Students trapped as Iran protests escalate

Anti-government protests have spread to universities across Iran amid violent clashes between riot police and students at one of Tehran’s most prestigious institutions.

A protester tears up his Iranian passport during a protest against Iran and the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini  in Istanbul, Turkey.
A protester tears up his Iranian passport during a protest against Iran and the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini in Istanbul, Turkey.

Clashes broke out in the car park at Sharif university in the Iranian capital on Sunday night, where social media videos have shown large numbers of students running away from what appear to be security forces. Gunshots can be heard on the videos, as well as chants of "death to Khamenei" - a reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Footage from other universities around the country shows crowds of students out in support of the students at Sharif University. In some, they can be heard chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”

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Protests against the government began last month when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in hospital after being arrested by Iran’s “morality police” and held in a re-education centre”, allegedly on grounds her hijab was not being worn correctly. The Iranian authorities have insisted that she died of a heart attack, however, video footage circulated on social media has claimed that she was beaten by officers during her arrest.

The university opened for the new term on Sunday. Crowds of people gathered near the university in a bid to help the students, however, reports claimed that shots – including a paintball gun – were also fired at onlookers. Motorists hooted their horns in support of the students. Reports said a number of students were beaten or shot with pullet guns, and that 30 to 40 of them were arrested.

Some reports have claimed that tear gas was used against the students, while others have said that officers fired at halls of residence. The university is one of the most prestigious in Iran.

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Iranian authorities have claimed that the protests have been organised by Iran’s foreign enemies – saying the demonstrations are too well organised to be spontaneous.

Leader Mr Khamenei, who has ruled the country since 1989, attended a graduation ceremony at military academy the Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba University of Officer and Police Training as the protests continued.

He told cadets: “This rioting was planned. I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”

He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural.”

Iran Human Rights, an NGO based in Norway, says 133 people have been killed across Iran in the protests to date.

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Campaign organisation Middle East Matters said: “Every academic institution, every student, every scholar, and every professor should be outraged by the Iranian regime’s attack on university students.”

The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

In 1999, protests broke out at Tehran University against the closure of the reformist newspaper, Salam. A number of students were killed in clashes with police and many more arrested.

Demonstrations against Ms Amini’s death have also taken place in other countries including Turkey, Lebanon and France.

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