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Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran

2.2       Sunday, June 14: Students are Arrested and Killed in Dormitories

The demonstrations continued into Sunday in many of Iran’s larger cities.[71] In Tehran, Ahmadinejad held a victory rally in Valiasr Square, where thousands of his supporters came to celebrate his victory.[72] He disparaged those disputing the outcome of the election as “dust and dirt.”[73] Only a few blocks away, small groups of protestors continued their struggle against security forces. The tear gas used against them could be felt at Valiasr Square during Ahmadinejad’s speech. The beaten and bloodied protestors running away from the security forces nearby were also spotted just outside the barricades surrounding the square.[74]

The stepped-up security during the day on Sunday substantially reduced the number of protestors on the streets.[75] However, by nightfall, people converged on Vanak Square and again faced Basij forces that inflicted bloody wounds and whipped protestors with chains.[76] The security forces chased protestors into homes and followed student demonstrators into the university dormitories.

Many students were beaten and arrested outside of the main gate to the University of Tehran.[77] Those in the dorms believed the university campus provided a sanctuary because after the violent crackdown of the student riots in 1999, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) had decreed that security forces were only allowed to enter campus after receiving permission from the University’s Board of Trustees and the Dean.[78]

On Sunday night, security forces broke open gates and doors on the campus. Witnesses describe vicious attacks by forces in riot gear who did not distinguish between students who had protested from those who had not:

The police threw tear gas into the dorms, beat us, broke the windows and forced us to lie on the ground … I had not even been protesting, but one of them jumped on me, sat on my back and beat me. And then while pretending to search me for guns and knives, he abused me sexually. They were threatening to hang us and rape us.[79]

Early Monday morning, the authorities arrested over a hundred students under a cloud of tear gas while beating and shooting them with pellet guns.[80] The assailants were equipped with riot gear including shields and batons and witnesses identified them as members of the Basij.[81] Fatemeh Barati, Mobina Ehterami, Mohsen Imani, Kasra Sharafi, and Kambiz Sho’a’i were reportedly beaten to death with batons and electric shock prods.[82] Their names were confirmed by Tahkim-e Vahdat a politically active student and alumni organization.[83] Members of this organization were arrested before and after the election.[84] In addition, Iman Namazi and Mostafa Qaniyan were shot that night during the raid on the dormitories in Tehran.[85] Some bodies of students who had been killed were reportedly buried by Monday night without notification to their families.[86] Most of those students are thought to have died very early Monday morning.[87] When families inquired as to the whereabouts of their loved ones’ remains, the police and other institutions harassed and threatened them.[88] Twenty days later, five students were still in the hospital.[89]

Attacks on universities on Sunday were reported from around the country. There were reports of security forces and conservative militias including the Basij and Ansar-i Hizbollah[90] storming universities and dorms, and beating and arresting students in Tabriz, Babol, Mashhad[91] and Zahedan.[92] In Isfahan, attacks occurred the University of Technology.[93] Security forces stormed a library in Shiraz University, firing tear gas and beating students.[94] A hundred students were arrested and a staff member was assaulted.[95] Tahkim-e Vahdat reported the deaths of two students in Shiraz.[96] The attack in Shiraz was so vicious that the next day, Mohammad Hadi Sadeqi, the chancellor of the university, resigned in protest.[97] Killings at universities in Isfahan were also reported but remain unconfirmed.[98]

Gunshots were heard in several other parts of Tehran as well.[99] One witness recounted how security forces riding motorcycles fired on demonstrators with high-caliber weapons: “It wasn’t like the films where there is just a small hole—the shooting was blowing off hands, limbs. It was terrible, terrible.”[100]

On Monday, Iran’s conservative speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, questioned the attacks, asking: “What does it mean that in the middle of the night students are attacked in their dormitory?”[101] Larijani blamed the Interior Minister, Sadeq Mahsouli, and demanded an investigation.[102] Tehran’s Governor-General, Morteza Tamaddon, later announced an investigation by the SNSC, but claimed that the assailants were not all members of the Basij. “We have found clues that some individual saboteurs attended rallies who will be introduced to the Iranian people later.”[103] A parliamentary commission investigating the post-election incidents made similar comments regarding “plain-clothed men who were not on a mission from the responsible authorities within the regime.”[104]

Little seems to have come of the investigation into the attacks on Tehran University, and lawmakers and administrators failed to address the widespread attacks on students in other towns in Iran. The similarity of the attacks and their proximity in time appears to indicate that they were planned and coordinated at a high level.

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Sexual Violence, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination, Reports