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Harsh Treatment, Intimidation Of Student Activists Intensify In Iran

Iranian students protest harsh verdicts against their peers, June 17, 2018.
Iranian students protest harsh verdicts against their peers, June 17, 2018.

Alarming reports indicate an increasing number of university students are being detained and arrested in Iran, and many of them report inhumane treatment and even torture while in police custody.

A journalism student at Tehran’s Martyr Beheshti University, Sadegh Gheisari, was arrested February 19 while observing clashes between security forces and Gonabadi Dervishes in Tehran.

A source familiar with Gheisari spoke with Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), describing the appalling conditions in which Gheisari is being held.

"Gheisari, who is not a Gonabadi Dervish, was severely beaten after his arrest, and he did not vividly recall what had transpired when he woke up at the detention facility of the police headquarters in Shapour Avenue, [Tehran]. He was transferred to the Tehran Penitentiary Complex in Fashafoyeh after two days,” IHRDC reported.

Gheisari was sentenced to seven years, 74 lashes, and banned from media activities for two years. It is not clear what the charges against him are. He has been on hunger strike since October 3, according to the Students Guild Councils of Iran.

According to the IHRDC’s source, Gheisari has been subjected to serious physical abuse in prison. The source says guards put him on the floor, put their feet on his back, twisted his arm, and forced him to sign a document with his other hand. Gheisari’s glasses were taken from him and he could not read the document he was forced to sign.

In addition to the forced signature incident, the source says Gheisari was also beaten in the head and one of his teeth is broken. Gheisari has reported seeing blood in his urine, and he believes he has developed kidney problems.

Another students and women's rights activist, Najmeh Vahedi of Tehran's Allameh Tababaei University, has been in the custody of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Intelligence Organization (IRGCIO) since September 1.

Mass protests engulfed Iran last December-January. Screen grab from demo. in Mahshahr.
Mass protests engulfed Iran last December-January. Screen grab from demo. in Mahshahr.

Ms. Vahedi is a sociologist who specializes in gender studies. Over the past few years, she has focused on the fact that millions of women in Iran work without wages and retire without pensions, issues that are increasingly attracting public attention, reports New York based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), adding, "Hundreds of young women and men have also participated in workshops organized by Najmeh and her colleagues on gender-based discrimination."

In a letter to the university chancellor, student associations called for an immediate review of Vahedi’s case.

Even the state-run IRNA news agency has reported a recent wave of students being summoned to security and intelligence office for questioning. IRNA has also reported a general trend of more “severe” treatment of student rights activists by authorities.

One of the main promises Hassan Rouhani made while campaigning for president was to create an environment for the students where they can express their views freely and openly. He also promised to end the security services’ close monitoring of student activities.

Nevertheless, the students' rights activists say he has not kept his word and that the pressure on the universities, particularly outside Tehran, has been intensified in recent months.

The only response from the Rouhani's administration so far has been Science Minister Mansour Gholami’s comment that students who have been detained will not be prevented by authorities from continuing their education after they are released.