’s organizers.

The concert was not free of controversy, however, as a few students expressed doubts about the concert’s claims to nonpartisanship.

“We don’t think this is just an innocent event,” said Alireza M. Doostdar, a Ph.D student in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies. “It cannot be divorced from the current political situation.”

Prior to the event, Doostdar and others distributed flyers questioning the intentions of the concert organizers.

At the back of the crowd, a few students held signs reading, “No US War in Iran,” and began shouting during the speech made by Atri, the Iranian student activist.

One attendee not involved in the protest expressed concerns that the concert ignored the complexities of the Iran issue.

“It seems like this event is brushing over campus opinion, trying to gloss over disagreement in a very similar way to discussion before Iraq,”said Noah Hertz-Bunzl ’08.

Although the concert organizers said they were not pleased with protests made during the concert, they did not stop the protestors from making remarks.

“It makes sense that the opposition would want to express themselves,” said McCambridge. “They add diversity and highlight the ability we have here to engage in debate.”

The concert on Saturday marked the beginning of a series of Iran Freedom concerts scheduled to occur at other colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Georgetown, and Oxford.

—Staff writer Kathleen Pond can be reached at