Iranian university students launched protests against the country’s rulers on Saturday, giving fresh impetus to two weeks of anti-regime protests despite a tightening crackdown in the Islamic Republic.
As the new school year officially began, students at the University of Tehran in the capital and other demonstrators in nearby streets chanted slogans, while riot police patrolled on motorcycles, fired tear gas and urged crowds to disperse, witnesses said.
Universities in other major cities, such as Mashhad in the northeast, Tabriz in the northwest, Kerman in the south and Yazd and Isfahan in central Iran, also, according to videos posted on social media. Protests were held.
“The clergy should get lost,” chanted people in central Tehran. “We don’t want an Islamic republic,” said the Tehran University student.
“Students at the university will definitely breathe new life into the protests as young people come together to create synergies,” said Saeed Laylaz, a reformist analyst. “This could mean protests. will continue for the time being.”
The wave of protests began in mid-September after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from the northwestern town of Saqqez, died in moral police custody. She was detained in a park in Tehran on suspicion of violating the mandatory Islamic dress code.
Her tragic death shocked Iran, sparking the largest anti-regime protests since 2019, when rising fuel prices sparked unrest.
Officials are trying to convince Iranians that her death may have been caused by an underlying illness, rather than a punishment in custody.
Saturday’s escalation came days after protests subsided.
Some female protesters in Tehran walked around the university without scarves, passing riot police, but showed little fear. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, said some protesters in Tehran were arrested.
Many of the demonstrators were young and from the country’s urban middle class; they did not have any known leaders. Their main slogan became “Women, Life, Freedom”. Young women burn scarves to protest hijab.
The Java Daily, which is affiliated with the Guard, said 93 percent of protesters were under the age of 25, “indicating that a new generation of rioters is forming in the country”.
One female protester said she opposed a regime that “wants us to go to mosques but send our own children to Canada to enjoy life.”
Iranian state television said last week that 41 people had been killed in the protests, a figure that has not been updated in recent days. Iran’s crackdown has left at least 52 people dead and hundreds injured, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Hundreds of people were arrested, including nine unidentified foreigners, according to domestic media reports. Faizeh Hashemi, the daughter of the late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was also arrested last week.
Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2011, said in a message Saturday that Amini’s death “is turning a page in history.” He urged the armed forces to “stand with the country” and “defend the people, not suppress them”.
Meanwhile, tensions flared in the southeastern province of Sistan Balochistan on Friday, killing 19 people, including security forces, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. The clashes came after a senior police officer allegedly raped a 15-year-old Baloch girl.
The province’s governor, Hossein Modarres Khiabani, accused “separatist terrorists” of attacking police centres and some banks and chain stores on Friday.