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University Students Stand Up For Detained Peers

Iranian students in face-off with with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, 30 December 2017
Iranian students in face-off with with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, 30 December 2017

A statement by student associations across Iran has denounced the tighter grip the regime has increasingly wielded over universities and other independent institutions in recent weeks.

Citing the detention of student activists in street protests as an example, the University Trade Unions Council of Iran (UTUCI) said the regime is taking a “fearful” stance and that, in the events of the past few weeks, “students and trade union activists, along with other people, have passed difficult times.”

Thirty-five student councils from across the country signed the statement, which was published on the UTUCI’s Telegram channel.

The statement maintains that the ruling authorities used the protests, which began as demonstrations against deteriorating living conditions, as an excuse to put pressure on independent trade unions and activists.

“Randomly detaining students showed how scared the authorities are of an independent entity that voices student demands and represents the poorer strata of society,” the UTUCI said.

Insisting that the councils have always limited their actions to student rights, the statement says their demands have been ignored. They will not “stand idly by” until all detained students are unconditionally freed and the legal cases against them dropped.

More than 1,500 students of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences also signed a statement condemning the detentions.

Many of the students detained were not involved in the protests and their detention was based on the unacceptable excuse of “preventive action,” the statement said, adding that many of the families of the detainees have been unable to locate their loved ones.

There are reports saying veteran journalist Mohammad Aghazadeh was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack following unsuccessful attempts to find his son, Soheil, who was reportedly detained during the protests.

According to Fatemeh Saeidi, Tehran’s representative in the parliament, between 25 and 30 university students and four schoolchildren remain behind bars across Iran. Student rights activists, however, believe the number is much higher.

Saeidi had previously told the state-run Khabar Online website that nearly 120 students were detained. Many of the students were allegedly detained in what officials called a “preventive measure.”

Several legal experts including Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh have dismissed the measure as an excuse to attack student rights activists, saying no Iranian law allows authorities to detain someone on the suspicion that they might commit a crime.