The Kids Are All Right

October 25, 1977 — Spartan Daily (Letter)

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | December 27, 2016                     


Irate protesters picket recruiters — The target: Iranians was the lead headline in the San Jose State University newspaper on Oct. 18, 1977. The article covered a demonstration against U.S. Navy recruiters on campus. The angry crowd of about 25 protesters was particularly outraged that two of the military members were Iranian — not Iranian-American, however, but military personnel from Iran, there apparently to observe U.S. recruiting techniques.

According to the Spartan Daily report, one demonstrator threatened violence against their photographers if they didn’t stop snapping pictures of them; the concern being that the photos would jeopardize the students’ safety if they tried to return to Iran.

In response, a Spartan Daily staff writer who co-wrote the Oct. 18th report reacted to the incident in an open letter directed at the protesters. The letter begins sympathetically, then swings into some heavy-handed sermonizing and false equivalency, equating some unruly behavior of a few college kids with that of the brutal, U.S.-backed military dictatorship they were resisting.

The writer, just a kid himself at the time, was Jan Adam Greben, who graduated in 1978 and went on to become a lawyer in Santa Barbara, California.

A letter from an ISA member on the issue was published adjacently the same day. Another response, from the student identified as threatening staff photographers, was published Nov. 9th.

Differences between shah, dissident policies?
The ISA: an open letter

By Jan Greben

An open letter to the Iranian Students Association (ISA), et al:

For four years I have observed your protests against various issues and persons that sparked your ire.

For the most part, with the exception of the occasional fisticuffs at your rallies, I sympathized with your cause.

After all, there is no question in my mind that the Shah of Iran is a corrupt tyrant who has unjustly jailed some 100,000 political prisoners.

And I won’t argue that SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, relentlessly pursues your members from campus to campus with the ultimate purpose of jailing or torturing them when they return to their homeland.

I’m also quite aware that SAVAK spies often infiltrate your organization and you must show the greatest care in safeguarding against this.

But, ISA, this time you’ve stepped over your bounds.

At your Monday rally in the Student Union protesting U.S. Navy recruitment on campus, you correctly asserted that two female Iranian military members who accompanied the recruites [sic] were agents of the shah.

Along with a few photographers, I was there to cover the event for the Spartan Daily.

We were not taking sides on the issue; we were simply reporting a campus news event.

Until photographers arrived, I received the utmost cooperation from your members. But, regretably, [sic] things turned ugly once the cameras started clicking.

One of your members [Muhammed Mobarez] threatened two photographers, telling one, “I’m gonna break your face,” and the other, “If you take one more picture, I’ll break your camera.”

Other protesters uttered similar warnings.

Due to this lack of understanding of the workings of the American free press, your members are in dire need of a lesson detailing the nuances of the U.S. Constitution.

Though I can understand your fear that SAVAK might identify your members from these photographs, I don’t believe you truly understand just how important the role an unbiased press, which you supposedly support, plays in America.

By threatening photographers what does that say for your beliefs?

How about hypocrisy?

You claim, rightfully, the shah is an oppressive ruler who allows no free expression. Yet, you display the same despicable practices when it comes down to the nitty-gritty.

Really guys, SAVAK is going to recognize you whether we’re taking photos or not. You’re probably aware that some spies were in your ranks marching with you the other day.

But that skirts the issue.

What it boils down to is this: a newspaper which values its professionalism is not going to allow any group, be it the Ku Klux Klan, the Young Republicans Organization or the ISA, to censor its contents. Your pamphlets, ironically, passionately support this view.

The Daily, along with its photographers, will continue to report your events. Threats or attempted violence won’t deter coverage.

But maybe you had better do some soul-searching about your tactics before you stage a public rally again.

Because, if things stay the same, it will be difficult to discern any difference between the shah’s policies and your own.


Related links:

“Fascist Butcher” Shah of Iran Blasted by SJSU student (1977)

Iranians and Their Supporters Are Enemies of America | Florida Flambeau letter (1978)

Iran—U.S. Aids Moral Bankruptcy | The Daily Iowan, January 25, 1977

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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