'Death to the dictator!' Protests spread at universities across Iran after Sharif attack

Security forces cracked down on protesting students at Sharif University on Sunday, arresting over 30.

 A man gestures during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 19, 2022.  (photo credit: WANA VIA REUTERS)
A man gestures during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 19, 2022.
(photo credit: WANA VIA REUTERS)

Large protests broke out at universities across Iran on Monday following a severe crackdown on student protesters at Sharif University in Tehran on Sunday night in which dozens of students were arrested and injured.

On Sunday, Iranian security forces laid siege to Sharif University, trapping students protesting the killing of Mahsa Amini inside and shooting at them, according to footage and reports shared on social media. Earlier on Sunday morning, a video had been published showing students at the university chanting slogans using curse words against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

On Monday, protests were reported both in universities and on the streets across the country, including Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz, Jahrom, Isfahan and Urmia, among other locations, with protesters chanting "death to the dictator" and "Not Gaza,! Not Lebanon! My life for Iran," among other slogans. In one protest at Tehran University, students chanted at Basij paramilitary forces "We will fight and die and take Iran back."

Protesters also called for arrested students to be released and for the army to protect demonstrators.

Students from Iran's Isfahan University chant opposition to the nation's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, saying the recent wave of protest was as result of his actions (Credit: Scopal)

In a number of universities, security forces reportedly blocked students from leaving the campuses, raising concerns that the attack on Sharif could be repeated in other locations.

A number of videos were shared on social media of primary and secondary schools throughout Iran joining the protests as well, including one of schoolgirls in Shiraz chanting "death to the dictator" and others of schoolgirls taking off their hijabs and waving them in the air and ripping up photos of Khamenei.

Additionally, on Monday, the Il Messaggero newspaper reported that an Italian citizen named Alessia Piperno had been arrested amid the protests in Iran. In an Instagram post made recently, Piperno stated that while she knew it would be wise to leave the country "I can't leave here, now more than ever. And I don't do it to tempt fate but because now I am part of all this too."

Attack on Sharif University

On Sunday afternoon and evening, reports were shared online that security forces had blocked the entrances and exits to the Sharif University campus and begun cracking down on the students, shooting at them and firing tear gas at them.

One video from the scene showed students running away from security forces in a parking garage at the university. A number of other videos showed security forces firing large number of bullets toward students on the campus.

Amid the clashes, Iranian Science Minister Mohammad Ali Zolfigol arrived at the university and spoke with students, according to Iranian state media. The minister reportedly succeeded in allowing some of the students to leave the campus, but some students were still locked in the university as of Sunday night.

Later reports indicated that students were being moved to the dorms at the university in vans, with some of the students being arrested after being moved.

As reports of the situation at the university spread in the evening, civilians in Tehran were seen heading to the university in crowds, with videos reportedly showing heavy traffic headed towards the campus and crowds gathering in front of the campus.

In total, at least 30 students were arrested during the protests on Sunday, according to Islamic Association of Students of Sharif University. Many of those arrested were later released, although some were sent to Evin Prison. After hours under siege and attacks by Iranian security forces, most of the students who weren't arrested were allowed to leave.

On Monday, the Islamic Association of Students at the university called on students and professors across Iran to close their classes in solidarity with Sharif.

"Behind this naked violence, it seems that there was a pre-planned scenario to silence the voices of protesting students, and Sharif University was supposed to be a lesson for the rest of the country's universities," tweeted the association.

Amid the violence, Iranian social media users expressed concerns that security forces could repeat the massacres which took place during the Iran student protests in 1999.

German Foreign Minister Nnalena Baerbock responded to the violence at Sharif University on Monday, tweeting "Hard to bear what is happening at #SharifUniversity in #Iran. The courage of the Iranians is incredible. And the regime's brute force is an expression of sheer fear of the power of education and freedom."

"It is also difficult to bear that our foreign policy options are limited. But we can amplify their voice, create publicity, accuse and sanction. And we do."

Protests continue across Iran

Protests were also reported both inside and outside of universities in Tehran, Islamshahr, Mashhad, Sanandaj and Kermanshah, among other locations. Shop owners in multiple cities closed their businesses in solidarity with the protests.

An arrested protester is hooded and seated between two policemen on a motorcycle after being arrested. (Credit: Scopal)

In Tehran, protesters reportedly tore down street signs for "Palestine St." and "Islamic Republic St."

Who was Mahsa Amini?

Amini was arrested by morality police officers in Tehran in mid-September, with her family and witnesses who were arrested with her saying that she was beaten by the officers in the van that brought her to the police station.

At the police station, she collapsed and was brought to the hospital where she later died. Her relatives have told foreign media that they were kept largely in the dark about the situation, including an autopsy conducted recently.

In the nearly three weeks since Amini's death, nationwide protests have continued to escalated, with dozens of protesters reportedly killed by Iranian forces.