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Source: RFE/RL

Sep 12, 2023

Iranian Government Targets Student Associations To Quell Support For Protests

Iran's government is threatening to shut down several university student associations as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent within academic circles less than a week ahead of the anniversary of the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022.

The latest incident involves the Allameh University in Tehran, where authorities not only revoked the license of the Free Thought Student Association at the school but also seized and emptied the association's offices.The Telegram channel United Students, which covers student activism in Iran, reported that the university's cultural deputy announced the revocation of the license, while the faculty's security agents, bypassing legal procedures, forcibly emptied the office. Some students reported losing personal items in the raid.

The student asssociation condemned the raid, saying that "attacking student associations is tantamount to attacking the political life and collective action of students."As the new academic year approached, student activists reported a wave of activity bans and, in some cases, complete revocation of licenses for student associations across various universities nationwide.

Armin Jalali Roshan, a former member of the Progressive Student Association at Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology, noted the creation of 200 "disciplinary cases" and dozens of "suspension-from-studies" verdicts for students at the school.He said three main student associations usually exist at Amirkabir University, one of which, the Progressive Islamic Students Association, has effectively been dissolved, while the other two now lack official permission to operate or hold elections.

At Kerman Medical University in central Iran, student activists reported that two of the school's three student associations are aligned with the government. Those bodies are allowed to function as usual, while the third association, the Islamic Student Association of Kerman Medical University, has had its operations curtailed.Mehran Ahmadbeigi, the current secretary-general of the association, recently was sentenced to a six-month suspension and a ban from using social facilities until the end of his studies for his support of the Woman, Life, Freedom protests.

Erfan Azimipour, the former secretary-general, received a 24-month suspension from studies and was forced to change the location of his studies.At the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, the head of the oversight board for student associations was issued a six-month suspension of activities for the Islamic Student Association.

The reason cited for the suspension was a statement by the association that supported "protesting the oppressive and intimidating atmosphere created in the university."These suspensions and raids come amid a broader wave of dismissals targeting faculty members at various Iranian universities. In recent weeks, officials have warned that students and educators will be under increased scrutiny.

Universities have historically been a battleground in the fight for social and political reforms in Iran.During the Islamic Revolution of 1979, university students played a prominent role, including the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. After the clerics came to power, the authorities instigated a mass purge of Iranian universities, firing hundreds of professors and altering curriculums to promote Islamic values.

Since the revolution, university students have voiced their opposition to the clerical establishment, including during a 1999 protest against the closure of a reformist newspaper, resulting in a raid on a dormitory at Tehran University that left one student dead.The protests against Amini's death in September 2022 led to renewed pressure against students, specifically female students who failed to comply with the hijab law.

The 22-year-old was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation when she died days after first being detained.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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