Fourth Day of Iran Protests Brings Student Rallies at Tehran Universities

Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Tehran University on January 14, 2020. - AFP correspondents said around 200 mainly masked students gathered at Tehran University and were locked in a tense standoff with youths from the Basij militia loyal to the establishment."Death …
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty

Protests against the Iranian regime continued for a fourth day on Tuesday, with student rallies held at four universities in Tehran.

Iranians worked around sporadic Internet blockages and government censorship to coordinate protests on social media and appeared undaunted by reports of deadly force used against them by regime security forces.

Voice of America News (VOA) reported student rallies at Tehran University, Amirkabir University of Technology, Shahid Beheshti University, and Tehran University of Art. 

“There were no immediate reports of Iranian police action against any of the student demonstrations, which appeared to be peaceful,” VOA reported. As VOA pointed out, one difficulty facing foreign media attempting to cover the Iranian protests is that the authenticity of photos and video footage posted online can be difficult to determine. 

The students denounced their government as “tyrants” and “oppressors,” chanting slogans such as “Resign, resign, incompetent officials,” “We cry out against so much injustice,” and “Our state television is our disgrace.” The latter complaint was inspired in part by Iranian state media unquestioningly carrying false regime claims that Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed due to a malfunction or crew error, rather than being shot down by a missile.

VOA noted there were also some counter-demonstrations by students who support the regime, with some expressing their continuing anger about a U.S. airstrike that eliminated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Radio Farda described more campus confrontations between pro- and anti-regime demonstrators on Tuesday:

A video from Shahid Beheshti University showed pro-regime students on one side and the protesting students on the other chanting against each other. The pro-regime students were using a loudspeaker to drown the voices of the protesting students who shouted at them: “Beware, we are united!”

In another video the students retort “Basij and IRGC members are our Da’ish” when pro-regime students, mainly Basij militia members, chant “Down with Israel, Down with Britain.”

In Art University students chanted “We are children of war, let’s fight to the end” while in Tehran University the slogans were against the state-run broadcaster and Khamenei while at Tehran Medical Sciences University the students are calling for the resignation of officials.

The students chanted that they would give their lives “to take Iran back” and called on Khamenei, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to resign and called him a murderer. For the first time a slogan chanted by the students said they did not want a referendum or reforms. The slogan called for “strikes and revolution” instead.

Radio Farda cited a report of “vigilantes” from the paramilitary Basij militia beating protesters at Amir Kabir Industrial University and locking them up in the campus to keep their protest from spilling out into the street.

Demonstrators who rallied outside a military base in Behbahan notorious for its role in violently suppressing the November protests expressed their anger at the regime by burning photographs of Soleimani, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the founder of the Iranian theocracy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, currently out of the country on a visit to India, admitted on Wednesday that the regime lied about the plane crash for days. He excused this by claiming the IRGC, which reports directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his clerics, did not tell the secular government its forces shot down the plane until Friday.

“In the last few nights, we’ve had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days,” Zarif said. He then bizarrely saluted the IRGC for being “brave enough to claim responsibility early on.”

One interesting aspect of the Iranian protests, especially the younger protesters, is their call to abandon a principle called velayat-e faqih, which makes the secular government subordinate to the Shiite clergy. In essence, it defines Shiite cleric as supreme “jurists” who interpret Muslim law as the “guardians” of the nation while appointed and elected secular officials serve at their pleasure to handle mundane affairs. 

Shiite Muslims in countries other than Iran who embrace velayat-e faqih, notably including Shiite militia leaders in Iraq, view the “Supreme Leader” of Iran as a superior authority to the government of their own countries. Iranians who demand an end to this principle are calling for a change even more fundamental than the Hong Kong protesters who made representative democracy one of the five non-negotiable demands in their showdown with China.

Posts circulating on Iranian social media Wednesday urged people to take to the streets against their “thieving and corrupt government.” Protest organizers emphasized that most of the passengers aboard Flight PS752 were either Iranians or people with dual Iranian citizenship.

Reuters observed that protests on Tuesday seemed “quieter” after videos of regime forces beating protesters, bathing them in tear gas, and shocking them with electric batons circulated online. Gunfire was heard at several protests on Monday and videos showed protesters with bloody gunshot wounds, although Iranian police officials denied using deadly force.

“Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance. Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been the agenda of the police forces of the capital,” Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi claimed.

President-elect Maryam Rajavi of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on Tuesday called on the United Nations and international human rights organizations to “take immediate steps” to free protesters detained by the Iranian government.

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