“Feverish Climate” at Tehran University After Students Arrested in Dormitory Raid
University Ignores Students’ Safety Concerns, Allows Suppression of Peaceful Sit-in
University of Tehran personnel assisted a raid by state forces on a dormitory that resulted in at least eight students being arrested as they gathered for a protest, an eyewitness told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The attack on the dormitory by the plainclothes security agents has only further intensified the recent feverish climate at the university,” said an eyewitness who resides at the Student Martyrs Dormitory where the raid took place on January 16, 2019.
“We virtually have no safety,” added the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The raid was conducted amid a state crackdown on protests in the capital and other cities that began on January 11 after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) publicly admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane in Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.
The admission was made on state TV by IRGC Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh four days after the plane went down and after other government officials had refused to admit responsibility, triggering widespread anger among Iranians over being lied to for nearly a week.
“While students gathered to protest the revolutionary guards’ missile attack on the Ukrainian passenger plane…, the security forces, with the help of the university’s security guards, carried out a raid and arrested more than eight students,” said the eyewitness.
“When plainclothes agents began searching for the personal belongings and phones of the detained students, students at the dorm objected and protested,” added the source.
The source told CHRI that the university’s security office ignored students’ complaints about the raid and told them not to speak to media outlets about the arrests, and that “special forces” on motorcycles tried to suppress a peaceful, silent sit-in outside the dorm that was organized after the students were arrested.
“The eight detained students are from the university’s various colleges, but their families haven’t yet gotten permission to publicize their children’s names,” said the source. “Also, the university administration office told us not to talk to the media so that the authorities could follow up on the matter and gain their release.”
“But we have heard that the bail set for the detained students… has been increased severalfold in order to prevent them from being released,” added the eyewitness. “Also, the university’s security guards were complicit in the raid by the security forces that led to the arrests.”
“The leader of the student council at the University of Tehran was present at the dorm when the raid happened,” the eyewitness source told CHRI. “He contacted the university’s security office and the chancellor to tell them what was going on and they said they already knew. That means the raid had been coordinated with them.”
University Personnel Film Students as State Forces Suppress Peaceful Sit-In
The source told CHRI that the students had decided to protest the arrests and get “answers” from university officials by organizing a silent sit-in outside the dorm that had been raided, but that gathering was also suppressed:
“We sat in front of the Student Martyrs Dormitory and suddenly the special forces arrived on 50 or 60 motorcycles and began maneuvering in front of us. Our protest was a silent one. We were not chanting any slogans. We were only demanding to meet Mr. Soleimani, the head of security at the university, to get some answers.”
“When Mr. Soleimani eventually appeared, he made some insulting comments and took the side of the security forces,” the source added. “It was as if he was protecting their interests instead of protecting the students. He said the detained students had violated the rules and insulted the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei].”
“At the same time, one of Soleimani’s assistants was filming us and when the students objected, he was forced to delete the film and get out our dorm,” the source said.
“We were protesting the arrest of the students and the presence of plainclothes agents on campus. But we didn’t get a straight answer… At the moment, the students don’t feel secure. They are all worried; worried for the detained students and for their own safety.”
Amir Sharifi, a student residing at the Student Martyrs Dormitory tweeted on January 16, “The silent sit-in in front of the dormitory at the University of Tehran has been attacked by tens of motorcycle units of the special forces. From this night onward, all the student dorms are unsafe, especially at the University of Tehran. We don’t know where we will wake up in the morning.”
A day earlier, on January 15, Kurdistan University students Zanyar Ahmadpour, Meysam Soleimani, and Arshad Atabak were taken into custody in the city of Sanandaj, according to the Persian-language Etehad news site, allegedly for attending an on-campus protest.
Mohammad Esmaili, a University of Tehran student who was arrested on January 14, remains in detention.
The following people who were also arrested on January 14 have been released on bail: Mohammad Hosseini, the former chairman of the student council at Noshirvani University in Babol, Kharazmi University in Tehran student Majid Mehrpouri, and Tehran university student Mohammad Esmaili.
CHRI was unable to confirm whether Fatemeh Mohammadi, who was arrested at a protest in Tehran’s Azadi Sq. on January 11, remains in detention or has also been released on bail.
Writing about the security climate in the capital, well-known university student activist Zia Nabavi tweeted on January 16, “Yesterday evening I was in Revolution St. and saw plainclothes agents dragging away a young man toward Fakhr-e Razi St. His friends who were standing at a crossing said he was only taking pictures of the amassing special units across the street.”
“If you have any sense of shame, end your siege of the university,” he added.
Read this article in Persian.