Iran’s security forces have launched a series of attacks on university students at campuses across the country with dozens of students being arrested, according to the Students’ Union of Iran.
According to student organisations and human rights groups, the attacks on universities intensified this week as young people gathered to mark 40 days since Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police in September. The death of the 22-year-old woman sparked eight weeks of nationwide protests against the regime. The highly symbolic 40th day traditionally marks the end of mourning.
The Students Union of Iran has documented more than 40 arrests of university students and is collating reports of detentions and raids on campuses by security forces across the country on its Telegram channel.
The Norway-based Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights, which reports on Kurdish areas in the west of Iran, said the fate of dozens of young people arrested last week and dozens of others detained by security forces for attending earlier protests remained unknown.
Anousheh*, a student at a university in Tehran, told the Guardian that she was violently assaulted by security forces last weekend as she left her campus.
“One of my best friends was arrested outside the campus this weekend and I still don’t know where he is,” she said. “[After the protests] the security forces were waiting for students to exit the university and they started beating us with batons.
“We all ran for our lives,” Anousheh said. “We have been warned by our faculty to stop the protests immediately to avoid arrests [but] we are not stopping.”
University students in Mashhad also said they had been attacked by security forces this week, with videos online appearing to show plainclothes officers dragging students into vehicles.
Karim* said he was part of a group of about 200 students who had gathered on 26 October to mark the 40th day of mourning for Mahsa Amini.
Moments after arriving, Karim claims security forces locked the gates and blocked the exits. Students were detained and beaten as they tried to leave, he said.
“After three hours, with security forces using teargas and batons, I managed to get out but at least seven of my friends have since been detained this week. Once they’re taken away, no one knows where they are. University officials are powerless,” he said.
“I don’t know a single friend who hasn’t witnessed a kidnapping, arrest or hasn’t helped save an injured friend. Student unions here in Mashhad believe at least 50 students have been arrested in our city alone.”
Another student from Mashhad, who said he was attacked on 29 October as he attended a protest, said security forces beat young people unconscious and refused them access to medical help.
“One of my closest friends was beaten so badly that I’ve spent the past four days caring for him at the hospital,” he said. “We waited for hours to get inside the university and take him to the hospital.
“I know that more students have been arrested throughout the week. We don’t know where they are or if they’re safe. Next time they lock us in, they’ll kill dozens of us.”
Some students arrested at the beginning of the protests have not been heard from since their arrests. According to the student union, one young woman, Zainab Nasiri, a sociology student from the University of Isfahan was reportedly arrested on 2 October outside her house and transferred to Dolatabad prison. It is not known what has happened to her or what charges she is facing.
On 30 October, Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 308 university students had been arrested by regime forces since the protests began. Iran Human Rights group (IHRNGO) condemned the mass arrests and “encroachment” on to university campuses by the Iranian security forces. The group said police special forces – plainclothes officers who were reportedly armed – “attacked and kidnapped students from their dormitories”.
IHRNGO warned that dozens of protesters, including university students, could be executed after Iranian authorities began charging detainees with security-related offences, including “enmity against god” (moharebeh) and “corruption on earth” (efsad-fil-arz).
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), said in a statement: “Issuing death sentences against the protesters – after the Iranian authorities have unlawfully arrested tens of thousands of peaceful protesters and killed hundreds through the indiscriminate use of lethal force to squash the protests – is a blatant attempt to terrorise the Iranian people into silence; it will cement the Islamic Republic’s status as an outlaw state that has no regard for law or life.”
On 31 October, the head of the judiciary in Tehran province, said they had issued at least 1,000 indictments against those arrested on charges related to the protests. According to latest reports, at least 277 people, including 40 children, have been killed in the nationwide protests.
According to human rights groups, Nazila Maroufian, a Tehran-based journalist from Mahsa Amini’s home town, was also arrested and transferred to Evin prison in Tehran after publishing an interview with Amini’s father on the Mostaghel Online news site.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 51 journalists have been arrested in the crackdown, with 14 confirmed released on bail so far.