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Tensions as Iran students protest ahead of Mahsa Amini ceremony

Students protested at universities across Iran on Tuesday, despite a bloody crackdown and as tensions mounted on the eve of planned ceremonies marking 40 days since Mahsa Amini's death.

Protesters march in solidarity with protesters in Iran on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 22, 2022. – Iran has been rocked by protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16, three days after she was arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

Students protested at universities across Iran on Tuesday, despite a bloody crackdown and as tensions mounted on the eve of planned ceremonies marking 40 days since Mahsa Amini’s death.

“A student may die, but they will not accept humiliation,” students at Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, chanted in an online video verified by AFP.

Young women and schoolgirls have been at the forefront of protests sparked by Amini’s death last month, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16, three days after being taken into custody by the notorious morality police while visiting Tehran with her younger brother.

Activists said the security services had warned Amini’s family against holding a ceremony and asking people to attend her grave on Wednesday in Kurdistan province, otherwise “they should worry for their son’s life”.

Wednesday is 40 days since Amini’s death and the end of the traditional mourning period in Iran.

Online videos showed students protesting Tuesday at Beheshti University and the Khaje Nasir Toosi University of Technology, both in Tehran, as well as Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, in Khuzestan province.

– ‘Attacked, strip-searched, beaten’ –
The fresh demonstrations came a day after security forces were accused by activists of beating schoolgirls at Shahid Sadr girls vocational school in Tehran on Monday.

“Students of the Sadr high school in Tehran have been attacked, strip-searched, and beaten up,” said the 1500tasvir social media channel.

At least one student, 16 year-old Sana Soleimani, had been hospitalised, said 1500tasvir, which chronicles rights violations by the Iranian security forces.

“Parents later protested in front of the school. Security forces attacked the neighbourhood and shot at people’s houses,” it added.

Iran’s education ministry said a dispute occurred between schoolgirls and their parents and school staff, after the principal demanded that they comply with rules over the use of mobile phones.

“The death of a student in this confrontation is strongly denied,” a ministry spokesman said, quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency.

Families could be seen clamouring for information outside the school in the Tehran neighbourhood of Salsabil, in an online video verified by AFP.

Such reports have fuelled further anger among the Iranian public over the crackdown that rights groups say has claimed the lives of at least 122 people, including around two dozen children.

Later on Monday night protesters took to the streets in Salsabil, shouting anti-government slogans and burning dumpster bins, in other footage that AFP was unable to immediately verify.

– Top official heckled –
Despite what rights group Amnesty International has called an “unrelenting brutal crackdown”, young women and men were again seen protesting in online videos on Tuesday.

“Death to the dictator” and “Death to the Revolutionary Guards”, women chanted as they rode escalators in Tehran metro stations, in videos widely shared on Twitter.

Students heckled the spokesman for ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi as he addressed Tehran’s Khaje Nasir University, in a video published by the reformist paper Hammihan.

“Spokesman, get lost!” and “We don’t want a corrupt system, we don’t want a murderer”, they shouted at the spokesman, Ali Bahadori Jahromi.

Teachers observed a strike around the country on Sunday and Monday over the crackdown, and another strike was said to be under way in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan on Tuesday.

Amnesty International says the crackdown has cost the lives of at least 23 children, while Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said Thursday that at least 27 children have been killed.

Children and teachers are among the thousands arrested in the crackdown, IHR added.

In addition the security forces have mounted a campaign of mass arrests of protesters and their supporters, including academics, journalists and even pop stars.

The judiciary said on Monday that more than 300 people had been indicted over the Amini protests and that four are charged with an offence that can carry the death penalty.

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