Turmoil in Iran Extends to Campuses

June 16, 2009

As protests and rallies continue to unfold in the streets of Tehran in the wake of Friday’s disputed presidential election, university students are emerging as a central force in what is being called the biggest mass demonstrations in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

According to several news reports, a dormitory at the University of Tehran was attacked by the police on Sunday night, and there are conflicting accounts of fatalities.

A correspondent in Tehran for The Independent, a British newspaper, described throngs of upset students behind the university’s shut gates earlier today. He wrote: “A student began shouting at me in English through those grim, black gates. ‘There was a massacre,’ he bellowed.”

One student told the correspondent that five students had been killed, while another told him there had been seven fatalities.

Reuters also reported that, according to a student activist, “four students — three men and one woman — were killed during Sunday night’s assault on the dormitory.” However, Reuters also quoted the student news agency ISNA as reporting that the university’s president, Farhad Rahbar, had denied that anyone had been killed.

“Iran’s influential speaker of parliament has condemned an attack on university students which they say was carried out by Islamic militia and police,” according to Reuters. The speaker, Ali Larijani, was quoted as saying, “What does it mean that in the middle of the night students are attacked in their dormitory?”

Much of the news emerging from Iran is being reported by bloggers and on social-networking sites such as Twitter.

There have been several reports of the mass resignation of 120 professors from the Sharif University of Technology, Iran’s premier science and engineering institution. Another report put the figure at 150.

There have also been reports of resignations at Amirkabir University of Technology and at the University of Tehran, but Iranian-American academics in the United States who have been trying to track events in their homeland say that details have been difficult to confirm. —Aisha Labi