Hundreds of university students in Tehran gathered on Saturday to express their anger at a bus crash that killed and injured dozens of their peers on December 25.
The official IRNA said “hundreds of students” joined the protest. The report also added that some family members of students killed in the crash are also present on the campus.
From photos and videos circulated the crowd appeared to be large.
ISNA reported that the protest was spontaneous as students gathered in the parking area for the university buses, holding banners, protested against the university’s transport system and voiced other grievances about the management of Azad University.
However, some social media reports said that the protest was organized by the conservative Student Basij and the protesters were demanding the removal of Azad University’s president Ali Akbar Velayati, who is also a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
It is not clear what the role of the Student Basij might have been in the protests, but many angry students independently joined the gathering.
The university has already fired five officials for responsibility in the sorry state of student buses, but IRNA quoted protesting students that this is just a tactic for higher-ups to avoid their own share of responsibility.
The bus that lost control and crashed against a column on a mountainous road within the large campus of the university was carrying students from the Sciences and Research faculty. Nine students and the driver were killed and 28 others injured.
Immediately after the accident, university officials tried to blame the crash on the driver having a heart attack. Later, safety officials said that the bus lost its breaks. A traffic police officer also announced that the bus was listed as a salvage vehicle six years ago, but somehow the transportation contractor managed to use it as part of the university fleet.
Protesting students were demanding the presence of a high-level university official at the gathering and were threatening to continue their protest until this demand is met. But it appears that by early evening the gathering ended, although it can continue in the coming days.
So far there have been no protests at other universities, but if Azad university students continue their defiance it is possible that other campuses might join them.
Mother of one of the students killed in the accident spoke at the rally, saying, “I am sorry I live in a country where the life of a human being has no value”, Fars news agency close to the Revolutionary Guards reported.