On December 7, President Hassan Rouhani called for national consensus on his goals to improve relations with the outside world and reinvigorate the economy. He also pledged to defend Iran’s nuclear program in a speech at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University. “Nuclear energy is our absolute right, yes, but the right to progress, development, improving people’s livelihood and welfare are also our rights,” Rouhani told more than 1,000 students. Iran observes Students’ Day annually on December 7 to commemorate the 1953 killing of three University of Tehran students protesting a visit by U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon.
Students groups from opposing political currents shouted slogans over each other. Some reformists called for the end of the “security atmosphere” and release of political prisoners, especially former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi, the leaders of the opposition Green Movement. Conservative members of the Basij militia chanted “Death to America.” Rouhani tried to calm the students, arguing that Iranians need to tolerate each other before moving to solve complex foreign policy issues. The following are excerpts and a video clip from Rouhani’s speech.
Nuclear Program and Diplomacy
“We need to strike the right balance between idealism and realism. There are those who want to close the gateways to this country. We know that is impossible… You all witnessed who became isolated after the Geneva agreement – the warmongers and those who don’t respect international law.”
“Our centrifuges should spin, the economic life of people should spin too… Atomic energy, as well as nuclear technologies and enriching uranium are our rights.”
“This government is committed to all its promises, but we need internal consensus. We need to more tolerant, rational and avoid being too emotional… If we cannot solve a domestic issue of our own with calm, with reason and within the framework of the constitution by creating a consensus, if we cannot solve domestic issues, how can we claim we want to solve the complex issues of the region and the world?”
“To take a step forward, it’s key to be more tolerant of differences, more rational and moderate in our beliefs.”
The administration is “supporting entrepreneurship to develop a knowledge economy. The government set aside $1 billion for the Innovation Fund’s knowledge-based companies.”
“We should create an environment that not only discourages people from leaving, but also encourages those who have left to come back to Iran.”
“Indeed from the constitutional movement to now, students have played a key role in Iran’s journey towards independence and self-determination… Students have always been pioneers in pursuing freedom and offering constructive criticism.”