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Iran students protest in Tehran and Isfahan, Ali Khamenei accused US and Israel


After violence at their university, Iranian students defy the police.

Rights groups are "extremely worried" about how violently protests in Tehran and Isfahan are being put down.

Iranian students have increased their protests in spite of a crackdown by security forces, who allegedly cornered and shot a number of students at a prestigious university in Tehran on Sunday night.

The death of a young woman in police custody in the middle of September sparked anti-government protests that have spread across the country at different levels of intensity. This has shown a cultural gap between Iran's educated youth and an elderly male religious establishment.

Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, was the first person to talk about the protests. He gave strong support to the security forces and said that the US and Israel, which are the Islamic Republic's biggest enemies, were behind the disturbances. Khamenei said on Monday, "If the young woman's death hadn't been a problem, they would have found another reason to cause trouble and riots at this time."

Iran students protest in Tehran and Isfahan, Ali Khamenei accused US and Israel
Ali Khamenei, Iran's top leader, told army recruits in Tehran on Monday that the protests were caused by the US and Israel.

Because of the crackdown, the British foreign office called Iran's top diplomat in London. James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, said that the violence against protesters was "truly shocking."

"Today, we made it clear to the Iranian government what we think. Instead of blaming outside forces for the unrest, they should take responsibility for what they're doing and listen to what their people are saying," he said.

Concern is growing about the latest violence at Tehran's Sharif University of Technology, where, according to local media, riot police confronted hundreds of students with teargas, paintball guns, and steel pellet guns that don't kill. Many students were arrested and taken away in police cars or ambulances as their parents and other people came to save them.

Students yelled things like "Woman, life, freedom" and "students prefer death to humiliation," according to Mehr news agency. Iran's science minister, Mohammad Ali Zolfigol, went to talk to the students to try to calm the situation down.

The group Iran Human Rights, which is based in Oslo, posted a video that seems to show Iranian police on motorcycles chasing students as they run through an underground parking lot. In another clip, detainees with black cloth bags on their heads are taken away.

On other videos, which have not been checked by a third party, people can be seen running down a street at night while gunshots and screams can be heard. In one clip, which IHR says was taken at a Tehran metro station, a crowd can be heard chanting, "Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid! "Everyone is with us!"

Local witnesses said that about a dozen students were shot with a mix of plastic bullets and stun guns in what seemed to be a planned ambush by officers in plain clothes who wanted to make arrests.

The Islamic Association of Sharif University students' union said in a statement on Monday that more than 30 people had been arrested. They also said that the security services had treated women in a barbaric way, and that the students, some of whom were only on their second day of college, were acting like they were in a war zone.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran, which is based in New York, said it was "extremely concerned by videos coming out of Sharif University and Tehran today showing violent repression of protests and detainees being hauled away with their heads completely covered in fabric."

On Monday, hackers kept trying to break into the websites of government agencies, including the judiciary, and there were reports that lawyers were being rounded up and arrested. Still, there were a lot of students on the streets again in Tehran and Isfahan. The Iranian government tried to stop students from using social media to tell the world about the protests, but pictures showed that large crowds were gathering.

Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, tweeted on Monday, "It's hard to take what's going on at Sharif University in Iran." "I can't believe how brave the Iranians are. And the regime's brutality shows that it is afraid of the power of education and freedom."

Melanie Jolly, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, also said that 25 people and nine organizations would be punished for violating human rights. Jolly said that women in Iran should no longer be treated badly.

A university student named Meenna said, "We are going through the worst kind of police violence. We won't put up with their rules, and we won't follow the regime's strict dress code. It's our lives, and we get to decide what to do with them. I've seen dead bodies on the streets and roads, and we won't let their blood go to waste. Under this regime, the future of students is to be targeted, to act violently, and to be killed with pellet rounds and straight fires. Our future is bleak under this regime, and we will fight against them.

Three stills from a video that was posted online on October 2 show Iranian students trying to open the gate to the University of Isfahan.
Three stills from a video that was posted online on October 2 show Iranian students trying to open the gate to the University of Isfahan.

In response to the violence on Sunday, leaders of education trade unions called for teachers and students all over the country to go on strike.

Security forces and politicians seemed to think that the public would back a crackdown, but they risk upsetting an older middle class that has given up or is scared. Many older middle-class people haven't joined the recent protests because they've seen protesters lose in the past and been hurt by economic sanctions. They don't see any point in trying to get the government to change its mind, they say.

Sunday's session of the Iranian parliament showed that neither the mandatory hijab nor the methods of the Iranian morality police, which are the main reasons for the protests, were open to compromise.

Instead, the focus was on how foreign media and agents, as well as Iranian celebrities, were said to have helped start the protests. The Iranian foreign ministry said that it had sent strong warnings to some countries, saying that they were "factories of lies." This was a reference to the news stations that Iran's people watch a lot.

The protests started when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who had been arrested for breaking strict dress code rules, died in jail.

A group of women in Tehran's Evin prison wrote a letter to the students to show their support. They said, "Our hearts, our cries, and our fists are always with the hearts and cries of the people."

Former footballers like Mehdi Mahdavikia, who was the Asian footballer of the year in 2003, kept supporting the protesters. Mahdavikia wrote on social media, "For decades, you have driven Iran's elites and national capital out of the country by suppressing students and beating them every chance you get. People who can't read or write are in charge of important jobs."

Ali Karimi, who played 127 times for Iran's national football team, has also shown support for the protesters.

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