Students play important role in sustained protests in Iran

In Iran, young people have been protesting for many weeks against the strict religious regime. Demonstrations are also taking place every day at many universities and an end is not yet in sight.

The protests in Iran started in the summer when police began to more strictly enforce the law that makes it compulsory for women to wear headscarves. They spread to all parts of the country when the young Mahsa Amini died at a police station after being arrested for wearing her headscarf too loosely. According to the police, her death was caused by severe heart problems, but her family say she died from a blow to the head.

Protests broke out in 15 Iranian cities, with hundreds of women removing their headscarves and cutting off their hair. Many students from several universities are taking part, according to independent Iranian news media. On 6 October 116 students were apparently detained. Last week Iranian students boycotted lectures and demanded the release of their fellow students.

Campus protests

A week earlier, the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi had further fuelled the flames during a speech at Alzahra University in the capital Teheran. He warned against the influence of foreign powers who he alleged were using universities for their “malicious purposes”. Many female students yelled at him to “go to hell” and told the repressors “to drop dead”.

To calm people down, the government put forward a plan for special zones on campuses where lecturers and students could discuss issues freely. The students dismissed the idea out of hand, seeing it merely as a sweetener.

Twenty thousand

Despite the ferocious repression, large demonstrations are still being organised. Up to now, 20,000 demonstrators have been arrested and 400 have died.

There is a lot of sympathy for the demonstrators from all over the world. On Sunday at least 1,000 people turned up at a big public demonstration of support on Dam Square in Amsterdam. In recent weeks there have also been gatherings in The Hague and Eindhoven and Iranian students commemorated Mahsa Amini at Delft University of Technology and at VU Amsterdam.

Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Groningen have expressed solidarity with the demonstrators in Iran, as has KNAW, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It emerges from answers by Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra to parliamentary questions from GroenLinks that the Dutch government has already condemned the violence. He wants the EU to impose human rights sanctions on Iran.

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