The protests in Iran which started after the killing of Mahsa Amini has spread to universities as well. Sharif University of Technology in Tehran is one of the zones where the protests are widespread, and where they met with police violence. The news stated that the protests in Sharif University were responded by police with teargas and violence. In order to understand what is happening both in Sharif University of Technology and Iran in general, we contacted a Sharif student. His identity will be disclosed due to safety concerns and we will call him Ali Asadi throughout the interview.
arete editors: First of all, how did the protests spread to Sharif? Are they still ongoing or suppressed?
Ali Asadi: Sharif is the most prestigious university in Iran and students there are really smart people that want to improve the country in every aspect. Therefore, students really care about the situation in Iran. After Mahsa Amini was killed the students started to protest against the government. Currently, the university is completely closed and no one can enter the facility except PhD students. Remaining students are banned from entering campus for now.
AE: Are the police as violent as shown in the media? What is the known number of injured students?
AA: At least 45 students were officially taken into custody, and more than 40 students were injured.
AE: So, were no deaths recorded? Or is the number unknown?
AA: We don’t know about the deaths. Some people are missing and told to be in jail but without any access to phones or visitors.
AE: Do you know about the situations of arrested students?
AA: The government announced that they released the students, but they didn’t release anyone.
AE: Do you have any information on how the students under custody are treated?
AA: They are not treated very well. They are under mental and physical torture. They don’t even have access to clean water.
AE: Was the level of violence to the civilians and university students different?
AA: Both groups are suppressed by the government. People are being shot with AK47, tear gas and many other types of guns. The attack on the university is more critical, imagine a government attacking MIT or Oxford. It is not common to attack the brightest minds in a country.
AE: Are there similar protests in other universities as well? What is the level of support by universities to the protests? What about high schools, are they also joining protests?
AA: Yes, there are similar protests in more than 90 universities in Iran but this specific university is more under control because the students are different. In many elementary schools and high schools, students are joining the protests. It spreaded all over the country.
AE: You said Sharif is different from other universities. Can you explain its difference? Does it have a political protest history, or maybe more international reputation?
AA: Top 300 students in the university exam choose Sharif University and the second is Tehran University. So, these are the smartest people in Iran and more than 80% of them go to top ranking universities in the world (rank under 50). Almost all Iranian academic award winners in the world are from Sharif University.
AE: Did you get support from the international academic world? If yes, do you think it is enough or do you think they are staying rather “silent”?
AA: Yes, some prestigious universities show their support on social media stating that they will stand with Sharif University, but that does not prevent the government from killing people and arresting them in the streets.
AE: The remaining two questions will be more on the general nature of the protests. Do you think these protests have enough media coverage in Iran? Is there any political party joining your protests by any means?
AA: People are sharing the information on social media platforms like Telegram and Instagram. But the news agencies like BBC are not covering the situation clearly, it seems that they are intentionally trying to hide what is happening in Iran to make the nuclear deal work ASAP. However, many celebrities around the world spread the news and it seems that the era of news agencies is over.
AE: The protests started by rejecting forcedly worn hijab. Do you think they would still continue if the forcing rule on the hijab was dismissed?
AA: The hijab is only one of the hundred reasons for these protests, we want to have an honest government without corruption. People are under economic pressure and the government doesn’t care. They don’t know how to run a country like Iran. They had 44 years and they just ravaged everything; including the environment, economy, and society.
AE: So, do you think there is no coming back from these protests? Do you believe the protests will succeed?
AA: Nothing will be the same after these protests, both people and government.