Paramilitary Force Attacks Tehran University Protest Against Hijab Enforcement Units
Members of Iran’s paramilitary Basij force violently attacked several students at a peaceful protest at the University of Tehran on May 13, 2019.
The demonstrators had gathered to protest the increased presence of so-called “guidance” units charged by the government to enforce strict observance of Iran’s compulsory hijab law at the campus.
The Basij volunteer force operates under the Iranian military’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Its members are often seen harassing and beating people at public protests.
“It should not be forgotten that what little freedom the students have in this university in terms of their clothing is not because of the kindness of officials and administrators but achieved through nonstop resistance and perseverance by students to gain their inalienable rights,” said the students in a May 13 statement.
“Students reserve the right to confront such actions, defend their basic rights, and prevent anyone from undermining their dignity any longer,” added the statement.
An eyewitness told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that the protest, which began inside the amphitheater at the university’s College of Fine Arts, was in response to the stationing of increased numbers of female agents on campus to enforce a so-called “Hijab and Chastity Program.”
The protesters chanted slogans including “students would rather die than be humiliated,” “unemployment, slavery, women’s hijab compulsory,” and “reformists, conservatives, the game is over.”
“When the Basijis prevented the students from reading their statement against the mandatory hijab, the students began to chant ‘Yar-e Dabestani’ [‘My School Classmate’ – a patriotic song],” tweeted student activist Majid Dorri.
“You had to see the frustration on the faces of those who disrupted the gathering and hear the sound of solidarity among the students in the university which is, and has always been, louder than dictatorship,” he added.
Images and video clips shared on social media showed students being physically assaulted by Basijis and other plainclothes agents.
“Forcing and compelling a certain kind of clothing on students is a flagrant affront against their privacy, a blatant violation of their human rights, and an outright injustice toward female students,” said a statement published by the National Council of Student Guilds’ (NCSG) Telegram app channel on May 13.
“Such confrontations will only cause tension on campus and shut the doors of reason at a time when universities need to be a place of calm and coexistence among everyone with different ideologies and lifestyles,” added the statement.
In one video clip shared on the Telegram messaging app, a Basiji is seen assaulting a protester on the amphitheater’s stage as the university’s deputy chancellor Majid Sarhangi was trying to talk to students about their concerns.
The NCSG reported that in addition to Basij units, the protesters were met with “a large group from agencies outside the university, such as the seminary schools.”
The increased presence of the hijab enforcement units on campus follows an April 2019 decision by the Committee for the Islamization of Universities to amend the academic disciplinary regulations law, which allows university and judicial authorities to punish students for their online posts.
According to state officials, more than 150 university students were arrested in the aftermath of nationwide protests in Iran in December 2017 and January 2018.
In August 2018, 22 university students were issued heavy prison sentences under “national security” charges for allegedly attending the protests.